How and Why to Become a Lifelong Learner

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 18, 2013 · 100 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

 

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For the first twenty-two years or so of our lives, our main “job” is learning. The bulk of our time is spent in classrooms acquiring new knowledge. And then, once we graduate, we feel like the education phase of our lives is done and now it’s time to go out into the world. Have you ever thought about how odd that idea is? That only a quarter of our lives should be devoted to learning, and then we should simply rest on our laurels for the remaining three-quarters of it?

It’s an erroneous idea – but one many have absorbed, at least subconsciously. But school need not be your exclusive provider of learning. Just because you’ve finished your formal education, doesn’t mean that your education is over!

Many, perhaps most, of history’s greatest men were autodidacts – those who devote themselves to self-education, either in addition to or as a substitute to formal schooling. A fantastic example of this is author Louis L’Amour. L’Amour was one of America’s most prolific and manliest fiction writers. During his career he cranked out over 120 dime Western novels as well as several collections of short stories and poems. What makes Louis L’Amour’s story all the more remarkable is that he was almost entirely self-taught.

Louis L'Amour

Lifelong learner Louis L’Amour

Due to family hardships, L’Amour dropped out of school when he was fifteen and spent the next eight years traveling around the American West working odd jobs on cattle ranches, farms, lumber mills, and even mines. To earn extra money L’Amour boxed in small prizefights around the country and earned a reputation as a formidable opponent. While in his twenties L’Amour became a merchant marine and traveled the globe via steamship.

During all this time, L’Amour was voraciously reading books. As soon as he set foot in a new town, he’d locate the local library. If libraries weren’t around, he’d skip meals so he’d have enough money to order books from catalogs. He was also working on his craft as a budding writer, scribbling notes in cheap notepads that he kept with him all the time.

All of his experiences while traveling, all the books he read, and all the notes he wrote laid the groundwork for his later successful career. But even after L’Amour became an established writer, his pursuit of learning continued and rewarded him greatly. He is a perfect example of the fascinating life one can create for himself when he makes the commitment to be a lifelong learner. (If you want to learn more about L’Amour’s lifelong self-education, pick up a copy of his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man. Super inspiring read.)

If you want to become the best man you can be, you need to adopt a mindset of lifelong learning. Below we explain why you should become a lifelong learner and how to do it.

Why Become a Lifelong Learner?

“Our whole life is an Education — we are ‘ever-learning,’ every moment of time, everywhere, under all circumstances something is being added to the stock of our previous attainments. Mind is always at work when once its operations commence. All men are learners, whatever their occupation, in the palace, in the cottage, in the park, and in the field. These are the laws stamped upon Humanity.” – Edward Paxton Hood, Self-Education: Twelve Chapters for Young Thinkers, 1852

You’ll earn more. Fifty or sixty years ago, you could finish college and you’d have all the education you needed for the rest of your career. You don’t have that luxury in today’s job market. Skills that were cutting edge five years ago are likely out of date, and the jobs that we will perform in the next decade or two probably don’t even exist yet. If you want to stay competitive in today’s job market and potentially earn more money, you need to become an autodidact.

Not only can becoming a lifelong learner help you earn more money in traditional employment, autodidacticism can be the gateway to self-employment and starting your own business. There are countless examples from history of famous folks who learned how to create thriving businesses without any formal education: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford to name just a few. Countless not-so-famous business owners became successful without ever earning a sheepskin too, simply by teaching themselves what they needed to know and relentlessly tinkering.

You’ll be more interesting and charismatic. Those who met Theodore Roosevelt were always greatly impressed with his ability to hold a conversation with anyone regarding any subject imaginable. Scientists were blown away with Roosevelt’s knowledge of complex theories, socialites were smitten with his witty insights about the latest piece by Oscar Wilde, and cowboys out West respected the “Eastern Dude’s” understanding of desert wildlife. How did Theodore Roosevelt become such a charismatic, conversational dynamo? By developing the ability to speed read and then devouring books like a hungry lion feasting on a fresh kill. While in the White House, he would read a book every day before breakfast. If he didn’t have any official business in the evening, he would read two or three more books, plus any magazines and newspapers that caught his fancy. By his own estimates, TR read tens of thousands of books during his lifetime, including hundreds in foreign languages. As a result, he could connect with anyone, from any walk of life, on something that truly interested the other person.

You’ll be a better leader. Being able to connect with others doesn’t just make you more interesting. It also makes you much more influential. The greater your knowledge base, the more you can meet people where they are, and the greater the stockpile of solutions you have at your disposal to tackle problems and overcome challenges.

You’ll be independent and handy. One thing I admired about my grandpa growing up was all the cool stuff that he knew. He was always tinkering, and it seemed like he knew everything about everything. How to hunt, how to shoe a horse, how to garden (he grew grapes), how to make awesome pancakes. Even after he retired, my grandpa was always learning new things and acquiring new skill sets. For example, he learned how to restore antique horse carriages and old phonograph players. He got so good at it, in fact, that he started restoring antique phonograph players as a small side-business.

Because of my grandpa’s diverse range of skills, when something broke or he needed something done, he could do it himself. He didn’t have to call and pay an expert to do it for him. If he didn’t know how to do it, he went to the library, got some books on the subject, and figured it out.

Lifelong learning keeps your brain healthy. Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Nearly 100 years later science is validating Henry Ford’s quip. Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who specializes in aging says, “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life.” Her research has shown that the more education an elderly person has – whether obtained formally or informally — the better they performed on cognitive tests than other elderly folks who had less education.

Learning new things can also help stave off old-age ailments like dementia and Alzheimer’s. One study has shown that older folks who stay cognitively active and curious about the world around them are 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s than those who let their minds lie fallow.

You’ll feel more satisfied with life. In his book Drive, author Dan Pink argues that we need three things to feel motivated about, and satisfied with, our life: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Becoming a lifelong learner fulfills all three of these psychological needs.

When you’re an autodidact you – not your parents, not your professor, not your boss — get to decide what you’re going to learn about. Instead of being a passive consumer of knowledge, you’re actively choosing what you’re learning. In other words, you’re autonomous. As you learn new skills, you’ll enjoy the positive feeling that comes with mastery. And you’ll find yourself with a renewed sense of purpose in life as you set goals for your self-education.

