How to Self-Learn U.S. Politics (A 13-Step Roadmap) 

I have this friend who’s always able to talk intelligently about recent political events. He always knows the ins and outs of any newsworthy policy, election, or court proceeding.

He’s read the news stories. He’s perused the various political commentaries and analyses. And, using his understanding of US government, history, and political theory (a gov major), he always manages to formulate unique, informed opinions on the issues — opinions he quite eagerly relays to me and my friends over drinks. 

I’m betting that you, someone interested in politics, also has a similar informed person in mind, whether it’s a TV commentator or a friend at the bar. For it’s often those we admire who direct our attention to our intellectual gaps and, in doing so, inspire us to learn. 

This self-consciousness about my political ignorance, along with a desire to make change in the world, inspired me to give myself a stronger foundation in U.S. politics, one that would enable me to go head to head with my friend during our friendly, if at times heated, political debates. 

So, I created this 13-step roadmap for teaching yourself U.S. politics and government in a systematic and affordable way — mainly through books and online courses.

It’s based on my friend’s education, college curriculums, and my own experience pursuing self-education in U.S. politics.

Keep in mind that self-education is a lifelong process, and that all people learn differently. This guide, therefore, is a recommendation that can help you form a foundation of knowledge in US politics and the tangential fields like US history and political philosophy. Although the guide is logically constructed, feel free to hop around. 

Whether you’re an aspiring political pundits, analysts, politicians, activists, and dinner party conversationalists, this guide will give you the foundation you need to excel.

Why an Education is US Politics is So Important 

Although good fuel for the ego, sounding intelligent at social events isn’t the only reason to educate yourself in US politics. The main things an education in politics does for you is empower you to speak up and take action for what you believe is right. 

We all care about something and want to change it for the better. It could be education policy, climate change, high taxes, immigration, or racial prejudice that pulls your attention. 

If you’re anything like me, when someone speaks eloquently on issues that matter to you, you experience a strong urge to join the discussion. You want to express your ideas about how to handle the issue, and you want to do so articulately and intelligently, perhaps like this famous orator and abolitionist: 

Frederick Douglass – Image via Irish Central

But sometimes self-doubt about your knowledge holds you back. Maybe you’re worried that ignorance about a certain political concept, institution, or process, from how a bill gets passed to how the supreme court works, will make your argument sound uninformed. 

I’ve certainly felt this way and still do quite often, as I’m only beginning my self-education journey in U.S politics. I’ve also had the experience of speaking up regardless of self-doubt and then failing to persuade or move anyone because I didn’t really know what I was saying. 

Both of these problems — 1) self-doubt stopping you from joining political discussions and 2) talking unconvincingly about politics — can be prevented through self-education in US politics and government, US history, and current events. 

Through self-directed study you’ll gain the confidence, terminology, historical context, and knowledge needed to speak up often and effectively for what you believe our government should do about various issues. 

And, as an added benefit, reading or watching the news will become more fun. Like a moviegoer who has recently studied film criticism, you’ll see political events differently. 

You’ll be an analyst of sorts, perhaps even someone who can write opinion pieces about political issues that are published by news publications and read by thousands, all influenced by your words. 

That said, let’s dive into the self-education roadmap for U.S politics. 

How to Educate Yourself in U.S. Politics 

You can educate yourself in U.S. politics by reading books, following the news, taking online courses, and engaging in political discussion and action.

The most politically-educated people work to form knowledge of not only current events, but also of the inner workings of our government, the main events of U.S history, and even political philosophy.

That said, below is a 13-step roadmap for beginners to follow to form a foundational education in U.S politics and government. The steps are logically constructed, each one building on the former. But since everyone has a different set of interests and comes from a different background, feel free to jump around the steps as well. 

If you follow it completely, you should be the most politically knowledgeable person in almost any conversation, and you should have a good idea if politics is something you want to pursue further, perhaps as a political scientist (here’s a poli sci roadmap), government official, blogger, or journalist. 

1. Learn Some Basic Political Terminology

Do you know the meaning of words like Majority Whip or Filibuster? How about Grassroots?

We hear these terms often in the news but may not totally grasp their meaning or significance. It wasn’t until doing research for this article that I actually learned what Lame Duck meant.

Knowing basic political vocabulary will help you understand the readings and videos to come. Plus, you’ll understand the news on a deeper level.

Check out Stacker’s 50 Political Terms You Should Know, and consider making flashcards on an app like Anki for better retention.

