07 May 2012

Thought of the day: Becoming an autodidact

I've found that the most useful skill to develop is the ability to teach myself. Recently, I found out that the term for this is "autodidact." I wonder if teaching oneself has general principles itself. Here are some of the methods I use to teach myself:
  1. What is universal? What are the most important concepts?
    This is a typical physicist perspective. For example, for photography, I might say the important ideas are light and shadow, the quality of light (diffuse or harsh), warm vs cool colors.
  2. How is this field different from similar fields?
    In physics, we tend to be concerned with finding clean, beautiful, logically consistent mathematical rules for explaining nature. In biology, people are trying to model complicated, messy, real systems.
  3. What is the progression?
    You want to identify where to start, where to end, and how to progress in between. If you don't have a progression, you have no idea how far you have to go or what you've accomplished and it's easy to become frustrated. To learn hockey, you start with skating, then progress to stickhandling and shooting, and finally tactics and teamwork.
  4. Read interviews with important people in the field.
    They'll identify what's important. I learned a lot about narrative and character by reading interviews with distinguished actors.
  5. Listen to what people in the field say or read forums.
    This is a bit trickier because you have to find the right people -- hopefully intelligent, articulate types. This might not be easy. I read theater forums sometimes. I found one forum where people frequently trash shows (though there were some insightful comments if you sifted the wheat from the chaff). The Sondheim specific forum was better because people were more interested in analyzing the shows than shoving their opinions down people's throats.
  6. Find a partner.
    I've never done this, but if you can find someone at a similar level and you get along well, this could be dynamite. You can hang out together, support each other, inspire ideas, etc. I guess this is not being an autodidact, but who cares.
If you try to learn several unrelated fields, you'll start to see patterns and that will make it easier to pickup more subjects.

No comments:

Post a Comment