The satisfaction that comes with lifelong learning doesn’t stop there. The more you know about the world, the deeper you can plunge into it, and the more levels of it you can experience. Whether you’re traveling, conversating, visiting a museum, watching a movie, or reading a book, your library of knowledge helps you make connections that you would never have otherwise perceived. The more you learn, the more you realize how many references and meanings you’ve missed because the author/speaker simply took that background knowledge, that fluency in cultural literacy, for granted.

You’ll become more human. 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.”

Common Perceived Barriers to Becoming a Lifelong Learner

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People usually give the same excuses for not taking up the mantle of lifelong learning and instead opting for a life filled with mindlessly surfing the net and watching TV.

Time. I get it. You’re busy. I’m sure it’s hard to imagine being able to cram in time for self-study when your day is already packed with work and family. But here’s the thing: As a lifelong learner, you don’t have a deadline on your education. You can take all the time you want and fit it in whenever you’d like. Consequently, you don’t need to spend hours a day reading or practicing. Just 30 minutes here and there spread over months and years will do. Moreover, in my experience, when I consciously make learning a priority, I usually end up finding the time for it (meaning I was previously wasting my time doing other stuff).

There are all sorts of spare moments that you can turn into learning opportunities. Listen to an audiobook during your commute instead of the best hits of the 80s, 90s, and today. Bring a good book to read while you’re waiting to see your doctor instead of thumbing through a two-year-old copy of Sports Illustrated.

Money. This barrier only exists if you think you need formal classes to learn something. You don’t. Thanks to the wonders of the internet you can learn just about anything (and even take college-level classes) at your pace, completely for free. We’ll talk about some of these free sources later on in the post.

Information. As with money, this barrier pretty much no longer exists because of the internet. There might be some skills that will require special in-person instruction, but finding those people is also much easier thanks to the web.

Location. This is only a problem if you think you need to be in a formal classroom to learn. You don’t. You can learn at home, in your car, or in the garage. Granted, there may be some instances in which you’ll need to be in a certain place to be able to learn a new skill (e.g. you can’t learn how to snow ski in Oklahoma), but those instances are typically the exception rather than the rule.

How to Become a Lifelong Learner

Foster a growth mindset. One thing that might be keeping you back from learning new things is the belief that you can’t learn new things. But neuroscience and psychology have shown this to be false. Our brains remain plastic and malleable well into old age, and it’s possible to create new connections among neurons and learn new things even if you’re 80 years old.

To become an effective lifelong learner you need to adopt a mindset that is in line with how our brains really work. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck discovered that people have one of two “mindsets” – fixed or growth. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and talents are innate and fixed. They don’t think they can improve with work and effort. Folks with a growth mindset believe that they can improve themselves through work and practice.

You want to foster a growth mindset. How do you do that? Here are a few things Dweck suggests:

  • Reading research that shows growth and improvement is possible
  • Developing your resiliency
  • Trying new things
  • Reading about and extracting lessons from others with a growth mindset

Change your idea of learning. Learning doesn’t have to be in a formal classroom setting. In fact, most of the useful stuff you know was probably picked up informally from family, friends, and good old trial and error. To become a lifelong learner, ditch the idea that you need to sign up for a class to actually learn something. Learning opportunities are all around you. Remember that learning isn’t confined to what’s found in books – acquiring practical skill sets is a big part of it too.

Establish goals. What do you want to learn? When do you want to learn it by? Every year, set goals for yourself on skills and knowledge you want to acquire. I usually set three big learning goals for myself every year. For example, this year my goals are to 1) learn how to create compelling videos for AoM, 2) learn how to handle a handgun in defensive situations, and 3) learn how to hunt and field dress a deer.

Besides those three big goals, I always have the daily goal of learning something new every day whether through reading or by talking to other people. To ensure that we have something else to talk about at dinnertime (besides the blog!), Kate and I play a game called “What did you learn today?” (Actually, we say, “Got any stories for me?” It’s our shorthand for, “Have you read or heard anything interesting today?”) Every day we both try to learn something new to share with each other over dinner.

It can also be motivating to set a reading goal for yourself. For example, our new employee Jeremy has made it his goal to read all 100 of the books on our “100 Must Read Books for Men” list in 100 months, which comes out to just over eight years. No need to rush things! Jeremy wanted to make sure his goal was manageable, and still be able to do other reading as well. One book per month from the list was the perfect solution.

Find your sources. Once you establish your learning goals, it’s time to gather your sources. Do a quick Google search to see what information is available online. After that, head to the library — I always seem to find better and more in-depth insights in books as opposed to web articles. If it’s a skill that will require special instruction, start creating a list of places or individuals that could offer that instruction.

Ask questions. Effective learning requires active participation. You can’t just passively consume information. While you’re reading and talking to experts, ask questions. Don’t know what to ask? Check out this great post we published last year on how to ask questions. Don’t worry about looking or sounding like an idiot. Swallow your pride.

Find a group. While many of your learning goals can be pursued alone, sometimes it helps to have a group of people to learn along with you. Your fellow learners can provide insights and resources that you never would have thought about. Moreover, in a group setting you’ll often get constructive feedback you otherwise wouldn’t get alone. As an added bonus, it’s just more fun to learn with others.

To find a group of folks to learn with, start with the people you know. Maybe you have some friends that want to learn the same thing as you. Start weekly discussions or practice sessions with them. If you can’t find any friends with the same learning goals, check out sites like MeetUp. There’s bound to be a group in your area that focuses on your learning goal. While they don’t provide the same sort of dynamic interaction as in-person groups, online communities can provide a great social learning environment as well.

Practice, practice, practice. Don’t just read or listen your way to knowledge. Try to find a way to put that knowledge to work. If you’re learning about art, visit a museum and try to identify which paintings belong to the Romantic period. If you’re learning about wilderness survival, get out into the wild every month and put those bushcraft skills to use. If you’re learning how to code, code.

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Teach what you’re learning.

Teach what you’re learning. One of my all-time favorite books is Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the skills Covey teaches in the book is that to truly learn something you need to teach it. According to Covey, when we teach, we become truly motivated to learn the material because we want to ensure proper instruction. Teaching also forces us to look at a concept with a beginner’s mind, which can provide the clarity and insight that we were lacking. Moreover, simply talking aloud to somebody can help you solidify ideas through the “production effect.”

