“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” ― Isaac Asimov
Many people who grew up in my generation were taught that learning is done at school in the beginning of your life, and that it is designed to prepare you for your future career and life in the adult world. Once you have learned enough you “graduate”, and it was implied that at that point you will have all the knowledge and tools you need to succeed.
Because of this, I used to believe that learning was a relatively passive activity. A teacher’s job was to teach information and a student’s job was to absorb that information. This worked well for me in elementary school, but was less effective as I grew older. I started to think that my dwindling GPA was a reflection of my future success in life.
I eventually figured out that my preconceptions about learning were incorrect. The best teachers are the ones that 1) teach their students whythey want to learn the material and 2) how to learn and expand on that knowledge on their own. Learning is a life-long endeavor. One must learn what helps them best absorb and retain information, how to enjoy the process of learning itself, and that there is no point where this learning process should stop.
A friend of mine, an older gentleman, passed away today. He was the most knowledgeable and inspirational person I’ve ever met. He was a former engineer with a wonderful understanding of mathematics and a love for puzzles. But one of his greatest qualities was that he was a lifelong learner. He seemed to know at least something about anything you talked to him about. This inspired me. I want to be like that; to be someone who is always learning and expanding my mind.
From his example, a month or so ago I decided that I would like to be a more active lifelong learner. Periodically I come across exciting subjects, and in an effort to gain more knowledge in that area, I sometimes buy a textbook on the subject. Generally the book sits around for months or years without any use. To fix this problem, I’ve resolved to work through a book a month. But with so many other distractions in life, this can be really hard to stick to.
After telling my girlfriend about this, she suggested that we create an online community centered around this concept. This has become the primary focus of my current work with BlueSalt Labs.
It’s a slow process at the moment, but I hope to have a fully-functional platform in place in the next few months. I will provide what updates I can in this blog as they become available, and I look forward to others getting excited about the concept and the platform.