Editor’s note: This is a guest post by public relations intern and University of Cincinnati student, Alex Horton.

When I was younger, I hated learning — scratch that — I hated school. I never wanted to be there. I did not really care about my grades. I certainly did not think college was in my future. That was true until my freshman year of high school when all of that changed. I discovered a passion I never knew I had. Let me explain.

Alex Horton shares how a love of basketball led to a love of lifelong learning.I have always been a part of a “basketball family.” My family are all huge basketball fans; watching or playing a pickup game in our downtime has never been uncommon. But then the NBA playoffs in the spring of 2013 happened. I began watching LeBron James and his Miami Heat take on the Chicago Bulls in the second round of those playoffs. LeBron cemented his reputation as the GOAT when he went on to win his second-ever NBA championship. And after watching this incredible run, I was hooked on basketball to a level I never had been before.

I spent the rest of that summer learning every possible detail about basketball. I didn’t just study the ins and outs of the many rules to the game, but I learned about current and former players. I learned about international recruits, players and teams, the history of the sport and the NBA, and just about everything in between. I spent most of my time on the internet researching stats, how they are used, and which ones are most effective at proving a point in an argument.

And when I was not researching the NBA, I was watching it. I watched classic games, documentaries, and every highlight I could find on YouTube for the next three months. It became an obsession that continues to this day.

That summer changed my life. I went from a kid who did not want to learn, to one who needed to learn… and, who had found a way to learn that worked well for me. I had established my own little Alex Horton University. It was transformative.

After my summer break ended and I returned to school, something had changed within me. Suddenly, learning at school, in a more formal environment, didn’t feel as much like a chore. I felt happy at school. I felt like I was there for a reason that I could finally understand. I needed that formal education to complement what I was learning “off the court” in my free time.

Ever since that summer, I realized that my love for basketball is real, but so is my love for learning. Finding that passion was exactly what I needed to start my career, and frankly, my life. (My adult life that is.) As long as I am alive, I want to continue to learn about the world and the people around me; it’s something that should never end.

The passion and zest for learning is one of the reasons I enjoy working behind-the-scenes at SHP. The firm’s advocacy for lifelong learning has been a surprise and an inspiration. When I learned about SHP’s 9 Billion Schools effort — the idea that every human on Earth should be a “school” unto themselves, all 9 billion or so of us on the planet by the year 2050 — I was sold.

If you cannot understand the world around you, then you have no chance of ever-changing the world and making a difference. So I couldn’t agree more with SHP’s philosophy that each and every person should always be armed with the knowledge they need, certainly, but also the knowledge they want.

In the words of my boss, my friend, and contributor to the 9 Billion Schools book — yes, he literally helped write the book on it — Steve Kissing, “If I should lose my mind and no longer be able to learn new things, I would rather just not keep living.” These are words we should all live by.