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  • Writer's pictureLaren Grey

The Need For Self-Learning

We live in a society that is obsessed with certifications. The problem with that is when goal of education is certification rather than knowledge and the improvement of intelligence.

What is the solution?


The Cambridge Dictionary defines an autodidact as...

autodidact noun

a person who teaches himself or herself, rather than being taught by a teacher

The greatest benefit of being an autodidact is the ability to self-teach even in scenarios such as formal education, and to extend self-teaching far beyond the limits of formal education. Autodidaction includes many methodologies: courses, reading, audiobooks, lectures, documentaries, mentorships, teaching, apprenticeships, projects, experimentation, and the exploration of broad and varied subjects.

A college student seeking a degree will eat just enough meat off the bone to satisfy the need, but an autodidact will suck the marrow from the bone and seek more. However, discipline is important for the autodidact. One must now remain too narrow in their exploration. A lazy autodidact may only study what they want and ignore the riches beyond that range, and the autididact may study what is easy. The purpose of autodidaction is to stretch the mind beyond its comfort zone. That is how growth occurs.

"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning."

Where to start?

Somehwere right in front of you right now is something of interest that you may not be noticing. Seek! An autodidact is a seeker of knowledge. Even the smallest curiosity, such as a leaf or a window sill, may spark questions whose answers could be the beginning of an adventure in self-learning. A most important skill is the ability to recognize opportunites, they are literally scattered everywhere, and the opportunities for knowledge and experience that pass us by daily could be useful to us. It is a myth that autodidacts are strictly self-taught. The autodidact, rather, is in control of their own learning experience rather than having it controlled by an institution. Autodidacts seek mentors and teachers as a form of self-teaching. It is quite possible to learn something from anyone. After all, even the words in a book are the words of a teacher. Autodidaction is a practice, a discipline.

Self-learning is particularly important in the arts. Could you imagine considering Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen uneducated because they didn't have a degree in playing guitar?

Common myths about autodidacts: You need to be a genius to self-learn. You need to avoid colleges or degrees to self-learn. Some people can't be autodidacts. Autodidaction is uncommon. These are all untrue.

The internet can be an incredible tool. Websites such as Khan Academy and The Great Courses offer more formal coursework. Youtube is great for cat video and funny pranks, but it is also a deep well of lectures, courses, and audiobooks for free. Also, in addition to seeking experts, look to other autodidacts for inspiration and direction, such as Stephen King (self-taught writer), Hans Zimmer (self-taught composer), Leonardo Da Vinci (self-taught genius), Booker T. Washington (educator), Ray Bradbury (self-taught writer), Nikola Tesla (inventor), Henry David Thoreau (self-taught philosopher), Benjamin Franklin (inventor, statesman), Jane Goodall (self-taught naturalist), Buckminster Fuller (designer, inventor), Abraham Lincoln (taught himself law), Michael Faraday (physicist), most artists and musicians, and many, many more. The more you look the more you will find that many people who excel are mostly self-taught.

"Libraries raised me. I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years."

-Ray Bradbury

For me personally, as an autodidact polymath, I have deeply studied fitness, martial arts, psychology, philosophy, art, nature, writing, language, acting, science, building, and more. What would you study? Where will your journey lead?

The main point to understand is that the deeper your well is the more water you can draw. The limitations of formal education are too shallow. Go deeper.

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