It’s not new and it’s been around before, but I think it is different now because it is more easy to do it with all the free resources available. Being self-taught is a skill everyone learns at some point in their life. Whether it’s learning to do your own taxes, editing a music video, building a business, or learning to draw. The resources are limitless with video tutorials and free courses online. I want to explore people who learn for the sake of learning and who get a high from it. From my personal experience, I’ve seen this culture of being self-taught in a lot of people who write code. I’ve met them mostly at hackathons because that is where they can learn under high pressure — there is a sense of thrill to it.

Being self-taught does not mean there is an absence of an instructor; rather, there could be several and from different places. It could be a friend or a video tutorial, the key is that you have the freedom to choose. This means the a defining characteristic of being self-taught is being in control. Having control in your life is a huge contributor to happiness and it could explain why it can be so addicting for people. Being a self-taught chair designer means you decide what skills you want to learn, what material to focus on, how much time you practice at the workshop to hone your craft, and also how much money you spend to get to where you need to be. You can scout your mentors from people you know, at trade shows, or online — it is limitless on how you can obtain a mentor; it could be following a leading designer’s social media to see how they work.

Another defining characteristic is discovery. I think people who are self-taught enjoy making their own maps and like to discover new continents and all the things they could do there. Starting from point 0 on how to design a garden and spending all the hours practicing to discover new techniques to plant or new ways to maintain a garden is very exciting. It is like opening Christmas presents, but it’s a situation in which any day for the rest of your life could suddenly become Christmas.

Does this mean that educational institutions are threatened by this culture of people being self-taught? It is not likely so. Many people still go to school for more reason than to learn, some to obtain professional credentials, some, especially in North America, to obtain residency in the country. But a big implication of this culture of learning is that people are ready to adapt to changes and are becoming more resilient socially. This protects people and builds capacity in a community and that is where the real potential lies.