Truman Capote, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla. Those are four names you never thought you’d see in a sentence together. As it happens, these four individuals have more in common than their success, ingenuity, and fame. They were all autodidacts. In other words, they were self-taught learners.
The talents and innovations that skyrocketed them to fame were the products of their own teachings. Make no mistake, this doesn’t mean a formal education is a waste of time. However, it goes to show that success is crafted solely by commitment and focus. While college and traineeships can prepare us for the groundwork of what we pursue, it’s ultimately up to us as individuals to teach ourselves how to refine our knowledge for success.
It’s the self-taught principles that allow us to distinguish our own work from that of others. With the help of the internet, self-taught success is more possible than ever. And there are plenty of ways to reach our inner autodidact.
Elon Musk had science degrees from top Ivy League universities, but he still credits most of his knowledge to the textbooks he allegedly “committed to memory.” Reading is just one way to teach yourself everything you need to know. Aspiring inventors can surely learn a lot by sacrificing some of their leisure time to sit down with a textbook.
For writers and artists, the best study is to just read. Read anything. Inspiration can be derived from poetry, works of fiction, etc. These also help you develop your writing skills, which is an important asset for any aspiring entrepreneur.
“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” – Isaac Asimov
With the help of online Master Classes, Youtube videos, and apps – where online courses developed by some of the top U.S. educational institutions can be accessed remotely – self-taught success is more attainable than ever.
What’s more, we learn through practice. We can publish our own eBooks through Amazon without the publishing house bureaucracy. We can advertise our product, brand, or service through social media savvy without astronomical advertising costs. And as we practice, we learn. We gain feedback from our followers, learn from our mistakes, and do it better the second time around.
Even when you’re teaching yourself, others are always helping. However, you get to decide which lessons are most constructive, and you get to apply them to the real world in real-time.
The Science of Self-Taught
People have a tendency to romanticize the concept of self-taught success. It’s not a solution for laziness, or an excuse for lack of motivation. In many cases, teaching yourself is more work than being taught. The level of accountability rises when you are both teacher and student. Furthermore, it requires more discipline. Without a structured schedule or a guaranteed reward at the end of your efforts, your only hope is your dedication.
Beyond this, however, the only thing stopping most people from teaching themselves is insecurity. Fear of failure and inadequacy halts self-taught learners in their tracks. Especially because with self-teaching, inevitably, comes occasional failure. Unfortunately, the self-taught often feel they have nobody to blame the failure on but themselves – no teachers, mentors, or trainers as scapegoats.
According to Psychology Today, there is nothing that makes certain people better self-taught learners than others. The only difference is motivation, and willingness to overcome that lingering insecurity. Even the concept of “learning styles” is erroneous, says Psychology Today. While each individual is different, ability to learn is not based on preference, but expertise.
Beginners learn better from examples, while experts learn better by solving problems. This builds yet another case for autodidacts, who are more likely to learn by experience – the most effective method.
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but a lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein
The Rewards of Being Self-Taught
The fruits of your labor taste sweeter when you’ve taught yourself how to grow them. As such, success is more enjoyable when your self-education has contributed to it. All successful individuals have something in common: they’ve taken the initiative to teach themselves new things, or to supplement their formal education with self-teaching, as well.
Therefore, not all groundbreaking inventors, artists, and philosophers are solely self-taught. However, they’ve still accompanied their college training with their own individual quest for knowledge.
There is a simple reason why autodidacts thrive the most: because they’re always learning. The one mistake people who solely rely on formal education and training make is the mistake of stopping their learning process altogether once it’s over. Not only does this prevent you from being up-to-date on the latest concepts and advancements in your field, but it obstructs your brain’s thirst for mental stimulation.
By constantly learning and teaching ourselves new things, no matter how small or large they might be, we could change the course of our overall health and well-being. Research even shows that mental stimulation (consisting of practicing memorization, learning new things, and improving our skill in existing hobbies) is key to slowing down the development of, and possibly even reversing, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn was noted for saying, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” This does not mean you should abandon the pursuit of formal education, as it often serves as the foundation for self-education. But, it does mean we should maintain, cater to, and quench our thirst for knowledge as much as we possibly can.