Self-teaching is a very important concept to me. In this way, I have taught myself various things that I would have never thought possible to do by myself.
When self-teaching is mentioned, some people shudder. They do wonder if people who have self-taught themselves are better than those who learned under teachers. Yet, who would be a better teacher than one’s self? I have made self-teaching such a big part of my life that I think I can do anything if I just put enough willpower into it; in short, I’ve become more confident, more patient, and especially more well-rounded. I’d like to share a few of the self-taught subjects, and self-teaching methods, that I’ve gone through for the past several years with you.
My first example is learning how to play the piano. Somehow, many people believe that the piano is best learned from a professional who has a degree in so-and-so. However, I’d counter that if a person is learning just for fun, as a hobby or personal enjoyment, then it’s fine not to have an award-winning piano teacher. Those who first played the piano had to learn somehow, right? And if there weren’t any “masters” around when the first “masters” came about, then how did they learn?
Piano is not a simple thing to learn. It takes years and years of practice, patience, and just plain willpower. If you’re willing to keep up with it, it’s something you can keep for the rest of your life. But the first things you have to do, in order to learn anything, is to:
1. Purchase materials.
2. Develop a plan of action.
3. Execute the plan of action.
These three steps are essential to any self-teaching regimen.
1. PURCHASE MATERIALS
This includes books, reading upon the subject, and actually learning about its history and how other people do it. Let’s keep the piano as an example. The first question is, “What are some piano teaching books that will actually work?” If you know anyone who plays the piano, ask them what they used. Shop around online, especially, because you can probably read some reviews. Ask piano teachers, if you know any (though this might be a little tricky). You don’t have to buy ten instruction books; instead, pick two or three good ones that take you around the whole subject. For the piano, this means music theory, sheet music, history, etc.
2. DEVELOP A PLAN OF ACTION
A plan of action means dedication. You won’t learn something by looking at it once, then putting it away for the next two weeks. You’ll have to set aside some times in which you can practice. Let’s take another example. I wanted to learn how to draw right. I purchased a book titled “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” and got right down to business. I honestly believed that I would get it on the first or second try. Wrong. I had to practice at least thirty minutes a day, and only then did I become comfortable enough to say, “Yes, I drew this.” This means setting up a schedule, just as if you were going to a class on the subject. However, you have to act as both teacher and student: you’ve got to set the boundaries and guidelines, but you also have to follow them.
3. EXECUTE THE PLAN OF ACTION
This is much like the one above, but it also means going beyond the practicing stage and actually completing projects. Include in your schedule (“plan of action”) a few projects that you’ll have to complete along the way in order to go on to the “next stage.” Taking you back to the piano example, this would mean that you’d have to complete a few Beethoven pieces set at your level. You can definitely find this information online, or find websites that categorize sheet music by levels.
The real key to learning anything through self-teaching is patience and keeping up with progress. By self-teaching, I have learned how to knit, crochet (lace as well, tatting), play the piano, learned some German, draw (pencil and charcoal), paint with pastels, and calligraphy. It might be that I’m just a naturally curious person, but people can learn anything by teaching themselves. The only obstacle they have to face is – themselves.