Few people learn for the sake of learning. Most learn in exchange for some other desire; career, prestige, pleasing others.
I’ve learned at school through instruction from a teacher, yet the impetus is always with me to actually do the learning. If I learn on my own in a self-directed way the responsibility still lies with me to do the actual learning.
Autodidactism is a word rooted in the ancient greek autos meaning self and dídaskein meaning teach. Literally, it means: self teach.
The dictionary says an Autodidactic is someone who teaches themselves without the benefit of a teacher or formal education. I may have once had the supposition that in order to be a teacher, I must be an expert. I supposed that I couldn’t teach myself because I was not qualified. Because being able to teach something, even to myself, I must be informed enough to guide the learner to education.
I have since learned how to learn. The process of Trivium grammar is the only tool I’ve needed to gather knowledge. Gathering knowledge is a process of identification. Identification is done through asking 'What?'. As an autodidact, I simply need to repeatedly ask 'What?' to gather knowledge of a subject and teach it to myself.
In school I am given a syllabus — sources of knowledge and a planned direction for the course of my schooling. As an autodidact I gather sources and materials myself. I then attempt to describe the subject as though I were teaching it to another by writing it down. This exposes what I already know and what I have yet to learn. This step of the process has a name, it is called the Feynman Technique.
Once I've identified what I have yet to learn, I need to gather knowledge. There are some resources I wind up using again and again. Some resources are strictly reference, such as Wikipedia. I always check references for Wikipedia entries and never rely on citations of news. Others are even based on the formal classroom where I’m given an instructor and classmates to communicate with. Even Teaching Assistants for tutoring. These resources are called MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. There are many, such as Coursera and Udemy. MOOCs typically have undergraduate to graduate level courses in exciting fields of study. There is also Khan Academy which guides a student through the most basic math and progresses beyond high school. It includes other subjects there such as music, programming, finance, and history. Of course there are also books. Most of the good ones are for sale on Amazon. Yet many out of print books of a high quality can be found at Project Gutenberg free of charge.
Learning is more than just gathering knowledge. I also must validate it. I cannot rely solely upon myself to validate all of the knowledge I gather. There are a number of social websites specializing in Question & Answer formats. Websites such as Quora and Stack Exchange. Both of which are of very high quality and utilize gamification features to rank the expertise of their users. There is also Internet Relay Chat, or IRC for short. Specialized IRC Networks such as Freenode cater to the Open Source Software community. I use these resources for “transient” mentorship. Because my mentors change frequently but the assistance I receive is most often of high quality.
Autodidactism sets no limit, no boundary, it is continual growth of knowledge done at my own accelerating pace.
What is good for some is not good for all. In the society I am in, not everyone has been given an opportunity to learn how to learn. Teachers have very little leeway in the classroom. Students spend their time memorizing facts by rote so they can pass a test. Their curriculum is tightly controlled with little room for creative exploration. Answers to problems are multiple choice, with one accepted answer. Life outside of school just doesn't work that way. Experience shows that I can memorize facts, but if I haven't used them — if I don't use them regularly, those facts simply disappear. Experience has shown that there are many ways to do something and the best ways haven’t always been thought of yet. The autodidacts’ teacher is nature, the authors of books, video lectures online, the billions of web sites that reside a few keystrokes away. My teacher is grammar, logic, and rhetoric. My teacher is the language of number. My teacher is symbolic manipulation, to construe symbols mechanically and arrive at answers.
This is why I created The One Life Catalog. That is why this first chapter, Head Space, is about learning. The One Life Catalog is a whole system approach to engineer the provision of well-being in abundance. It is not a subject found in a classroom. To put The One Life Catalog to use requires gathering knowledge beyond it, validating that knowledge myself, and applying that knowledge to design my lifestyle for regenerative living. It has motivated me to re-evaluate my nine intelligences, to pursue the Trivium to gain mastery over the Quadrivium. So with this ancient method of learning I can harness the power to engineer my future.
A popular trope today is educate yourself. That is precisely autodidactism. Educate comes from the latin educare, and means led out. It is an ongoing process, not a once in a lifetime event. Educating myself does not involve reading news or watching TV. It is not a noun, it is a verb. Something I must be doing, constantly.
Formal learning for a profession is necessary. Yet my career may not be there in the future. Industries rise and fall. Economies expand and contract. Nations come and go. Civilization changes. I am more than my career, I am also my passions. Though I have aligned my passions with my career, the only constant is my constant need to learn and to follow my passion. Autodidactism is a tool and a technique to follow passion whenever it may strike.
Technological unemployment is here. Technology takes jobs. Doesn't it make more sense to embrace technology to employ it myself to meet my basic needs? Then, refine the application of technology to go beyond, to create abundance for myself and share the excess with those around me.
This is the essence of The One Life Catalog, to employ technology and relieve the system pressures placed upon you by a society that employs technology. Doing so will take knowledge on your part, and you can do more. Not only can you do more, you must.