As you learn new things, teach it to others. Blogging is a great way to teach what you’re learning. Many of the skills I’ve acquired in the past five years have come from deciding to write a post about a topic. When I wrote “How to Change the Oil in Your Car,” I had Kate’s Uncle Buzz teach me how; when I wrote “How to Throw a Knife,” I went and spent the day with dude ranch owner Tom Warren; and when Kate and I wrote our series on the history of honor, we read dozens of books and scholarly articles on the subject. 

Test yourself. It’s important to get feedback while you’re learning, and testing is the best way to do it. As a self-learner, you’re likely not going to face formal tests, so you’ll need to create your own. How you test yourself will depend on the skill or knowledge set you’re trying to acquire. If you’re learning marksmanship, your test could be the U.S. Army’s rifle marksmanship scorecard; if you’re learning Spanish, your test could be to visit the local Mexican grocery store and talk to the cashier only in Spanish.

Sources for Lifelong Learning

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As I mentioned above, there are countless free sources available online. Here are a few of the best:

Coursera. Coursera works with top universities from around the world to offer classes online for free. You can take classes from a variety of disciplines including computer sciences, psychology, and Spanish.

OpenStudy. OpenStudy is a social learning network that allows you to connect with individuals with the same learning goals as you.

Khan Academy. I freaking love Khan Academy. You’ll find over 4,000 videos covering topics ranging from algebra to finance to history. My favorite part of Khan Academy, though, is math exercises. You start with basic math and work your way up to calculus in an adaptive, game-like environment. I’ve been slowly going through the exercises to freshen up on my math.

Duolingo. Free website to learn foreign languages. It’s a pretty cool set up. As you progress through the lessons, you’re simultaneously helping translate websites and other documents.

Code Academy. Learn to code for free with interactive exercises. I wish Code Academy was around when I was learning how to build AoM. It would have helped a lot.

edX. Harvard University and MIT partnered together to create interactive, free online courses. The same world-renowned professors that teach at Harvard and MIT have created the courses on edX. You can find courses for just about any subject. I’ve signed up for a class called The Ancient Greek Hero. Class started last week, but you can still sign up. Join me!

Udacity. Udacity is similar to edX and Coursera. College level classes taught online for free.

CreativeLive. I discovered CreativeLive a few weeks ago. It’s an interesting concept. You can watch the live stream of the course being taught for free, but if you want to view the course later and at your own pace you have to pay for it. The courses focus on more creative and business subjects like videography and online marketing. I’ve sat in on a few of the free courses and was impressed with the curriculum.

TED. TED compiles speeches and lectures not only by professors but interesting people from many different walks of life. TED talks are lighter than academic lectures, often quite funny, and concentrate on interesting ideas and concepts. And most are 20 minutes or less, so they’re great for those with a short attention span.

iTunes U. Download thousands of free podcast lectures taught by the best professors from around the world and learn while in your car.

YouTube EDU. Instead of watching a bunch of auto-tuned cats, enrich your mind by browsing through YouTube EDU. They have thousands of videos that cover a variety of topics.

For more ideas on free learning resources, check out this post: How to Become a Renaissance Man Without Spending a Dime.

How have you committed to lifelong learning? Tell us your strategies in the comments below! 

{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce March 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Just last night I found myself in a long conversation on a subject about which I had recently heard a very informative podcast. I travel a good amount for work and I’ve become quite the consumer of various podcasts. It’s definitely a great way to learn a wide array of subjects.

2 Jeremy Anderberg March 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

@Bruce —

Curious what some of your favorite podcasts are. I’m just getting into them and would love to know the best of the best. Thanks!

3 Daniel March 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm

It is not a free source, but The Teaching Company has been my go to source for pursuing whatever new topic sounds interesting to me. The gather some of the best professors in the country to teach classes on just about everything. I just pop in the audio CDs and learn as I drive back and forth from work each day. Having listened to about a dozen so far, I cannot recommend them highly enough.

4 Ted March 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Good post.
After my USMC enlistment, I worked as an auto mechanic while finishing college. On MANY occasions, an able-bodied man would bring their car to my shop to have nothing more than wiper blades, headlights, or tails lights replaced. In some cases, the customer didn’t want to expend the time to do these thing himself. In most instances, they simply didn’t know how. Either way, they were screwing themselves. Dropping a car off at a garage is far more time consuming than buying a bulb and installing it DIY (generally speaking). And having a garage do such a simple job adds about 400% to the price tag.
The bottom line is that if a person was looking for a life-long learning topic to study; basic auto (or home) maintenance would worth looking into.
I’m not saying the average guy should rebuild transmissions DIY. But given the large role that our cars play in out daily life, its pretty sad (if not pathetic) that so many men have to call an auto club to install their spare tire when they have a flat.
Seriously. Many owners manuals spell-out basic maintenance procedures and include nomenclature diagrams. Its pretty easy stuff and typically requires nothing more than a small screwdriver and ratchet set.
I realize my response sounds a bit condescending. No offense intended. I now have a ‘white collar’ job, and no longer get my hands dirty on a daily basis. But I’m damn glad that I know how to work with my hands. I wish more men, in the modern era, embraced some basic vocational skills.

5 Richard Williams March 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm

I am a proud autodidact! Great post!

6 Nick P. March 18, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I must agree with @Bruce. I love podcasts and find that they are great way to absorb information on an array of subjects. I really got started with them about 6 years ago while working in the oilfields of Utah. I would listen to podcasts while driving in the middle of the night to stay awake. I learned a lot about personal finance, high altitude mountaineering, cycling, technology, self-help, politics, and business. To this day I usually listen to a podcast during my commute to the office.

7 Luke Floyd March 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I chose education as one of the my five values for the “30 Days to a Better Man” challenge. Pushing the bounds of my curiosity is one of the most fun parts of life.

8 Christopher Provost March 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Check out edX. It’s a free open-source online learning platform which hosts a web portal for online education. They offer classes from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Wellesley, Georgetown, and the University of Texas. And the courses aren’t jokes; they’re challenging! Some courses they have offered are: Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum Mechanics, The Ancient Greek Hero (Nice to see you’re taking this one! I almost signed up for it, but it conflicted with my bio course), Justice, and Computer Science.

I’m currently taking 7.00x: Introduction To Biology – The Secret Of Life taught by Eric Lander, who is the head of the Broad Institute and was recently awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. I figured this would be a good chance to check out edX and actually take a course taught by Eric Lander. I have not been disappointed.

https://www.edx.org/courses

9 M. Martin March 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I enjoyed this post immensely. I’ve been both a home-schooled student and an online college student, so naturally I’ve had to become an autodidact out of necessity. I believe most today undermine the true value of continued learning in this way. I believe most depend on attending formal lectures rather than reading books solo. As a young man, I am appalled at the lack of seriousness other young men have towards practical education.