2. Read the Foundational Documents of the United States

The best place to start your education in US politics is with reading the foundational documents of the United States Government, namely, the US constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers.

Written by our country’s founding fathers during the revolutionary era, these documents serve as the enduring ideological and structural foundation of the U.S. government.

Being familiar with them will help you understand the why behind many of the political institutions, decisions, and processes that you’ll learn about as you progress in your education. 

Here are the foundational political documents to familiarize yourself with: 

  • The U.S. Constitution: I recommend using the interactive constitution for this, as it allows you to access scholarly interpretations of each part of the constitution from leading legal and philosophical thinkers. 
  • The Federalist Papers: Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in 1787 and 1788, this series of essays contains intelligent arguments for the ratification of the new US constitution. It’s one the most important resources for understanding the original intent of the constitution and a huge contribution to political theory. 
  • The Declaration of Independence: Cherished not only for the philosophical statements it makes about government but also for its beautiful language, the Declaration of Independence is the document that officially severed ties between the thirteen colonies and Great Britain. 

The US constitution and the Declaration of Independence can be read in an evening. The Federalist Papers, on the other hand, will take longer, as it consists of 81 essays, each written in tough, latinate language. 

But it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Think of it as training for your mental faculties, specifically, argument analysis, essay construction, and reading comprehension.

However, if you’re short on time, you can read the most famous and influential federalist papers: 

  • Federalist #10: Madison argues that representative democracy is more effective than direct democracy at preventing factions from occurring.
  • Federalist #51: Madison explains the purpose of checks and balances.
  • Federalist #68: Hamilton expresses in sharp prose the original intent of the electoral college. 

If you read the above documents and spend some time thinking about them and how they’ve affected today’s events, you’ll have acquainted yourself with the original goals and ideals of our nation’s government. 

3. Learn About the U.S. Government & How it Works

One of the biggest mistakes I often make in political conversation is stating emphatically that the government should do X when because of how the system is set up X is actually impossible or extremely difficult to do without breaking a law.   

Knowing how the U.S government works — its processes, legal rules, institutions, spheres of influence — will prevent you from making similar mistakes and also help you think of more practical ways of solving whatever issue you wish to solve.  

Below are some resources you can use to learn about how the U.S. Government is set up and operates. They include online courses, YouTube videos, and books.

I’d recommend doing the Crash Course as an intro, then choosing between Harvard or Khan’s course to attain a solid foundation in US government, and ending with a read of the seminal work Democracy in America. 

Watch Crash Course U.S. Government and Politics 

Crash Course’s U.S. Government and Politics is a free series of ten-minute long, beginner-focused  videos that teach you the most important concepts in government and politics, from the bicameral congress and federalism to how a bill becomes a law. 

Here are some of the 50 segments: 

Although political authors would never cite it as source material in their books, the series is good for beginners looking to get an introduction to the U.S. government and politics in a fun and entertaining way. I always find their videos helpful when I’m trying to break into a new subject. 

Enroll in Harvard’s U.S. Government Online Series

Harvard’s U.S. Government Series is an online, self-paced program designed for beginners who want an introduction to U.S. politics and government from one of the nation’s leading academic institutions. It’s called a series because it includes four 4-week long courses to be taken in sequential order:

  • American Government: Constitutional Foundations: Understand how early American politics informed the constitution and why the ideal of freedom and liberty has yet to be attained. 
  • U.S. Political Institutions: Congress, Presidency, Courts, and Bureaucracy: Get to know the inner workings of the three major branches of the federal government. 
  • Citizen Politics in America: Public Opinion, Elections, Interest Groups, and the Media: Learn how different groups work to affect policy and political decision-making. 
  • U.S. Public Policy: Social, Economic, and Foreign Policies: Learn all about the policy-setting process, the act of turning laws into action. 

Each week hones in on a major feature of US politics, from a president’s power over domestic policy to the nature of political parties in America.

At the end of each week you are given case studies that make you think critically about what you have learned. 

Here’s an example of one of the sessions on presidents and foreign policy

Because this Harvard program is so comprehensive and well-constructed, it costs $396 to enroll. So it’s definitely not cheap. But it is about 1/11 the cost of attending an in-person 4 month course at Harvard Kennedy’s School of Government, so it might be worth the value to those who want an ivy-league education in the fundamentals of US government.  

Those who complete it will also receive a certificate, which can be used to prove your competency in this area to future employers or colleges.

Take Khan Academy’s U.S. Government and Civics Online Course

Khan Academy’s U.S government and civics course is online, self-paced, and free. It’s divided into 10 units and covers many topics about the U.S government, including the foundations of American democracy, the interactions between the different branches of government, and many others. 

