Hello Wei! I hope you’ve been doing well. I was curious about your perspective on some things if you’re not too busy. I remember talking at length with you on learning, curiosity, and creativity. How did you design learning projects for yourself? I’m on a gap year and I’m determined to continue learning outside of school, but it’s hard to create a system to mark progress and challenge myself. Did you ever run into similar problems? If so, how did you figure them out?
Good to hear from you. Congratulations on taking a gap year; it is a big step that not everyone takes.
In regards to marking progress, I find that school and self-study to be different. There are easily definable metrics (GPA) in school that help guide you through your journey and be used for comparison's sake. There are no such metrics in self-study, and I would not go out of my way to define any. I found metrics to be only suffocating when deciding on potential projects.
Questions of "Will this be successful?", "Who do I compare myself to?" or "How many X should I do by Y" will only slow you down. Self-learning in the way I view it is about trying new things and failing before any of them matters. Be ambitious and fearless; it is good practice for when you will be called upon to be ambitious and fearless for more people than just you.
What have you been itching to learn? It rarely matters if you can see the connection to the bigger picture at the very moment. So take on projects that keep the flame in you alive, and you will be able to look fondly on your experiences regardless of the success.
Self-learning does not have to be a secluding feeling. Comparison is the quickest way to drown your flame, while collaboration is the surest way to start a bonfire. Work with fun, intelligent people, and your projects will benefit from their points of view.
If you do this honestly, you will gain as much experience in your one year of self-learning as three years of working a job in which you do the same things over and over. It will feel like a slow change, but a person who seeks rarely finds themselves unchanged.
Based on what you have written, it is clear that you value holistic understanding over details. I do not know whether the path of self-learning is any more "true" compared to academic routes, but I do know that only certain types of people would even consider the self-learning path.
If you are already convinced this is the path for you, know that what you have already been doing is exactly what you need to do. You have already touched on topics that excite you, that is the tricky part. Some people take their whole lives to figure out what they are interested in.
From here, you know that you want to share your knowledge in a way that feels more "concrete" than discussion. The next step would be then to find your medium of choice. I have tried video, audio (podcasts), and writing, and they all have their pros and cons. Whichever you choose does not matter as long as it is reasonable for the topic you wish to dive into. For example, it may be challenging to create a podcast reviewing visual art, though it can be done.
Whatever you do, I urge you to post it publicly, and if you're part of a creative group, share there. There is nothing to be earned from creating things just to hide it. Feedback from people who are not as attached to your work or your feelings is critical. There is a secondary benefit as well, if you are making things with heart, it is likely others will bond with your work. This will make it easier to collaborate in the future.
There is no point moving from a "boring" learning system to another equally "boring" self-imposed system. Instead, do things that are fun, take seriously what others will not, and you will learn at a speed that is uniquely fitted for you.
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