10 Mike March 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Well done. And, something that is missing in society and in education today. A desire or quest for learning new things, we need to visualize the world on the level of a 5 year old. How does this work? What makes that go? How did they do that? Question, seek, learn, it should never stop.

11 brando March 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I’ve read over 30 of the books on the 100 must read list, my goal is to finish it in three years, from there I don’t know, but I’m definitely going to keep learning.

12 Shane-San March 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Excellent post! I’m always inspired by the thought-provoking content put out on this site. Some helpful resources I’ve recently come across include:

http://selfmadescholar.com/b/

and the following blog post:

http://www.legendarylearningnow.com/self-education/ten-examples-of-personal-self-education-plans/.

I especially recommend the “self made scholar” resource. I appreciate your work Brett and Kate, keep it up.

13 Benjamin March 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm

All the yesses to all the paragraphs in this article. I actually dropped out of college largely to become an autodidact.

14 Bernie March 18, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Great post.

Another excellent source for language learning is Mango Languages. A library card to any major metro area will typically grant you access. I’m currently learning Irish through them.

15 Spencer March 19, 2013 at 12:10 am

Another lifelong learner: John Muir.

16 Mel March 19, 2013 at 12:22 am

Great article, I’m inspired. Maybe I’ll give speed reading a try…
Another resource I like is Open Culture, the site has a lot of free lessons and links to other resources.

17 Kammes March 19, 2013 at 12:51 am

I have loved the challenges of being thrown into a world where the mundane becomes exotic or novel. I joined the US Peace Corps to meet my need for a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Its not for everyone but I cannot stress the analogy of seeming like a modern day knight enough: imagine being placed in a community far from home with the sole purpose of trying to help people out, doing what you know will work and assist and learning with the aim of teach. So practical and so purposeful

18 joe dirte March 19, 2013 at 12:52 am

Amen ! or Something affirmative but less religious.

19 Rafeeq March 19, 2013 at 1:10 am

Many thanks!

20 Daniel R March 19, 2013 at 1:55 am

Hey Brett and Kate, this is a very god article, Life is a never ending learning story as you affirm!
People nowadays are obsessed with college, self-learning is another option. Thanks for a good article.

21 Ed March 19, 2013 at 6:33 am

True to all of the said statements!

I keep myself updated on the current events at the same time reading more on history and humanistic characters. It gives you more edge on discussion, especially when you are on a gathering. This is why I’m so thankful for the internet whether it is a blog, wiki or news, you have access to the information you need and it is right on when you need it. Books are good too, but a bit time consuming in today’s world.

Sadly people today don’t invest on learning. They want to be gratified by playing pathetic video games, and entertained on TV. Toys of today don’t require thinking anymore, it is all served to you. Unlike the yesteryears wherein you’d have to think well to form a puzzle or how to make it work. Heck, youngsters of today even think that the sun is not a star.

22 Eric March 19, 2013 at 6:42 am

What a great way to get introduced to a wonderful new website!

Good to know that the Renaissance Man is alive and well…. and multiplying ;-)

Having studied at a liberal arts university that had a wicked core that involved every department for at least 2 years, when asked what I learned in college, I reply with, “I learned how to learn.”

23 Patrick March 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

Definitely going to use that CodeFree site. Been meaning to start hosting my own blog, and that might just help me get it off the ground!

24 Kammes March 19, 2013 at 7:07 am

There are many paths that lead to a life full of challenges, which bring about a solid sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. For the longest time I felt that formal education was the best thing for me and that it would also make me happy… it didn’t. I did some manual labor to see the other side of things. That didn’t give me satisfaction either. Both made me fatigue and disconnected with either a sense of control and purpose or with reality and other people. I knew I had to be in a place that merged the two, something that applied and added to knowledge while putting me at a position of knowledge application (something that made learning worthwhile or helpful).

For me I found a great medium with work abroad (which is where I currently am: abroad in a developing country). Autonomy is a given, since as a foreigner I am made acutely aware of how different I am. I know that when I enter a room I am an individual in a crowd (more so, that is, than a part of a crowd). As a foreigner, mastery is measurable, One can feel the progress made with a new language and with a growing ability to navigate effectively in a new environment. Purpose is strong, too, when your living abroad because everything in your life that you held dear is put out of arm’s reach. You have to think about ‘why am I here. why are people x way? What is life all about? etc… If you work for a volunteer organization like I’ve been with a specific humanitarian goal in mind, it makes you have a very good idea of what your purpose is and how you relate to society.

Traveling to a new place- to me -makes the world of the mundane become exotic or, at least, novel. When you travel abroad, you are reborn to the world, in a sense, and have to learn to walk and talk and observe so you can function.

I encourage anyone wanting to go through an intense, full-body learning experience (the food, let alone the bacteria, in foreign places is different) to sign up for some work abroad program. Look into programs like the Peace Corps or VSO that pretty much drops you off, alone, in a town where you have to recreate yourself to survive and function in society.

25 Jason Jewell March 19, 2013 at 7:15 am

Thanks for this great post. Since 2011 I’ve been tracking my 7-year project to read through the “Great Books of the Western World” and “Gateway to the Great Books” series. It’s a total of about 40,000 pages. I make weekly posts on my blog (The Western Tradition) with observations on my previous week’s readings and listing what’s up for the next week. It takes a lot of discipline, but it has been very rewarding.

Here’s the blog page with more info: https://westerntradition.wordpress.com/great-books-project/

26 A different Nick P. March 19, 2013 at 7:35 am

Another site, which I like, for learning other languages is http://www.livemocha.com. They take an approach in which you select a language you wish to learn and work through exercises which you then post for people who are fleunt in that language (e.g. French), and learning your native language (English), to critique. They also ask that you be willing to critique French persons who are using their site to learn English.
It’s been a few months since I have been on it, but it uses a point system that you ‘pay’ points for certain things, and earn points either buy buying them with money, and/or by posting critiques.

27 Richard March 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

Don’t forget your local public library! I like to tell people that I have so many books in my “personal” collection that I have to store them in places around the county, and I let other people borrow them when I’m not reading them. I love wandering the open stacks, since I almost always spot something interesting and new.

