3 Important Reasons Why You Need to Become an Autodidact

Read. Before it’s too late.

If you’re not autodidact already, you’re probably fucked. But it’s not too late to start.

By the way: autodidacticism is the art of self-directed learning. It’s a rare talent possessed by greats like Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln and Jimi Hendrix. But it can’t just be a rare skill anymore. You must become one, too.

Look, I’m sure you’ve got a pretty comfortable job doing whatever it is that you do. And I’m sure there’s a 401k plan in there somewhere. Maybe you’ve got a house and a mortgage with a favorable amortization curve and two cars stuffed in a garage. You’ve got Netflix and Hulu entertaining you every night. Soccer on Saturdays. Church on Sunday. Life.

That’s all great and all, but are you actually learning anything? Or did all that noise end when you got handed a diploma up on stage. Or maybe after you learned everything you needed for your job/career?

Not. Good. Enough.

Autodidactism isn’t just necessary for those who want to be successful in this Web 2.0 landscape. Autodidacticsm is necessary for those who want to survive. Period. The end.

I want to give three chief reasons why you need to learn more and why you need to start right now.

1 — Nearly half of all jobs in the US may be gone by 2025

In 2013, two distinguished Oxford economists, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne wrote a paper that startled the world, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation? This paper was famous for the line (emphasis mine):

According to our estimate, 47 percent of total US employment is in the high risk category, meaning that associated occupations are potentially automatable over some unspecified number of years, perhaps a decade or two

That’s a scary estimate. And that’s not putting it off to a long, long time in the future either. That’s just a few years away — less now that it’s 2017, mind you. A decade isn’t a long time. The recession was only a decade ago. Shit, the first Iron Man movie was nine years ago. A decade ain’t shit.

Since personal computing and the Internet became close partners in the 1990s, the world changed rapidly. The kids that grew up on AOL are now disrupting the world with powerful newapps. Peer-to-peer markets like AirBNB and Uber are destroying entire industries. New millionaires are minted every day; and not just through the creation of large, gamechanging companies. Affiliate marketers, Amazon sellers, dropshippers and even bloggers are finding new, innovative ways to make money. And a lot of it!

Frustratingly, those that aren’t changing and getting with the program are feeling left behind. New technology is causing a global upheaval. We are seeing this with anti-globalism, Populism, and (dare-I-say) Trumpism. The world changed and education didn’t change fast enough to keep up with it.

Those who suffer from cultural lag are angry and don’t know who they should be angry with. Chinese factories? Immigrants? The government? Liberals?

The reality is clear: they need to be angry with themselves. Never before has the opportunity to learn and educate oneself been so easy. YouTube, Coursera, Udemy, Codecademy, Lynda , Quora— the list goes on and on. And these are mostly free — or damn-near-free — resources.

“Perhaps they’re not computer savvy?” one argues. That’s not a great excuse. I recently met an unemployed kid who didn’t know what Excel was. Fucking Excel. But lo and behold he had 5000+ followers on Instagram. So he knows how to operate a relatively new social media platform, but can’t use spreadsheet software that’s been around since the mid-80's? Come-the-fuck-on, dude.

And that’s just it. We can navigate our way through Facebook, Instagram, games from the App Store and even porn sites, yet when it comes to picking up an easy skill — like basic HTML or affiliate marketing or fucking Excel — it’s too complicated? Too hard?

The safety nets are gone, folks. There’s no one below to catch you.

2 — It will improve your self-esteem

I wake up every day, feed my kid, make the coffee and retreat to my study. I love my study. Within my little sanctuary is my computer, my board game collection and four large bookshelves overflowing with books.

Each shelf I’ve organized by the skills they teach: my ten core skills (self-improvement, design, computer science, marketing, sales, psychology, money/economics, leadership, business and communication), plus history, fiction, current events and other assorted reference books.

Seeing this every day makes me feel good about myself. I haven’t read every book on these shelves, but I’ve read a vast majority of them. And even those I haven’t had the opportunity to cover-to-cover read I’ve skimmed and stolen nuggets of wisdom from.

I know things. Sure, I’m not always the smartest guy in the room. But I don’t have to be. The only person I’m competing against each day is my past self. So if I crank out 50–100 pages of reading each day, watch a few how-to videos on YouTube, plow through some illuminating blogs on Medium — then I know that today’s Dave is going to be a helluva lot better than yesterday’s Dave.

And even yesterday’s Dave is quite different than January 3rd, 2011’s Dave.

3 — It changed my life and it can change yours

It’s January 3rd, 2011. I’m sitting in a jail cell in Richmond, Virginia. I’ve started sobering up from a long night of drinking so my head is pounding. It’s funny-sad, really. The arresting officer found me just outside the bar I’d been at for most of the night, trying to stuff my shitty Mitsubishi Mirage’s bumper into my backseat — I’d just torn it off after hitting a light post.

Thankfully, it was a light post and not a human being that I hit.

Alone, scared and way out of my element, I knew that this would be the last time I’d ever see the inside of a jail cell. I would change my life. I just had to.

I was a waiter at the time. Had been since I turned twenty-one — so nearly ten fucking years. I had zero school. Zero aspirations. Zero hope of doing more than what I was doing: drinking, sleeping, pissing, farting. Loser with a capital L.

So I made changes. In addition to sobering up for good (6 years sober at the time of this writing, baby) I started reading. I took some classes at the local community college. I began to learn about money and how it works. I cleaned up my credit. Saved money. Bought a house. And within a year I was hired by a Fortune 500 company as a financial consultant.

Six years have passed since my accident and arrest. I no longer can call myself a “drunk waiter.” I now call myself a real estate investor, business owner, husband, and father. I read 100–150 books per year. And I’m always finding new ways to create passive income for myself — I haven’t had a “normal job” in almost two years, yet I make more money than I ever have. It’s pretty bad ass.

There’s nothing special about me. I just knew that I had to change who I was. And in order to change who I was I knew I had to read. I had to learn. I had to evolve. I needed to become an autodidact.

If you aren’t learning something new every day and taking the time to improve yourself, then please. Do this. Right now:

  1. Stop whatever you’re doing. Even if it’s work. And go to the local library. Find a way.
  2. Get three books on something you want to learn. Not one. Not two. Three books (or more if you want).
  3. Start reading one of those books and don’t stop for thirty minutes.

This little action will change your life. I swear it will. And this can’t wait until tomorrow or even your lunch break. It has to be now. You have to start learning. You must be infected by it. And you must spread this infection to others.

When we as individuals start learning and start teaching others how to learn, then we as a society prosper.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Medium or Instagram @hamrickgrams