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Self-Education: The key to living the life you want

Chomwa Shikati
Feb 15, 2018 · 7 min read

If you want to live the life you want, or if you want to grow and experience life to the fullest; You need to take your own education and learning into your own hands.

Am not referring to the traditional educational system, I am referring to self-education. That is, teaching yourself to learn a particular skill on your own.

A lot of people are stuck in the myth that to in order to learn something you need to be educated on it even when you’re perfectly able to educate yourself. They are a lot of individuals who have proved that not only is it possible to self-educate at difficult things but it is possible to also excel at them.

Some well-known people who have done this include Jimmy Hendrix, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Alexander Graham Bell, Ernest Hemmingway, Richard Branson, and Thomas Edison.

These people, and more, proved it’s possible to become proficient and successful in many fields just by teaching themselves, and there is no reason why you can’t do the same.

Self-education has a number of benefits. Self-education can free you from a job you hate, from a college major you aren’t excited about, and it will definitely be a core skill for the 21st century. Self-education is good for just about any branch of knowledge or skills you want to acquire.

My self-education has been fairly broad. I taught myself a bit of the programming language (at least just enough to design a simple website).I learned the music theory and in the process learned how to play the guitar and the piano. I self-taught 10 out of 14 courses of the ACCA professional accountancy program. I am currently learning of how to professionally write, how to grow a business, and a few other things . And I still want to learn so much more.

From my experience, self-education can be delightful and exasperating at the same time. If you go about it correctly, you can teach yourself anything in just a few months. Poorly applied, however, self-education can be a stressful nightmare.

In this age, it is very easy to obtain the information you need to learn almost any particular skill. But unfortunately, few people take full advantage of the opportunity they have for self-directed learning.

If you are one of the few that would like to learn a particular skill by yourself maybe my process would of help to you. This strategy is just one possibility. If you’ve found success with another, by all means, go ahead!

Believe you can do it.

The first thing that I do is get rid of all the mental barriers. This is an important part in the process, because this is where it all begins.

If you don’t believe you can learn the skill, then as soon as you face an obstacle you will give up.

Believing that I am capable of learning a difficult skill on my own also supplies me with the necessary motivation to get started.

Whether you believe you can do it or not, may very well determine if you will successfully learn or not.

Know the end

Be specific on what you want to learn.

Visualize what you want to achieve in the end. What is it that you want to be? Do you want to learn just enough to get by, or do you want to be an expert at it?

My best efforts at self-education have always had specific applications. The more precise the requirements of my knowledge, the faster I could learn.

Knowing the end also plays the role of determining just how much effort you will put in and how much time you want to assign to the task at hand.

Get yourself ‘how to’s’

If you’re reading this then you have access to the internet.

That means you also have access to enough free or paid for manuals to help you with the theory part of your learning.

The internet has a number of articles and scattered resources that can help build a solid foundation. There are hundreds of how-to books on every skill and branch of knowledge you can think of, like seriously, there is even a book on how to start a how to task (just kidding, I need to check if that exists though).

Books can give you a foundation that trial-and-error cannot. If you need visual instructions YouTube is a great place to find useful videos.

The ‘how to’ materials are great tools that will help you learn faster, rather than you using the trial and error method.

Get the necessary tools and identify the prerequisite skills

Find out what tools you need learn the skill you want to learn.

For example, if you want to learn how to play the guitar, you need a guitar and a tuner to get you started. Blogging requires basic computer, writing and marketing skills. Mathematical skills require a calculator and texts books. Know what background skills you need before you start, so you can pick them up before or while you try to master your skill.

Get prepared before your journey even begins. It will save you a lot of time and it will help you not to lose your motivation because you do not have what to work with.

Practice over and over

Theory is important, but practice is what will make you skillful.

How you practice what you’re learning will be as important as what you choose to practice. The wrong practice methods can lead to hours, days, even years of wasted repetition, but the right practice methods can accelerate you to the level of competency in a matter of months.

Practicing purposefully by honestly assess your limits to figure out where you need to improve. Then set a goal just beyond your current ability to motivate yourself to stretch beyond your comfort zone.

Practice it with intense focus. And finally get feedback, in whatever way you can, and incorporate that feedback into your practice.

Record/write it down

How do you know you are making progress or are still on the right path?

Record your progress.

If you don’t have notes to refer to or some form of recording, it will be difficult to track your path. Writing stuff helps clarify your objectives and vision you should also write down your targets and by when you should achieve them.

Probably you want to run a full marathon under 2.5 hours. Record your weekly, monthly targets and compare to previous month.

I am a numbers guy so i regularly record my progress and measure it using numbers. How long did it take me to write one article? How many articles can i write in a day? How many words did i use?

Answers to those questions help me track my improvement and help me set realistic targets and goals.

Stay Connected and network

The people you meet influence what you learn, what you believe and who you are. Constantly evaluate what relationships best serve your goals professionally and personally.

Immerse yourself in groups of people who have the skills you want. Although you can’t learn through osmosis, being in the presence of smart people will direct you towards the information you need.

Hang around experts and amateurs. You can learn from others and you can teach others which is also a good way to learn as well.

Patience is a Virtue

Self-education isn’t more difficult than classroom learning. But it can be harder when you reach a dead-end and don’t have a guide.

Your ability to educate yourself will match closely with your ability to keep trying when you want to give up.

Patience in frustrating moments is key. The results will come when you least expect them.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Thomas Edison tried making the light bulb. He failed 1,000 times until one day he got it right. When asked about it, he said,

“I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”

In your quest to learn a skill, mistakes are guaranteed but failure is an option.

Final thoughts…

Learning is continuous, it never ends.

Teach yourself what you have always wanted to learn- it could be anything from cooking to entrepreneurship- and don’t wait for someone to do it. Does this mean the traditional educational system is irrelevant? No. But with it alone you won’t get very far.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d like to very much hear from you now. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

If you want to privately get in touch with me you can Connect With me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Startup

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Chomwa Shikati

Written by

A Lamp Lighter (cshikati@gmail.com)

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +525K people. Follow to join our community.

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