Each of the ten units is broken into smaller subsections, as you can see below in the branches of gov unit:

In addition using videos to teach the topics, the course also assigns readings, written by Khan Academy, and quizzes to make sure you understand the main points: 

On the Khan Academy platform you can also track your progress towards mastery over the different units, which can be pretty motivating and help you manage your studies. The course is great to do all the way through, but you can also just skip around and do the units that are most unfamiliar to you. 

Read Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville 

In 1831, the French aristocrat and soon-to-be eminent political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in New York City on a state-funded mission to learn about America’s prison system. 

Instead of confining his research to the prisons, de Tocqueville spent his 9 months studying American society as a whole, paying special attention to its society, government, and democratic institutions. 

In 1835 and 1840 he turned his findings into two editions of the book, Democracy in America, which is now considered one of the greatest works of political science written in the 19th century:

My copy and my coffee

The book recounts the social and political conditions he found in American society and also explains why republican representative democracy was able to thrive in America but not in other countries, like France. 

You’ll find this book in many top institution’s assigned reading lists for political science, history, and other social science majors. Harvard Professor Harvey C. Mansfield says that the book is:

 “at once the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America.”

Even though the book was written so long ago, its analysis of our culture is still extraordinarily relevant today. For the self-learner in politics, it will help you understand American society, why our government is the way it is, and why it works. 

Want to Read More Books This Year?

Reading books is my favorite way to learn about anything.

Consider getting Audible so you can listen to audiobooks on the go. They offer a 30-day free trial where you Prime members get 2 free books to start (non-members get 1).

I love the ability to listen to books at night when my eyes are tired, while driving, or on my long walks around town when I just can’t sit in a chair any longer.

4. Study America’s Revolutionary War Era 

How can we appreciate and understand American politics today without looking back in time to when the great American experiment first began? 

For someone studying U.S. politics on their own, it helps to know about the events that led up to the creation of our government and about the people and ideas that most influenced its initial structure and constitution. 

Here’s a quick refresher from Heimler’s History, a great channel for reviewing US history: 

And below are other resources you can use to bulk up on the history of the American revolution:

  • The Free Yale Online Course: The American Revolution is an online course offered by Yale. You can watch History Professor Joanne Freeman’s lectures and do the assigned readings outlined in the syllabus. 
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution: This pulitzer-prize winning book is considered widely as the best book on the intellectual life of the American revolutionaries — what they believed and thought. 
  • The American Revolution: I found Gordon S. Wood’s history of the revolution to be straightforward, chronologically-constructed, and clear. It’s a great way to quickly learn about the major events of the build up to the war and the war itself. 
  • Alexander Hamilton: Ron Chernow’s biography of one of America’s most ambitious founders gives great insight into the political work that created our government, financial system, and constitution. You’ll also learn about the tumultuous post-revolution phase.

Knowing what principles the revolutionaries fought for in America’s founding and why they did it will help you better protect these principles as you gain a more influential political voice through education and involvement. 

5. Freshen Up on Your U.S. History 

A basic knowledge of U.S. history is vital if you’re self-studying American politics and government. You could go deep here, perhaps tackling the US history self-education roadmap, or you could just refresh your memory on the major turning points and events.

By studying history you’ll come to understand the origins and development (or decay) of the political institutions we have today. 

You also get to see political leaders make decisions that altered the course of our country and the world, be it the decision by the South to secede from the Union or the decision by Truman to drop the bombs. 

Also, most courses and books that deal with US history also relay a bunch of political information as well, so you get an education in both subjects. That’s because the most impactful events were usually caused primarily by some political leader or interest group. 

For example, it’s hard to write a history about the Civil War without discussing the political aims of the Southern state governments. 

That said, here are some ways to brush up on your US history: 

  • Read A Little History of the United States: James Davidson wrote this entertaining character-filled book that takes you through 500 years of American history in just 344 pages. 
  • Take Columbia University’s Civil War & Reconstruction Series: This is a heavy-duty series of three courses that takes over a year to complete at 4/6 hours per week. At $135 you’ll become an expert in all things Civil War. 
  • Read A People’s History of the United States: Take a step into the shoes of America’s women, African-Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers in this lively history. 
  • Work Through The Glorious American Essay Collection: Study America’s history by reading essays by the country’s greatest writers in chronological order, from Puritan Cotton Mather and America’s grandfather Ben Franklin all the way to Zadie Smith. 

