What is an Autodidact? An introduction to self-directed learning.

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Autodidactism: A guide to becoming self-taught.

Ask any successful person how they feel about education, and almost all of them will tell you that education was a big part of their success. But with the skyrocketing cost of college, advanced education is becoming out of reach for a growing number of people. So how do you maintain and expand on your education without sinking into a lifetime of student loan debt? Enter the world of a little known practice called autodidactism.

In this very long article, I will explain what an autodidact is, why you should be one, and how to do it.

What is an autodidact?

So what is an autodidact? An autodidact is someone who studies new topics on their own in a deep and comprehensive manner. There are a lot of people who are curious about the world around them, but autodidacts take it a step further.

Instead of just visiting a museum or reading nonfiction books, an autodidact will get a textbook, perhaps even at the college or graduate school level, and take notes about what they learn. Depending on the field of study and their budget, an autodidact might even do some sort of lab work involving tinkering, experimentation, and hands on learning. The goal of autodidactism is to gain a deep understanding of the topic through self study.

Autodidactism vs lifelong learning

Autodidactism is related to the concept of lifelong learning. While some people bundle them together as one concept, I prefer to draw a distinction between them.

To me, a lifelong learner is someone who keeps their mind active well into their adult life and old age. They probably read nonfiction, watch some documentaries now and then, and enjoy museums. They just stay curious and enthusiastic about any opportunity to learn something.

An autodidact takes it further than that. They don’t just learn, they actively study and take a deep dive into a subject, maybe even reaching a point where they can contribute new knowledge to the field.

If you want to use a fitness analogy, a lifelong learner is someone who lives a generally healthy lifestyle, while an autodidact is more like an amateur or even professional bodybuilder. The difference is really just a matter of depth.

Why become an autodidact?

At this point, you might be wondering why you should become an autodidact.  I would argue that you not only should become an autodidact, but also that the world is reaching a point where autodidactism will become a necessity. In fact, we might have reached that stage already.

Many of the jobs available on job websites are positions that could be automated within the next decade. Cashiering and manufacturing jobs are already being handed over to machines, and truck driving will probably be automated within the next decade. My point isn’t to make a claim as to whether or not this is fair or right, but simply to say that it is happening either way.

The economy of the future will require people who can continue to learn new skills and continue to adapt. Everyone will be an entrepreneur to some extent, and that necessarily means you need to innovate. Those who are willing and able to pursue self directed learning are the people who will get ahead.

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