By now, you probably have guessed that I think institutionalized education isn’t that great. Most of my marketable skills are self-learned, I pretty much started this at the age of 13 reading books about computer hardware. It’s just was and is natural curiosity.
I’m of course not alone. Lots of people, especially in the IT-sector, are self-learned and they are mostly better than their peers – why? Because they love what they do, they haven’t learned programming or security or testing just to get a job but rather because they love to learn about new stuff. One of them is James Bach.
In his book Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar he told his story about dropping out of high school, living on his own and learning programming. With 21 he was hired by Apple as a software testing manager and today he is an established expert in software testing and gets invited to (academic) conferences. He is happy and loves what he’s doing.
He wrote about his life outside of the mainstream and addressed some issues I had recently. The first one and probably one which affects more people is about learning. After the first years of university I thought that you have to learn everything like they do. That is, take a text book, work through most of the exercises and take the next one. In my school time, I just had three or five books laying around and used them more as references if I needed to solve some problem.
James Bach had a similar problem and recognized that you have to use your motivations. If you are interested into something, just learn about it – read books, talk to people about it, watch videos. Use the momentum and satisfy your learning needs.
On the other hand. If you’re not really interested in learning anything – just leave it. There will be some time when you’re full of motivation again. This was utterly important for me. I was stuck in this situation where I had a book piling up and thought that I have to work through it before beginning the next one. Now, I just left it. When I’m again interested in it, I will work with it.
The next thing concerns the choice of topics and books. His basic structure are topics on which he wants to learn more – often questions, like “why are some countries poor and other are rich?”. But he don’t have to follow some path. Let your mind wander.
You will discover new areas that you even have thought about in the beginning.
Furthermore, I want to talk about building credibility which will be your disadvantage at first. If you don’t have a college or high school degree you’re in a bit of disadvantage but only if you haven’t done anything presentable.
When I was 15 or so, I fixed lots of computers of friends and their parents and slowly more people heard about my ability which gave me credibility. They come to more to fix the computers I got even paid. This works really fine on a local level and often leads to local job offerings. But it doesn’t have to be limited on local opportunities. You can easily make the world your market.
For artists it’s pretty standard to have a portfolio with one’s works. It’s getting also more traction for programmers which is in my opinion great because it doesn’t matter how you learned you stuff, it matters how good you are. And the internet is a great accelerator. Present your knowledge on a blog, Q&A sites or start a youtube channel.
I really liked this book because I could relate to so many things and events in this book. I would probably recommend this book to someone who’s self-learning for some years. If you are new to self-learning just let your mind flow and learn about things that you’re interested in.