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Live a More Fulfilling Life: Become an Autodidact

An autodidact is an individual who self-educates. Such a person will choose the subject, study materials and amount of study all for themselves, without the aid of a professor or a classroom. Notable autodidacts include: Benjamin Franklin, Frida Kahlo, Henry Ford and Leonardo da Vinci. Many such geniuses would have argued that they had not taught themselves so much because they had great minds, but that they had great minds because they taught themselves so much!

A common theme in a great deal of media aimed at college-age individuals is dissatisfaction with the prospect of a repetitive lifestyle. It’s popular for a reason: it’s relatable. While some students know exactly what they want out of a career, the majority isn’t so lucky. They commonly experience a quarter-life crisis revolving around the question “Is this field/subject/degree really what I want to do with my whole life?” For most students, the prospect of more debt prohibits returning to college for another course of study. Too often this results in resigned acceptance of careers fraught with disappointment, which they drown out in evenings and on weekends with social media, video games and premium cable subscriptions.   

However, with a little confidence and determination, life doesn’t need to be so bleak! In fact, it can be better than ever. In all of history, there has never been a better time to self-teach than now. If you’re finding your lifestyle lackluster, all you have to do is make a serious commitment to learning something new. What’s more, with the help of the internet, it’s easy to find someone to sell your new skills to. Although some fields strictly require credentials, there are plenty operating largely on merit. Programming, writing and graphic design are just a few examples of fields where the quality of your work is immediately more important than which school you attended.

Once you’ve picked your subject, a good place to start is looking up introductory university courses’ syllabi and checking which text they employ. Read it front to back, and you’ll probably end up with a good idea of where to go from there. If the book is too expensive, between the subject’s Wikipedia page and a reputable expert forum like Stack Exchange, you’ll be able to find some good leads.

Don’t ever let yourself think that you are “not intelligent enough” or “too stupid” to take on a subject! You may not learn as quickly as someone naturally inclined to the topic, but as long as you put in the time, you will know more than you did before. Think of it like this: you’re only competing with your past self.  If something seems like gibberish at first, don’t give up!

Mastering a new subject is almost never easy. It requires regular study and practice for retention. You’ll have to give up time spent on psychological comforts, such as  partying and watching television. Wading through a chapter of “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” won’t give you the same dopamine “hit” as finding out what will happen to your favorite character on Sunday’s episode of Chairs of Intrigue — at first.

As you stick to it, you’ll start to connect your chosen subjects to the real world. Math will become useful and you’ll recognize references to the great books you’ve read. There will always be something new to learn. You’ll be infinitely more engaged with life than when you just looked forward to the weekend!