It’s a good feeling to be able to rebut someone’s claim about what the government should do by referencing a time in America’s history when such a course of action brought about undesirable consequences.

To your friend you may say, “well remember when Nixon tried something similar? Remember what happened to the dairy farmers? The dairy farmers!” 

By studying how political decisions played out in the past, you’ll be better equipped to predict the effects of modern political decisions.

This is why many presidents seek out historians’ advice. You’ll also be better at coming up with solutions for issues that don’t repeat mistakes that have already been made. 

If you want some other reasons for reading history books, check out my article “Why History Should be in Every Self Education Plan

6. Review the Major Supreme Court Decisions

The Supreme Court holds a tremendous amount of power to influence our rights and daily lives as citizens. Therefore, it’s pretty common for a supreme court decision to make headlines across political news publications, where pundits write their own opinions on the matter. 

Many people remember learning the major Supreme Court cases like Marbury vs Madison or Brown vs Board of Education in high school, but they don’t remember the actual summaries of the cases, the court’s decisions, or the implications of those decisions.  

This was the case for me when I decided to pick up a small book that would refresh my memory on the most impactful supreme court decisions. The 176-page book is called, you guessed it, Supreme Court Decisions

It’s broken up into six chapters, each of which reviews 4-7 major court cases and decisions about the following six issue areas: powers of government, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, civil rights, the right of privacy, criminal and civil justice. 

For each major supreme court decision you’ll read a preface that summarizes what the case is about and then an abbreviated version of the original supreme court decision. You’ll get the main thrust of the Supreme Court’s explanation for how they arrived at their decision without being overburdened by legalese. 

How to Remember What You Read in this Book

I recommend reading one or two of the supreme court cases at a time and then putting the book down and from memory trying to name the case, summarize it, state the decision, and list its implications. You can either do this in writing, in your head, or verbally. By doing this you’ll lock the supreme court decisions into your memory for future use. It helped me a ton. 

Reading this little book can also be a great way to spot issues that spark your fury or passion, which will give you direction in your studies. This brings us to our next step in the roadmap. 

Pro Tip: Familiarize yourself with today’s supreme court judges

7. Pick Some Political Issues You Find Most Important 

Educated in America’s government and history, it’s time to put that knowledge to use and select key political issue areas in which you’d like to see and influence change. You may already know what issues infuriate you or motivate you. 

But if you can’t think of any top of mind, here are some important potential issue areas:

  • Immigration 
  • Climate Change & Pollution
  • Education & Income Inequality
  • Racial Prejudice
  • Scientific Research
  • Healthcare 
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Prescription Drug Costs
  • Habitat Degradation 

You may have strong feelings about a lot of the issues, but there are likely two or three that get your heart really racing. Once you’ve narrowed down to 1-3 main main problems you can start to read articles and books and listen to podcasts that focus on this specific issue. 

For example, if you wanted to educate yourself primarily on climate change you could read the book Silent Spring and start reading the Environment section of your favorite news outlets.

Here’s The Guardian’s Environment news section as an example:

Image via The Guardian

By honing in on a few issues at a time you’ll gain deep knowledge in that area and be considered an expert in it relative to the average politically-active generalist. 

When you’re an expert in an issue area and also come across as one, you’ll have more power to land impactful jobs and opportunities, perhaps at a non-profit or on a political campaign. You’ll also be better at persuading others to join your side.

Lastly, knowing which areas to focus on — be it immigration, gun control, or healthcare — will help you choose how to proceed more strategically in your US politics self-directed studies. 

8. Read Political News Outlets Regularly 

It’s time to move on from the past and start turning your attention to current events in the political sphere, especially those that have to do with your key issue areas. This might be the most important ongoing practice for understanding US politics. 

Following the news will make you a more informed citizen and allow you to put your historical and government knowledge to work, practicing coming up with informed opinions on the event, decision, trend, or movement being discussed. 

Pick a few political news outlets to read, watch, or listen to regularly. If reading, try for at least two articles a day to start. Then increase your number as it becomes a habit, perhaps a part of your morning ritual. 

It’s often best to find politically unbiased outlets that don’t skew too far left or right. Below is a useful graph to find unbiased news sites. 

The green rectangle contains the outlets do a good job of fact reporting and steer away from opinion and persuasion: 

Image via ad fontes media  

It’s hard though for publications to maintain equal footing. So it might be a good idea to create a balanced diet of outlets for your mind. For instance, maybe you’ll read The Economist (middle, complex analyses), The Wall Street Journal (slightly right, fact-based) and Politico (slightly left, fact-based). Ad fontes media updates the chart every year. Check out the 2022 version here.