28 Chris Russell March 19, 2013 at 8:03 am

I am usually a pure consumer here on AoM reading and moving on. However this topic is very close to my heart. Since a very young age I have lived by the mantra (adapted from a quote from Issac Asimov), “The day I stop learning is the day I start dying.” I strive to learn new things all the time everything from technical certifications for my career to circus skills. I like your suggestion for dinner conversation Brett, and I am going to begin trying that. Great Article and thanks for helping me learn new things all the time Brett!

29 Conner March 19, 2013 at 8:21 am

I’m going to throw in audiobooks as a great tool. I had a job at a nursery/tree farm in college, and I listened to The Brothers Karamazov about 15 times pulling weeds. I absorbed a lot more Dostoyevsky that way than I would have probably any other.

30 Bryan March 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

In elementary school, the kids hate being there. Then we go to junior high and high school and spend the time playing and underachieving. Then we get to college and spend the time partying. Then we graduate and consider the education part of our lives finished. No wonder our culture is in decline.

31 Wendy March 19, 2013 at 8:39 am

Very interesting article. Check out the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for fabulous continuing education opportunities for adults over 50. The Osher Foundation funds these programs at 116 university campuses across the United States with over 112,000 lifelong learners continuing to live fulfilling, active, engaged lives. It has made my retirement anything but retiring.

32 Jeff The Bear March 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

Great Post! I’m glad you mentioned Louis L’Amour and his book. I enjoyed it and was inspired because of his approach and because he ACTED on his learning. One of the joys of retirement has been having the time to learn more and pursue new skills. It never stops and I don’t want it to.

33 Rod March 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

Actually, Louis L’amour became a Merchant Mariner (or a Merchant Seaman). “Merchant Marine” describes the industry, not the people serving therein.

34 Joe March 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

As a man who just turned 50, I love the idea of continued learning. My most important job is to keep learning and pass knowledge to both of my teenagers for them to use throughout their lives.

35 Brent March 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

Surprised no one has said it yet…

Cant wait for the AOM Videos!

36 Michael Vu March 19, 2013 at 10:16 am

What a great read!

I’d like to add “Google” as a way of learning too. Sounds dumb right? I work as a Mac Techie. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled something. It could be troubleshooting documentation, code, scripts, extra knowledge — whatever.

If you really need information, it’s out there.

37 Ryan Grimm March 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

One of the many great ironies of this article is the picture ‘Teach what you’re learning.’
I have the technical drawings of that model engine, acquired during marathon visits to M.I.T.’s Humanities library, among others.

I would go and devour hundreds of books and bound sets of magazines, going back to the mid 1800s…steam engines, mechanical designs, technical books, what ever I could find. Half or more of my finds were made just by going up-and-down the rows of bookstacks.
EXPLORE YOUR LIBRARIES.
And if your library is getting rid of ‘old’ or ‘obsolete’ technical books, rescue them and pass them on to someone that can use them…don’t let them get thrown into a pile to be pulped or burned.
Mostly I’ve slowed down, due to a lack of time for reading. No longer do I read a book every day.
One a week is all I can manage at present….I feel I’m now falling behind at over 1200 books a year!

38 Matt Johnston March 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

@Daniel,

Many public libraries have The Teaching Company or Modern Scholar (a similar company) college courses on CD. I used to have to commute 1.5 hours one way to work. When I was on that monster commute I was devouring courses on CD, at the rate of three lectures a day sometimes. I took the equivalent of perhaps an entire Bachelor’s Degree’s worth of course work in about one year. My job was okay, but my commute was made useful by those course.

If your public library doesn’t have Teaching Company or Modern Scholar, beg them to do so and then push for some inter-library loan for the material.

39 actionjksn March 19, 2013 at 10:35 am

I have one for older people that might be of interest. My wife is a college professor and she also teaches a class once or twice a year called “Lifelong Learners”

40 Brett B. March 19, 2013 at 10:53 am

I attended the University of Virginia, a college that refers to their students as First Years, Second Years, Third Years, and Fourth Years as opposed to the more common Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. While many who don’t attend UVA think this is one of several obnoxious features associated with the school, the reasoning behind the naming convention is actually quite fascinating. Taken from the Dean of Students website: “To be a “senior” implies that a person has reached the final phase of learning, a feat that Mr. Jefferson believed impossible, arguing instead that education is a life-long process.” Ever since I first heard about this, I have taken it to heart and have strived to take a course each ‘semester’ since college, be it through another local college, an adult education center, a library, or a local business. It’s not only a good way to keep the brain fresh and active, but also a good way to meet more people within your community who have interests different from your own!

41 Maddy Marcel March 19, 2013 at 11:07 am

Thanks AoM for writing this great article … I am *so tired* of living in a society that tolerates, even celebrates, people who are willfully ignorant, and just repeat anything they hear because of confirmation bias. Education is the way, the only way, to fight this.

And guys – if you need any extra motivation – intelligence and thoughtfulness are among the most attractive qualities a man can have!

42 Jacob March 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I can’t even explain how much this article relates to me and has helped me realize what I have been thinking forever now. This is some very great stuff, exactly what I needed. Thank you!

43 Manny March 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Kinda disappointed to see TED on here. I’ve found many lectures on TED that seem to be designed to push an agenda rather than give knowledge.

Other than that, great article.

44 Andrew March 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm

So there is basically absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be life long learners, and many encouragments why we should be. Funny that so many people still give up at the end of high school. Thanks for the great article and inspiration to get out there and keep learning.

45 Westicles March 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

@ Ted : I have actually been looking for some good DIY education sources for a long time. I have always been able to find how to do minor Auto repairs on youtube.

@Brett Are there any good DIY sites out there for the home and garage?

46 Joe Idar March 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Just tell them This has been one of the most inspiring articles I have read. I am in my late fifties and with each passing day I become more anxious to learn something else. People I work, live, and play with always ask me “how did you know that” or ” how did figure that out” . I enjoy keeping them mystified, but the truth is , its out there , just a matter of loolking for it. As the article said, never stop learning.

47 Joe March 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I agree completely. As a 56 year old with still a lifetime ahead of him I am astounded by the rut that people drive themselves into. Life is much too thrilling and exciting to stop learning.

48 Joel March 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm

My dad is 95 years old (not so) and he is more aware than many people younger that him.

