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The Benefits of Becoming an Autodidact

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Ever heard of a thing called Autodidacticism? Here’s a hint: it’s not a political party. It’s just a fancy way of saying self-learning or self-education. I’m a huge advocate for people becoming autodidacts. Instead of waiting around to be spoon fed knowledge, a self-learner will go out, do the research, and then apply it to their life. Isn’t that awesome? This is exactly how I learned photography. I never once took a class or had a mentor. I spent years researching, applying, and practicing––all on my own time.

Being a self-learner isn’t an easy task though. It might require you to stop watching as much TV and start reading more books. If you’re a college student like me, it means that you aren’t just learning from your classes, but your spending extra time outside of class on different subjects. It might be hard at times, but if you’re truly interested and invested in the topic, you’ll have the passion to do it. Learning how to use Adobe After Effects was not a quick and easy task for me. The only reason I was able to spend hours upon hours watching tutorials and reading articles was because I enjoyed the work.

So, why should you become an autodidact? Here are several of the great benefits:

1) You won’t be bored.

I’m going to make an interesting confession here. I’m hardly ever bored. This isn’t because I have a ton of friends or that I’m always on an adventure. It’s because I have so many different interests that I always have something I can dabble in. More times than not, I’m left having to pick and choose what I want to work on in my free time. There are so many possibilities. Do I want to read the book I picked up about storytelling, or should I take time to work on that motion graphics project I started last week?

If you're not sure what you're interested in, just try something. Recently I tried to hand make a notebook. I loved doing it so much that I bought all the equipment and tools to start doing it regularly. I would've never known that I had such a great interest in hand making notebooks if I hadn't have tried.

2) You become more hirable.

Imagine this. You’re the head of a company who needs to hire a writer to create print content for advertising and promotion. Two people apply for the job. They are both great writers with credibility in their field, but the second one knows both English and Spanish. Which one would you hire? That’s right, the one that knows two languages. They have a greater skill set and can help you do a lot more.

Being an autodidact means you are learning and developing new skills all the time. I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to spread yourself thin across a ton of fields, but it’s also not good to do only one thing. You never know how much demand there is for that one thing, and it might even become outdated (which leaves you in the middle of the ocean on a sinking life raft).

3) You enjoy life more.

Reading books, learning new skills, and collecting knowledge have brought about a greater appreciation in life for me. It’s one thing to watch a movie and admire the special effects, but it’s a completely different thing to understand how the effects were made and appreciate the work that went into them.

Over the weekend I picked up a used book for fifty cents at the library downtown. It's about the history of the English language. I don’t usually read books in this genre, but I wanted to widen my scope and learn something new. The experience has been wonderful so far. Knowing the reason our language became what it is today is enriching.

So there you have it. If I haven’t convinced you to go crazy with the whole autodidacticism thing, I hope I’ve at least inspired you to go out, find one interesting subject or hobby, and start learning about it. Start small and grow from there.

What are some things you’ve taught yourself?

PHOTO CRED: NEIL CONWAY