Learn From the Best

December 28, 2009

How many times have you heard someone sheepishly say, “I’m just self-taught?” Being self-taught can be a kind of by-word for the homespun and amateurish. And that’s too bad. History is packed with distinguished figures who were largely self-taught. Inventors, artists, scientists, philosophers, . . . . The ability to teach oneself is an extremely powerful tool. If you can truly teach yourself, there’s really nothing you can’t learn to do.

The ability to refine skill is tantamount to acquiring new skill. Refining your thoughts can move you forward in large leaps, so that you seem to have improved during periods away from the bench. The ability to teach oneself and to watch one’s own thoughts is probably the most important skill I’ve never seen taught in school. Most skills ultimately come down to the particular way that your thoughts wriggle out through your fingertips. Calibrate your eye. Refine your thoughts. Improve your skill.

So as 2010 draws near if I had one wish for everyone it would simply be that if you have something you want to learn, that you start learning it in this coming year. And if it’s something you think might be out of reach for you, all the better–learn it anyway. If you aren’t already good at it, learn to really teach yourself. Once you do that, there’s no telling what might come next. Best of luck and happy new year!

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