His secret (besides never eating crap) is his lecture habits, he reads at least one hour everyday, and you can question him about many topics and he always has an answer.

49 Woelf Dietrich March 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for yet another excellent article. Growing up I was crazy about my Louis L’Amour novels. When I got older I read The Education of a Wandering Man, and have read it many times since. L’Amour was one of my literary heroes, but it wasn’t just his writing, his life inspired me. Still does. His world view, his wandering spirit, and his unquenchable thirst for knowledge were evident in the stories he wrote, and maybe that is why his stories had so much more impact on me. A little while ago I wrote a blog piece titled, The Education of An Aimless Man. I intended the title as homage to L’Amour and how he affected my own creative aspirations and world view, and although the piece centered around my own journey, I mentioned L’Amour as one of my “teachers”. I do a lot of research, especially when I’m writing, and that keeps things interesting and challenging. There is so much we don’t know. In that sense I completely understand L’Amour’s thirst for knowledge. Now, if only I had his ability to remember everything…

My dad was one of those guys that would never ask another man for help. He did everything himself, and if he didn’t know how to do something, he would teach himself. He would spent most weekends in his workshop, tinkering with things, experimenting. He was an amateur bladesmith–a hobby he took deadly serious–and because he was a lifelong learner he was able to built a belt grinder. It was so successful he built two more. His friends, and even strangers would come to him for assistance to help fix broken things. It made me proud of him. Unfortunately, I am not that technically minded, but I do believe knowledge is important and I share my dad’s philosophy that one needs to stay sharp and you do that only by relying on yourself.

Again, thanks for the article.

50 Juan Cruz Jr March 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I’ve acutally signed up for a free course through Coursera. I am also learning how program Android apps through teamtreehoue. I look forward to learning for the rest of my life. Awesome post.

51 Steven March 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Hi all,

I can also recommend EDX. I am taking the Ancient Greek Hero at Harvard. It only started last week so you can still jump on board and join the battle at Troy.

Relevant to last week’s thumos post as well!

52 Alex March 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Here is a great source that consolidated a lot of places to learn:

http://www.noexcuselist.com/everything

53 Pete March 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Proud autodidact here too. Thanks a bunch for those links too, the only thing better than learning is free learning!

54 john March 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm

If you like AoM you will probably like biohacks.net as well

55 Carrol Christian March 19, 2013 at 7:48 pm

What a great post, I too am an autodidact and have enrolled in some of the Coursera online classes. The list of other free on-line learning sites is great! One thing I’d like to add as far as free learning methods goes is the use of e-readers or at least their free e-reader apps. I have several Kindles & a new Kobo Mini e-reader and in both of their on-line book stores you can find thousands of free books to download if the copyright has expired. So anything published before 1923 should be on that list including most classical literature and other interesting books; for instance I just read Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography ( A true man’s man!) Plus all of the e-book stores have many more thousands of e-books for less than $4.00. Even without an e-reader you can still download the app. and read from your computer or phone.

56 Dustin M. March 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm

A couple of months ago I was miserable with my life. I was miserable because I realized for months I had this deep yearning to be more intellectual and seek more adventure; however, I wasn’t doing anything for that. I was coming home from my job and brushing off my to-do list just to squander in my gaming chair and play xbox or surf the web for hours on end. I was basically depriving my young recently graduated 22 year old body of the diversity, knowledge, and fitness it needs to develop into a successful man. One day back in the grind, I was using Stumbleupon.com to surf the web for all of its craziness. About an hour in to my search, I came across this website and decided to read a couple of articles. Before I knew it, I was about 6 articles in with an epiphany that has recently changed my life. I realized I was a slob and wasting away my youth and I need to change that immediately or forever live an unfulfilling stagnant life. At that very moment, I wrote a creed to myself that basically demands for me to be a ‘better man.’ It’s a daily challenge, yet a rewarding one. AoM is now my homepage and my true inspiration for how to live a more successful and fulfilled life. The basis for that creed is to be more educated, and I feel like this article hit dead center on what I was feeling just a few weeks prior, and helped reinforce my intentions. This article is an excellent post, and I must say thank you for inspiring me, educating me, and giving me the resources to be a better man.

57 Jack Grabon March 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Great post, I really enjoyed reading it. As a fellow lifelong learner, I am guilty of having make believe conversations in my head in languages that I’m trying to learn. When I realize that I don’t know the word(s) for something that I want to express, then I immediately look it/them up. I also admit that I’ve also conjugated verbs in my head while jogging on the beach of foreign shores.

Recently, I realized how a cellphone or small tablet could help in learning a language – being able to quickly look up things via Google Translate or other such app. It’s also good to help you get around and less bulky than the pocket dictionaries that I typically use.

58 Alexander March 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I would also add Skillshare – similar to Khan academy, and one of my favorite learning startups.

59 john bear March 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm

One of my favorite things to do is to say to a gathering of young college students, “Prove me wrong.” I have knowledge on almost any subject. So far, I haven’t been stumped yet. Many people are the walking dead trying to find a place to lie down. They stop advancing around the age of fifteen and, irregardless of how long they live, they remain the same. It is sameness that kills.

60 Darsh W March 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Thanks Brett & Kate for this wonderful article.

This came at a very right time when I am learning how to programme, The points mentioned in the article are very motivating and helpful.

I find setting a managable goal is a must and every person should do it before he sets out to learn something new.

One more philosophical note I would like to make is that we often perceive ourselves in the present tense and end up thinking that I have known whatever it takes to manage the present situation, however we fail to often realise that life is a long journey and the more knowledge and skill you gather, the more fulfilling life would be.

Thanks.

61 Alejandro De La Garza March 19, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Louis L’Amour is one of my favorite authors. I read Education of a Wandering Man years ago and found it truly inspirational. I love to read and writer, but even now, I still have to tear myself away from the computer or the TV to get some of that done. The moment you stop learning is when you might as well turn over and die. Thanks for this essay!

62 John Morgan March 20, 2013 at 1:49 am

Great article. However, I feel you have missed one other barrier that I’ve seen spoken, or rather written. I have seen some espouse the belief that self-teaching is to delude yourself in having real knowledge, and that the only real source of knowledge is from attending a university. These people commonly mock those who are self-taught and immediately dismiss anything they say as being uninformed and unintelligent, and readily believe anything said by a university graduate or professor (which is really just a higher level of university graduate, I suppose).

