What is an autodidact?

An autodidact comes from the Greek autodidaktos, meaning self-taught. Auto meaning self/same and didaktos meaning taught/learning. Autodidacticism therefore means ‘self-education’. This is the process of willingly immersing yourself in a body of knowledge to obtain new insights, skills or information. In other words, whenever you are teaching yourself something you are considered a self-teacher; an autodidact.

Anyone can be an autodidact.

If you watch TED talks for fun, read self-help books just because you want to, read Wikipedia because you’re curious about learning something new, or even downloaded Duolingo because you want to learn a new language, chances are that you are already an autodidact.

In essence, anyone with a lust for knowledge can be an autodidact. A good indication is the fact that you don’t shudder and roll your eyes at the thought of ‘lifelong learning’.

How to be an Autodidact?

It is certainly easier these days to embrace autodidactism than it was in past eras. The proliferation of knowledge via the internet and alternative methods of learning like Skillshare, Lynda, Udemy and Khan Academy make learning a vast amount of information far easier. All it takes is the discovering of what you are passionate about and the desire to learn more about it.

Benefits of autodidactalysm.

  • You get to become competent in the topics and fields of interest that you are passionate about.
  • It helps you to develop self-discipline
  • You can achieve excellence by raising the bar on your own capabilities
  • It helps you to think outside the box
  • Avoids the rising costs of learning through conventional schools
  • There are unique opportunities for autodidacts who possess specialised skills or knowledge

Final words.

There is a lot of conflation between being an autodidact and the idea of continuous learning. They are not synonymous, are not mutually exclusive but do have a lot in common. The self-discipline and desire to learn are necessary for both but someone studying for certification for their job is not the same as someone teaching themselves woodcarving. Whilst both are worthwhile and -in my opinion- necessary, I believe that continuous learning is more geared towards professional development, whilst the autodidact learns more for the soul.

Written by Andrew Callister

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