Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Autodidact Alternative: Best Practices

I believe that education is a life long process, and that attending college shouldn't be. Education empowers us. The more we know, the better decisions we can make. The more we know, the more enjoyment we get out of the world.

Every moment of every day should be devoted to either enjoying your life or improving it.That means education is essential. When we can afford to have other people teach us, we have to teach ourselves.

Here are some best practices to help make that happen:

  • It is more important to listen than it is to talk. Make a point of shutting up and give your attention to what other people have to say regularly. If you actually listen to what's being said around you, you can learn an amazing amount of stuff.
  • Take steps to remember what you've learned. When you learn something new, tell someone else about it. Write it down in a journal. Blog about it. Think about it when you go for a walk or work out. Turn the idea over in your head. We don't necessarily remember things automatically. It takes effort, repetition and time spent with a new concept for it to 'sink in'.
  • It takes time to learn stuff. Give yourself time. We live in an instant-access world, where every bit of information available is just a click away. We have developed very unhealthy expectations of instant comprehension and instant understanding. People think very, very fast - but I'm not sure that thinking fast necessarily equals thinking well. Practice developing your attention span.
  • Let your interests be your guide. It is easier to educate yourself when the pursuit is fun. If you're slogging through something because you feel like you have to, there's a layer of resentment and frustration built in that's not helping you. This is your life. Focus on learning the stuff you personally find fascinating.
  • Question everything. When you're reading a book, research the author. Are they well-regarded? There are different schools of thought within every discipline. Don't just latch on to the first one you encounter and regard that as the absolute truth: try to familiarize yourself with many different voices to expand your understanding. 

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