“Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.”
- Charlie Munger, taken from the Farnam Street Blog
Self-education changed my life
Let me preface this article with the story of how I am starting my career in digital marketing. I didn’t study marketing in college (besides that one elective course I took during my junior year). My major was in music theory and composition. The only reason I was able to jump into the marketing realm after graduation was because I took the liberty of supplementing my education with an internship that then developed into my own curriculum.
I will admit that none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for my mentor, Maurice Bretzfield. However, at the end of the day I had the understanding that the only person who was in charge of the trajectory of my career was me. And if I didn’t take the initiative to leverage the resources that all of us have at our disposal, I would still be looking for a job. More importantly, I would still be looking for a pathway to growth, that is designed by someone else.
Self-education means moving forward with calculated purpose
Most of us who undergo formal education have all learned how to follow systems. These systems help us to align our dreams and daily actions with the whole of society, making use accustomed to daily routines. One thing that is good about our formal education is that it helps us gain the core competencies needed to join the workforce and contribute to our communities. However, our current system of education is limiting us.
Graduating from the standard educational path of elementary school, high school, and then college is a good starting point but, we eventually have to take control of our intellectual and mental growth when becoming young professionals. In the age of information, we now have the ability to create our own curriculums and learn associative skills that increase our value. Curriculums that can further enhance our education and provide more control over the direction our careers take.
Being prepared as opportunities arise
Creating a curriculum of self-study can help you prepare for opportunities as they present themselves. There comes a time when a potential client or business partner will ask for help on a project and if you don’t have the necessary skills to execute on it—the opportunity will pass you by. We no longer have to give ourselves excuses when it comes to learning the necessary skills we need to have as we develop throughout our careers. Going back to school to supplement your education will always be an option but, this is no longer the only route one can take.
We now have the possibility of using the Internet to learn new skills that can increase our value for little to no cost. Online courses, networking events, and finding mentors online can be great substitutes to a formal education in graduate school. At the end of the day, people get paid to think. The more useful your thinking is to the right people, the more value you will gain throughout your career. Find people who are just as hungry for knowledge and spend as much time with them as you possibly can. Part of setting up your own curriculum is having partners that can hold you accountable over time.
Related: “People Get Paid To Think”
Learn how you learn best
The Internet is our best friend when wanting to learn something new. However, one can waste a lot their time if they do not know the most efficient way they can acquire knowledge. Understanding whether or not we combine several media formats such as audio, written, video, or physical practice is a vital step in self-education.
Personal resources I currently use are as follows:
Written content – For online resources, I use Medium and Feedly to organize my blog subscriptions. For physical books I have h a list of books I plan to buy on a Amazon on my wish list categorized by fiction, business, and law. The way I retain what I learn from each book is by cataloging my lessons as book reviews.
Podcasts – The podcast application I use is the one that comes with the Apple iPhone however a great alternative is the Stitcher app. Below is a list of my top podcasts:
Video – For video content I primarily use YouTube however, a new platform I’ve been using to educate myself using video content is the LinkedIn Learning Center, available to users with a premium subscription.
I mainly gravitate to reading for my education, the reason I know this is through the audit of my own performance in school. If I read something, I soak up the information faster. Also, and more importantly, it’s easier for me to find appropriate uses for the information I am acquiring. But everyone is different, and experimentation is critical.
Fitting self-education into your Daily schedule
No matter what your professional goals are in life, if they aren’t tied to tangible daily, monthly, and quarterly learning goals, you will hinder your growth. There is no reason why we can’t set aside, at the very least, 30 minutes each day dedicated to learning a new skill and learning new habits. Whenever we aspire to reach the next level in our career, we want to establish what necessary skills we need in order to get there. This becomes clearer if we also begin to consider how are we going to design a curriculum so that we can take charge of learning these skills.
If we don’t set realistic deadlines and self-examinations for the skills we need to acquire, we won’t get to where we need to go. Time management plays a significant role in this. Try to set some time aside to do an audit of how you’re spending your week. What urgent tasks do you usually tackle that aren’t immediately relevant? Think about things you can delegate, defer, and deny (saying no is an essential strategy in saving time). Once you have made space in your schedule to set aside for learning, start considering how you want to break up your curriculum. What are the several stages of learning the skills you want to obtain? What are reasonable time periods for achieving them (sometimes this can be as long as 4-5 years so take this into account)?
You can reach out to any expert you want to learn from
Another tactic to consider, as you venture off into new avenues for personal growth, is seeking knowledge from those who have created their own paths. A way to do this with the smallest amount of effort needed (if you’re an avid reader) is to buy books from notable experts in your industry. However, I find this to be limiting if your only approach for learning from experts is to read their literature or to consume their content (videos and podcasts). We now have the ability to reach out to anyone we want to. There is nothing separating you from your idols and heroes.
If you are looking for mentorship, seek it out and start off small. Try reaching out to the top 100 industry experts and work your way up to the top. We use social media every day to connect with our friends and family, why not use it to connect with people who can point us in the right direction?
Sure you might not be able to get Evan Spiegel to reply to your tweet on starting a business, but with enough research and effort you can find his team members online and reach out to them. There is no excuse for you not to start creating conversations with other industry professionals. They are people just like you, and if you can find a way to make the conversation you are seeking valuable to both parties, you will win. But that comes from trial and error. Try to consider what criteria they use to determine whether or not the conversation may be of use to them. Ask yourself, “how do they qualify other people who ask them for their time?”
Creating your own curriculum for learning is difficult but, the effort taken in investing in your personal growth will pay tremendous dividends over time. Every notably successful person never stops learning, why should you?
The bottom line is, graduating from college is only the first step in your learning experience.
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