Why take the less-traveled road and learn things outside of a formal program?
Below are 15 advantages I’ve noticed during four years of self-studying philosophy, literature, history, writing, and a whole bunch of other random subjects and skills on my own.
I hope it inspires you to become an autodidact in something that interests you.
The Top 15 Advantages of Being an Autodidact
1. You can pursue your curiosities at will. Robbed is the student who is told to prematurely leave a subject of interest. “The class is moving on so you must too!” They had a chance to explore their interests, their self, but now they are swept past that mine of potential riches perhaps never to return. As an autodidact, you are free to stop and heed that inner voice that tells you to explore deeper.
2. You form an original point of view. By forming your own curriculum, and choosing your own books, articles, and online courses, you develop an original perspective, one that will help you look at problems differently than your conventionally-educated peers. Want an extra boon to your creativity? Read old books.
3. You can move on if something’s not worth your time. If a concept or technique is not helpful to your end-goal, or just plain uninteresting, then you can skip over it, rather than having to study it for the upcoming quiz, regardless of its futility and drudgery.
4. You can learn at your ideal pace. You’ll never fall behind or be held back by the slower students. Concepts that come easily to you can be dealt with in days. And you never have to rush through your readings and miss valuable information. Things that interest you you can ponder and internalize.
5. You get to use learning materials that work for you. Hate lectures because your mind wanders? Use essays and books instead. Favor audio-learning? Try Audible (30-day free trial). As an autodidact, you can develop a self-education plan that works for your learning style and needs, as opposed to what the administrator prescribes.
6. You avoid learning methods that clash with your preferences. Despise group projects? Do a solo one. Can’t stand multiple choice quizzes but like to write? Use essays as your form of retrieval practice. This keeps you from using methods that you hate. The best study methods are the ones you can stick with for the long term, provided of course they are sound methods.
7. You save thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The costs of degree programs keep going up. Even one-time courses taught at colleges can cost a month’s wages. When you craft a DIY curriculum, you can make it affordable. A lot of stuff is free — books, online courses, blogs, YouTube. And the stuff you do buy you can make sure fits in a reasonable budget.
8. You can experiment as much as you want. With no self-consciousness that a teacher or classmate is going to laugh at your work, you can try new stuff and suck in obscurity, provided of course that you have a well-trained trash detector. That’s easier in skateboarding than in writing. But still, for the shy type, this is good in the beginning, as long as you eventually get feedback.
9. You can learn anything you want. When you’re a self-learner, there are no restrictions on what you can learn. You don’t have to pass up that intro to literature course you really want to take because you have to get your credits. The world of knowledge is yours to explore.
10. You learn self-motivation and self-discipline. In self-directed learning, there’s usually no one holding you accountable but yourself. A skilled autodidact is one who can stay the course without losing steam, who can do their reading or practice even when they don’t feel like it. Self-learning, therefore, forces you to improve your powers of self-motivation and discipline, which apply to all areas of work and life.
11. Learning never feels like a chore. In any formal program, you run the risk of the thing you’re excited to learn starting to feel like work. In elementary school I loved to read novels. By the end of high school I swore off books forever. Fortunately, I found my way back. Similarly, Benjamin Mcevoy, a literature teacher, said he didn’t read for 2 years after graduating from Oxford’s program. Autodidactim helps you ensure learning always feels like play, so you do it more often and with the spirit of adventure.
12. You become great at planning. Scott Young, famous for learning the MIT computer science curriculum on his own, recommends in his book Ultralearning, which I highly recommend, you spend at least 10% of the total study time planning out your learning strategy. Doing this planning many times – organizing materials, setting goals and deadlines, structuring my learning in a logical and systematic way — has taken me from D- planner to a B+.
13. You learn how to teach yourself. Teaching yourself is a skill. One that will repay you a thousand times over for the time you took to learn it. Like any skill, it requires practice, and that’s exactly what you do whenever you learn something autodidact-mode. You learn what learning methods work, how to plan a course of study, how to identify your learning needs, and more.
14. You can be nimble, learning only what you need. This is especially true if you’re using direct practice. For example, if you’re starting a business, you’re busy, so you learn enough to solve whatever problems get in your way. No sales? Learn sales. Amazing sales? Don’t really need to focus on that. This saves you time as you avoid studying stuff you barely get to use in practice.
15. You gain self-confidence: It’s empowering to learn a new thing on your own, whether it’s something academic like the basics of political philosophy or something skill-based like content writing. You prove to yourself that you are capable of learning. You alter your identity from someone who needs to be taught to someone who can teach themself, and then you go learn something even harder.
There you have it — 15 reasons why being an autodidact is so great.
Curious about whether you’re well-constituted to succeed as an autodidact?
Check out the 6 personality traits of great autodidacts.
Thanks for reading, and happy learning.