Self-Education: The Skill That Will Help You Stay Ahead - Deepstash
Self-Education: The Skill That Will Help You Stay Ahead

Self-Education: The Skill That Will Help You Stay Ahead


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Self-Education: The Skill That Will Help You Stay Ahead

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Credentials Are No Longer Enough

  • There was a time when having a college degree was enough to secure a good job. But with more people graduating from college than ever, you now need other ways to differentiate yourself.
  • While there are many ways to stand out in a job interview, one of the best is to demonstrate that you’re self-directed and motivated. And a good way to demonstrate these qualities is by telling the interviewer about a new skill you taught yourself.
  • Compared to the other applications with the same degrees, GPAs, and extracurriculars, a self-directed learner is bound to stand out.


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Despite fears of automation destroying jobs, history shows us that new technology often ends up creating new jobs and opportunities.

If you want to take advantage of these new jobs, then you’ll need to be able to teach yourself new things. Traditional classroom education is simply too slow to catch up with the changing pace of technology, so it’s up to you.

Some of the new jobs that tech advances have created in the past ten to twenty years:

  • YouTube video editor
  • Podcast producer
  • Head of blog content (my job)
  • Social media manager
  • Drone operator.


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Identify What You Want to Learn

The first step to learning something new is to pick a skill or subject. You probably have a vague idea in mind already, to make it more specific. This way, you can better track your learning progress.

Besides being specific about what you want to learn, you should also determine why you want to learn it. As with building good habits, you shouldn’t decide to learn something just because your friend or mom or some guy on the internet said so. Rather, you should choose learning goals that are personally meaningful. This could be to help you advance in your career or pure curiosity.


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In essence, you need to determine your learning style. However, it’s not as simple as the outdated idea of three different learning styles. In reality, you probably learn well in multiple ways, and the best approach will also depend on the topic.

Some of the main ways you can learn something:

  • Reading
  • Watching videos
  • Making flashcards
  • Imitating an instructor
  • Learning projects
  • With other students in a traditional classroom

None of these techniques is better than the others. All of them are useful for learning different subjects, and you’ll need to experiment to determine what works best.


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Start With the Right Learning Resources

  • Focus on resources that make few assumptions and focus on teaching absolute beginners. This way, you don’t miss fundamentals or develop bad habits that could come back to haunt you later.
  • Beyond that, pick whatever learning resources work best for your style.
  • One caveat for learning physical skills: get a teacher. With physical skills such as sports or music, a teacher can help you avoid bad habits or even injuries that come from improper technique. Even if you’re taking lessons virtually, the live feedback from a teacher is invaluable to starting off the right way.


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When you practice deliberately, you set a specific intention for your practice session and ruthlessly focus on only that. You’re also honest about your current performance, constantly asking how you can improve.

Popular ideas such as the 10,000-hour rule give the impression that “putting in the hours” is all you need to improve at something. But putting in the hours isn’t enough. The recipe for getting better at a skill is putting in enough hours of deliberate, focused practice.


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Use Spaced Repetition to Make Information Stick

Spaced repetition is similar to traditional flashcards, with one important twist. Instead of spending equal time studying every flashcard, spaced repetition systems focus your studies on the information you struggle with the most.

Meanwhile, spaced repetition also has you review information right before you’re about to forget it. This ensures you retain all the information you need without wasting time reviewing things you already know.


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  • You just need a way to measure your progress so that you can make sure your learning is on track and adjust accordingly.
  • Pick an objective, third-party measure. That is, don’t assess your ability based only on your own judgment. If you can get someone more experienced to critique your performance, that’s great. But you can also take an online assessment or record a video.
  • On a daily basis, you can also track your progress using a habit-tracking app or notebook. Having a visual record of your progress will motivate you to continue, showing you how far your ability has come since you began.


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How Long Does It Take To Learn a New Skill?

There isn’t a straightforward answer. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a discipline, but the reality is more complex.

  • To start, is your goal actually to become an expert? In many cases, you can benefit immensely from learning a subject even to a basic or intermediate level. In other words, how long it takes to learn a subject depends on the level you’re looking to reach.
  • Furthermore, it also depends on how much time you can devote to learning. If you can put full-time effort into learning something, then you can progress very quickly.


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