Even if the news outlet is just stating the facts of what happened, be sure to think critically about what the writer is saying whenever you read the news. If any data they report seems absurd, verify it by looking at other reputable news sites. If you want to protect yourself against misinformation, here’s a guide

Pro Tip: Check to see if any of your chosen outlets have podcasts. Often they’ll have short 15-minute episodes that highlight the most important headlines of the day. It’s easy to crush these during a drive to work or while cooking dinner. NPR’s podcast gives you the latest news in five minutes. 

9. Follow Investigative Journalism Sites

Reading articles or watching documentaries from investigative journalist outlets allows you to get a more deep-dive into a specific issue because the reporters usually do in-depth, original research to reveal secrets and find the truth. 

For example, during a war an investigative journalist might go on-site and interview various soldiers about their experiences as bullets fly overhead. 

Here are some of the most well-known and acclaimed investigative journalism sites

  • ProPublica: Founded by former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, this nonprofit investigative news site has won the Pulitzer prize three times since it began in 2010. 
  • PBS Frontline: I’m a big fan of their hour-long documentaries that feature on the ground reporting. You can find their documentaries online
  • The Center for Public Integrity: CPI’s reporters have won numerous awards for their stellar investigative reporting. The nonprofit won a Pulitzer in 2014. 

Some of the stories these publications report can be absolutely jaw-dropping, especially when they bring to light truths that were hidden intentionally from the public. 

10. Start Reading Books About Politics 

Most used bookstores and libraries have sections titled politics, current events, or something similar. Some of these politics books typically analyze some social, foreign, government, or economic issue and then offer their solutions to it. 

Others might be more historical in their approach, tracing the origins and development of some important political movement or ideology. 

Almost all of them call for some change in the government’s or the public’s actions. For example, in best-seller Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, David French advocates for true tolerance of one’s opposing party in order to restore national unity before things get even uglier. 

BookAuthority has a good list of the best politics books of all-time you might want to check out. Or, simply google the issues you’re concerned about and find books that way so you gain expertise in your issue area. 

Image via Google

You can find a lot of great books this way. Through reading you’ll start to become more aware of what interests you, all the while gaining deeper knowledge about specific contemporary issues that matter today. 

11. Learn About the Key Politicians 

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone when they bring up a politician whom you’ve never heard of?

This happens to me more than I’d like to admit, and I always feel a touch of guilt or embarrassment for my political ignorance regarding a powerful person’s name, party, and goals. 

To become politically-educated, it’s important to know the most important people in your state and federal government. Politico’s 9 most influential politicians in 2021 is a good place to start your research: 

Image via Politico

But also consider finding your local representatives and state governor, and learning a bit about their ideas and beliefs. At the very least this will help you make an informed decision about voting for or against them in upcoming elections. 

You should also know your state’s congresspeople and senators. When I asked my politically-savvy friend to look over this directed study plan, he recommended that along with learning the names of these politicians, you should also know the main issues they care about and where they stand on them.

Pro Tip: Politicians are becoming more digitally-savvy and creating social media accounts that you can follow to stay up-to-date on their activity. 

12. Introduce Yourself to Political Philosophy

Because I have a penchant for philosophy, reading political philosophy is how I started when trying to educate myself in politics the first time around.

I started with dense books like the following: 

That strategy was likely a mistake. It would probably have been better to prioritize learning about the American government and forming a habit of reading current events before diving into these often challenging concepts and texts, especially since I was hoping to become more conversant in politics. 

But, even if I studied it prematurely, I don’t regret studying it. I loved learning what some of the greatest political minds ever — Machiavelli, Rousseau, Hobbes — had to say about such important topics like the ideal form of government, the main purpose of government, worthy political goals, and the definition of justice, which was famously dealt with in Plato’s Republic.

Studying the subject even at just an introductory level gave me a stronger appreciation for our modern government and politics, despite any grievances I might hold. It also challenged me intellectually and sharpened my critical thinking skills. 

Even still it’s a bit hard for me to define what political philosophy is, so I’ll let a Yale professor do it for me:

To get started in the field of political philosophy, here are two resources for beginners:

  • Yale’s Introduction to Political Philosophy Online Course: Yale’s free course exposes you to the greatest classical and enlightenment political philosophers and their ideas, starting with Plato and ending with De Tocqueville. 
  • Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present: This book covers the key political thinkers of history and their ideas. Unlike the course above it covers more modern political philosophers like Foucault and Wollstonecraft. 

