Autodidact’s Journey: Filtering Strategy

As an autodidact, I feel compelled to always be learning something—hell, anything. In recent years, as time has become more of a commodity, I’ve had to start to set a structure around my urges to learn. Until just a few years ago, I would flit from subject to subject with little regard for an overall plan, which results in a wide, disparate range of knowledge. Useful for trivia, but doesn’t necessarily fit into how I view myself as a human being. Previously, I just wanted to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time.

Now, I ask myself the following three questions:

  1. Will this, even tangentially, be useful in my career?
  2. Will this satisfy a personal need?
  3. Will this be fun?

This list of questions doesn’t act as a funnel — if the answer is “no” to any one of them, it won’t eliminate the topic from my attentions, but if the answer is “yes” to one or more of the above, then I will definitely start to dig in to the topic.

1. Utility

Fortunately, I have a fairly open-ended view of what constitutes my career. I’m involved in interactive marketing, so there’s already a pretty broad amount of area to cover. Where things get a little more loose is that I have an “eventual” career (custom framebuilder) that will always need more time applied to it. In addition, I’m looking at setting up some income streams from my old font library (and some new fonts), along with writing, so if I feel like getting my learn on in those areas, I can always justify the time spent. Ultimately, if it can drive personal income and it fits into one of the above domains, I can justify it.

2. Personal Need

Will it shut up my curiosity about a particular topic? Will it make life more satisfying? Then yes, it’s fair game. Things like philosophy or particular skillsets would fall under this topic. Past examples include: studying Buddhism (briefly), martial arts, history, etc.

3. Fun Factor

If it’s not going to be fun, then what’s the fucking point? This can be an overriding factor should the topic of interest not pass either of the previous two criteria. For example, lockpicking, which is something I eventually want to tackle, is neither going to advance my career, nor is it satisfying any particular personal need. Might be useful for a post-apocalypse situation, but not much else. If something’s fun and I have some time with nothing else pressing, then it’s something worth digging into.