Personally, I think it’s a dangerous mindset, as it presupposes that universities and professors are both infallible and free of agenda or error. It shows a person who thinks one cannot think and rationalize for himself, that someone must feed him information to be certain what he learns is true.

In a way, this is really just a segment of the Location barrier twisted to an extreme by saying anything learned outside of a college course is certainly false and anything within that course is certainly true.

63 NHeinz March 20, 2013 at 6:01 am

Great list of education sites. You can learn just about anything with the Internet. I learned how to program html and build websites at almost 60.

64 Cat March 20, 2013 at 7:04 am

Anyone knows of a good free online piano and violin course?

65 Richard March 20, 2013 at 9:06 am

It has taken me the past 45 years to unlearn most of what I acquired during the first 22.

66 Wen March 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

Great article. I have a goal to learn something new every day — be it something small or trivial or something bigger and more meaningful. I work at a school and always tell my students, never stop learning – try to learn something new every single day of your life!

67 Phillip March 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

For wonderful podcasts on do yourself a favour and go to itunes or to the BBC website and download some of the BBC 4 webcasts: especially those of: In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg … go back for years and get a subject discussed by professors from top UK universities on everything from science to philosophy and history.

68 Grtgrandpa T. March 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm

There is simply no substitute for reading. Reading 30 minutes a day, 10 minutes out loud, will improve memory, vocabulary, and spelling.

69 Scott Hendrickson March 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Ray Bradbury was an autodidact as well. He was almost completely self-taught by spending time at the library instead of formal college education.

70 St. Vital Kid March 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Cybercollege.com offers a remarkably comprehensive and current television production course through its site. It encompasses more than eighty modules, most of which feature interactive quizzes and longer-form tests. This site requires no sign-up and no fees of any sort. As an instructor in this field, having a resource like this is a godsend. In the field of broadcast journalism, News University (newsu.org), which is offered through the Poynter Institute is an invaluable tool as well. All courses there require you to set up an account on the site, but once you do that, there’s a lot of excellent content that’s free to explore. Try their “Be a Reporter” game. It’s instructive and fun.

71 dand March 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

so I’m not alone in the yearning for learning….
alas, my spelling seems not to have improved these many years in any language

72 J.J. Vicars March 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm

This reminds me of the severe generation gap between myself and younger musicians. When I was a budding guitarist one had to dress older to sneak into clubs (on account of being underaged) in order to see the top local players in person. Guys like me would watch their fingers trying to figure out what they were doing and try to make friends with them so they would show us stuff. Some were helpful and some were downright rude but if you wanted to play bad enough you did what you had to do. We also learned by copying records by ear, sometimes slowing the record down. Each phrase we would sing to ourselves over and over again until we found it on our instrument. It was a painstaking process. Once we finally got good enough to get out and play with professionals we would take any gig we could get playing any and every time of music under the sun.

Nowadays kids wanting to play guitar don’t even try to figure anything out. They immediately ask for tabs, even on a YouTube video. Most so called singer/songwriters learn a few chords, rhyme a couple words and think they’re “artists” “expressing themselves.” Is it any wonder most of the music coming out today is lame and best and garbage at worst?

On a positive note one many of the guitarists I admired when I was cutting my teeth continue to expand their knowledge of the instrument and sometimes other instruments as well, and most of them are into their 60′s.

73 Luke Roland balane March 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I agree with the main gist of this article and what jbear expressed. Learning is fun!
Luke Roland

74 Jon S. March 21, 2013 at 1:44 am

To add to the list of online learning tools:

http://oyc.yale.edu/

Open Yale. Dozens of undergrad level lectures and coursework from real classes and teachers at Yale. FREE.

75 Wayne Cox March 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I recently purchased a set of “Great Books of the Western World” from an estate sale on eBay. These are the thinkers that built the Western intellectual tradition over the past few thousand years. It is amazing to me how these men from across the ages and from Athens to Rome to Jerusalem to London have seemingly carried out a “Great Conversation” with one another. I am very much enjoying learning about life from these ancient men. The greatest thing I’ve learned is that we are not so different today from our ancestors after all.

76 Patrick March 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

This article made me cry. I have always wondered why I’m not great at things. But am able to converse, fix the toilet, balance checks, juggle budgets.

Now I can finally describe myself.

I thought I was just confused.

77 Brett McKay March 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm

@Westicles-

My favorite home/garage DIY site is One Project Closer. One of the owners guest posts for us on occasion. I like their site simply because they’re able to explain things in a very clear way that I can follow whereas other sites can lose me.

http://www.oneprojectcloser.com/

78 Tony Rovere March 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

Probably the most resourceful post on AoM. t\Thank you for the info

79 Kyle George Berg March 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I loved this. Truly, truly I did. I read it while working on a trainyard in Saint Paul, MN and plan on visiting the library tomorrow. I too wish to learn how to field dress a deer and my roomie Dustin said he will teach me this fall if he gets a buck. I must say keep up the stellar work and I will keep reading them. Now I have to go back to whittling and finish my shift at work. Kudos my man.

80 Stephen March 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm

After this reading article, I found myself reading up on Louis L’Amour and Teddy Roosevelt. If only we can get more people to have this mentality.

“No one can get an education, for of necessity education is a continuing process.

81 Matthew T. Stanfill March 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm

This is the best article I think Ive seen on the site. I am all about self education and if it were not for my time in the navy and my university free I would not see much of a need for formal education. I am extremly excited to see L’Amour in the article, he is one of my all time fav people and his education of a wandering man is a fav book of mine. I read it while travling the alaska highway, good times.

A good person to check out on youtube is david mansaray…he droped out of university in london and moved to spain to learn spanish and educate himself.

82 Roy March 25, 2013 at 8:36 am

Excellent article!

Life interrupted my “formal” education the first semester of college. However, my informal education has continued throughout the past 20 years until my company closed. My wife and I chose for me to re-enter the “formal” environment so that I could accomplish a dream. So, at the age of 39, I became a College Freshman! This May, I will complete stage 1 of my education with 2 Associates degrees and in the fall, I intend to continue pursuing my dream when I continue my Bachelor’s program at a local university. My primary goal is a Master’s in Psychology, but lately, I am even toying with a Doctoral possibility.

In short, it is never too late to begin to be a learner, formal or otherwise! I am proof and I encourage any who read this that you can too!

83 K. Smith March 25, 2013 at 9:30 am

What a thorough description of why so many families choose to homeschool.

