Autodidacts: Why you should be one, and how

Allow me to tell you about one of my favourite quotes. As Robert Heinlein famously put it: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

So why am I telling you this? I say this because I challenge you, my classmates (and myself), to start becoming autodidacts. Autodidacts are those who continue learning even beyond what is taught in schools. They keep their minds busy by learning new skills. They keep absorbing new knowledge. So, why should we all be autodidacts?

First off, you’ll earn more. Being an autodidact means that you could learn skills that most people would not have, so employers are more likely to choose you. You could better learn how to manage your own business. Many entrepreneurs were self taught, without having formal education. People like Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, and countless other entrepreneurs became successful by continuously honing their skills and learning the things they needed to succeed.

Second, you’ll be more charismatic. You’ll be able to hold conversations with more kinds of people. The most charismatic people can talk as easily with celebrities as they would with the next door neighbor. By continuously learning and gaining more knowledge, one can easily connect with the interests of more people. This can lead to you having more and better connections, friendships, and relationships.

Third, you’ll be more independent. You will have a lesser chance of not knowing what to do in an emergency. If something goes wrong, (let’s say, your car breaks down) you could learn the skills necessary to fix it. It also saves the cost of having to always call an expert to fix things. You could be the expert. In short, having a wider skillset means that you will be better prepared for life in general.

So how does one be an autodidact? Simple. Just keep learning. Enjoy it too. Read a book. Watch a TED talk. Take an online course. Just keep your mind active.

And since I started with a quote, allow me to end with another, much simpler quote from Sir Francis Bacon. One that I hope you all will take to heart. “scientia potentia est” or “Knowledge is power”.

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