Even though many of these thinkers existed centuries or even millenniums in the past, they were dealing with timeless questions about government that are still relevant today. Their answers to these questions can inform your own views on a variety of political topics and issues, and, most importantly, make us think deeply.

Plus, some of these ancient and enlightenment era philosophers, especially John Locke, greatly influenced John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other founding fathers and gave them ideas like popular sovereignty and the social contract, which they used during state-craft. Here’s a cool article on the intellectual influences of the Declaration of Independence

If you want to study political philosophy on your own, I’m working on a political philosophy self-education roadmap for autodidacts that you can follow to effectively gain a solid foundation in the subject. 

If you want to really get into political philosophy, I have a political philosophy roadmap that I encourage you to read!

13. Get Involved in Politics & Continue Learning 

It’s a waste to let that knowledge of politics and government sit in your brain unused. Whether it’s running for office in your local government, getting a degree, or starting a blog about your chosen issue, get out there and share what you’ve learned with the world. Use that knowledge to create change that you want to see in the world. 

Here are six ways to get involved in politics:  

  • Attend Your Town’s Political Meetings: School Board meetings, city council, and other government meetings are open to the public. Make your voice heard and assess the performance of your officials, especially if you’re thinking about the following…
  • Run for Office: Think you have what it takes to win an election? You might be more capable than you think. This is a great way to work towards change you’re passionate about. Here’s a guide on how to run for local office
  • Start a Blog, Podcast, or SubStack: Consider creating content about your chosen political issue area. Educate people about trends, related events, policy changes, and ways to help. 
  • Volunteer for a Campaign: The politically-educated friend I mentioned earlier in the article volunteered on a representative’s campaign placing cold calls to get votes. But campaigns need all types of skill sets. Find an official you believe in and help them out.
  • Join a Non-Profit: There are so many non-profits out there focused on different issue areas, from food insecurity to free speech violations (ACLU). Find one helping promote change you care about and offer them your domain knowledge and passion. 
  • Work in Politics: Perhaps you want to be a policy analyst or congressional staffer. No matter how foreign the concept might seem, it can be done, and someone with your drive and knowledge is a superb candidate. Here is a guide on how to break into politics

As you participate in politics, you’ll inevitably learn more about politics and the inner workings of government. You’ll also meet other politically-savvy peers to whom you can talk about politics, history, the news, and maybe even political philosophy, and from whom you’ll learn so much. 

Check out Rock Solid’s article to learn more ways to get involved in your local government.

Follow Your Curiosity 

I like to think of curiosity as the little kid inside of you who rarely gets a chance to be heard. 

With all the noise — all the advice from adults about what you should learn, all the images from television and social media telling you what’s cool and what’s not, all your peers’ opinions, all the study guides and reading lists you see online (including this one) — It’s hard for the small child’s voice to break through to it’s older self, you. 

Perhaps you sometimes hear its call but quickly shoo it off, thinking that the thought irrational in the face of all the evidence. 

“But this book isn’t on the book list,” you might say. Or “this issue isn’t getting much attention in the media, so why would I study it?” 

As someone who spent too much of my adolescence ignoring my curiosity in order to pursue status or to please other people or to seem smart, I advise against it. 

If that voice hollers or even whispers multiple times about the same thing as you study politics, or any subject, listen to it, regardless of the path you feel you’re supposed to take. 

That voice is likely to guide you to some subfield or book that will light a fire under your ass or open your eyes to a new world of investigation. 

If I hadn’t taken a break from reading business and finance books in an effort to be a financial analyst, as many of my college friends were doing, I would’ve never read “Deep Work,” which set me on a lifelong path to pursue the craft of writing. 

Following your curiosity can lead you to greatness, because whatever skill, course, subject, or job it guides you towards, you’ll give it the best of yourself, because deep down you care for it. 

You’ll feel fire. And by working hard on some subject or skill you’ll improve dramatically. And people will notice. Most importantly, you’ll notice. And you’ll be confident. 

And, bringing it back to political studies, when you’re well-read, driven, and confident, you’re a powerful agent of change.

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Alright, I hope this article has helped you follow your interests and lead a more interesting life!


After graduating college with an econ degree I realized I was still anything but well-educated. Over the last 4 years, I've been trying to fix that, autodidact-mode — by reading books and engaging in self-directed study across multiple subjects. On this blog, my goal is to share my learnings and help others get a well-rounded education outside of school. Education, after all, is a lifelong process, one well worth the investment.

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