84 T. Kern March 25, 2013 at 10:38 am

Great article! The fact that people don’t do this is the true problem with our society. Our government calls for an educated electorate. Also, thank you for providing the cites where you can become a lifelong learner.

85 Ed March 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Absolutely love this article! I think people sometimes often forget the power that knowledge has in this life. With knowledge comes the ability to make money, because in all reality if you know something than there is a good chance someone is willing to pay you for that knowledge.

86 Brett Sergent March 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm

This is probably my favorite article on the site as of now. You can never quit learning, whether it may be about life, relationships, technology, school, the world, etc. If you open up your mind, its amazing what you can put in it.

87 David Naas March 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I am not usually envious (one of the deadly sins, don’t y’know), but after reading L’Amour’s book, I realized the SOB had more books than me. Good for him.

88 Oscar Alejandro March 31, 2013 at 1:55 am

One tip for learning that worked for me when I had been studying English was to write down in a sheet of paper unknown words I challenge to memorize every day. Is so practical because is available all the time in my pocket when I need it.

89 Greg Shinn April 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm

In the book “Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman, a respected neuroscientist discussed neuroplasticity and said that the best way to preserve and improve the the aging brain’s ability to learn new things is by acquiring completely foreign skills. For example, if you’re used to reading and writing, then take up bridge; if you’re a mechanic, learn a foreign language; if you’re a computer programmer, take guitar lessons; if you’re an accountant, start sketching; and so on.

90 Justin April 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

The idea that, somehow, I’ll be done learning someday is completely foreign to me. There so many things I have always wanted to learn, I’m sure I’ll die before I get around to all of them.

91 Christian May 3, 2013 at 4:17 am

I have been a language teacher for adults for years, and I will say that older people who study seem a lot more adaptable open-minded, and happier than those who don’t. I think lifelong learning is probably the best way to keep from being that old guy angry about kids on his lawn.
I don’t really have the patience to sit in a class room all day like I did when I was in school, but I still try work on learning new skills whenever I can.

92 Jenny Stout May 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I probably don’t belong here because I’m a female.. But this speaks to me, along with the “Renaissance Man” article. Girls aren’t really taught to “Be a man!” but I think ‘we’ can learn a lot from this website. This article in particular. I had always wanted to understand and specifically.. recreate everything, At 5 I animated my first cycle, by 7 I had composed my first electronic music album, at 10 I learned Photoshop and “Macromedia” Flash, at 11 I taught myself Japanese. Biology and calculus were my favorite subjects in school.
I intend to continue discovering life, since pretty much every single subject is endlessly fascinating. My man is also the same way, he reads Wikipedia like a newspaper.
Right now I’ve been learning all sorts of visual programs, learned 3D modeling in maya, rendering in Vray, 2.5D in After Effects, video editing, motion graphics, and Zbrush has been my favorite! I’ve been working in it this week, I’m extremely visual and it helps me understand concepts abstractly. But working with my hands is definitely my favorite. The cool thing is you can draw/sculpt while listening to audiobooks or podcasts. Recently I got to sculpt every muscle and bone in the human body in clay, a study called Ecorche. My next venture is woodworking, 3D printing, programming and history podcasts.

93 Tapper May 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

There are two common motivations for learning. 1. Due to necessity (program your DVR, college for work requirements, etc…) or 2. Due to curiosity. I love to follow my curiosity and it leads me down serendipitous paths. A great source of learning for me has been my reading: two daily newspapers (WSJ & LA Times), MacWorld magazine, The Atlantic magazine, LA Business Journal, Downtown LA Newspaper, and occasional websites like ArsTechnica. On my commute, I listen to podcasts of a very stimulating talkshow from KPCC radio, AirTalk with Larry Mantle.

So, I like to swim in new information and analysis of issues! a web search is so handy for the random questions that pop into my head during the day. I simply send myself an email of the question so I can deal with it later and not forget about it.

94 Jason May 14, 2013 at 4:58 pm

MIT has a large number of their courses recorded and available for free!
OCW.MIT.EDU

95 Konstantin June 7, 2013 at 4:32 am

Thank you very much ! There is a lot material to think about !

96 Paul September 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

After a change in textbooks (usually retiring one edition for a new edition) the community college and university that I attended hold sales for the retired books at a dirt-cheap price, around $2 per book. I took advantage of the opportunity often while I was in college, and even after college I purchased used textbooks on eBay or Amazon, usually the same textbooks that I studied from in my college classes. I try to work problems from my old math books to keep myself fresh on the material I studied, and sometimes work through chapters that my classes didn’t cover. If I ever go back to graduate school, I don’t want to lose what I’ve studied so far. I also have a few books in psychology and sociology in my collection.

Just this week I purchased a differential equations textbook with unopened CD-ROM for $10. The regular price for a new book is $180.

And if regular math and science college textbooks are too difficult to understand, there’s a great series of study guides called Schaum’s Outlines for just about every course you could think of.

97 Mehar December 6, 2013 at 4:55 am

The zest for learning should never stop. Your article rekindles that desire. I constantly read, but some of your examples inspires me to go out and learn something hands-on!

98 Caleb January 19, 2014 at 10:09 am

I finally got around to reading this article from the Best Of list and wanted to add my thanks!

I’ve read L’Amour’s autobiography twice and have passed it on to others. It’s the best book I know to inspire self-ed. (Side note: If you’re interested in becoming a writer, this book might be the only guide you’ll ever need as well, since it is packed with much excellent writing advice.)

I didn’t the The Modern Scholar series from Recorded Books mentioned. My local library has many of these and they are wonderful. They’re usually 14 lectures on 7 CDs: perfect for the commute or the mundane sit-down job where one can listen while working. Highly recommend these.

99 Helga Maria Saboia Bezerra January 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Hi! I loved to know about Louis L’Amour, who made me remember another lifelong learner and writer, the north american longshoreman Eric Hoffer.

100 Joe Wasylyk April 15, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Lifelong Learning is the KEY for Seniors (50 Plus) in order to become more active, creative, productive and prosperous in your pre-retirement or retirement life. There is one area we still need help with. Many seniors are more comfortable and confident if they could have their ‘own peer group’ to discuss many things including support for working on important social or business projects. Seniors are capable to do more that just absorb general information. They have skills, knowledge, maturity, contacts and resources that can still be used to solve some of the problems we all face in this society.

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