The Autodidact Manifesto
I’m passionate about being a lifelong learner.
I’m insatiably curious.
I believe that knowledge is power.
I know that if I’m truly invested in learning something, there’s no need to go back to school to learn it.
I believe I can teach myself any subject if I have a serious interest in it.
I’m 100% responsible for my learning – I take full ownership of the process of improving myself.
Being an autodidact gives me the freedom to learn what I want, when I want.
I can be my own coach, mentor, and teacher.
If there’s something that I want to learn, I can figure out how to learn it. I know I can learn anything I set my mind to.
I make the time to learn. I include learning in my schedule.
I overcome inner obstacles to learning such as procrastination, fear, and perfectionism.
I ignore the naysayers who say that you can’t teach yourself.
My diploma is the project that I complete with my newly-acquired knowledge.
I constantly push myself to step out of my comfort zone. Instead of constantly doing what I already know how to do, I stretch myself in order to learn more.
I’m self-directed and I work well on my own – I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do.
I’m good at goal setting and set S.M.A.R.T. learning goals.
I’m good at plan creation, implementation, and iteration. When I want to learn something new I create a plan for learning it and I follow through with my plan.
I know that all of the information that I need is at my fingertips.
I have the discipline necessary to accomplish my learning goals.
I have the necessary grit to persist until I achieve my learning objectives.
I’m self-motivated — I can keep my motivation and enthusiasm for learning high.
I see obstacles to my learning as challenges to be overcome, not as stopping points.
I’m willing to put in the necessary time and effort to learn what I want.
I’m committed to self-learning.
I learn something new every day, even it’s just a new vocabulary word.
I move quickly from learning to doing.
I’m invested in learning how to learn.
I know that making mistakes is simply part of the learning process.
I can deal with the frustration and confusion that are integral components of learning.
I’m willing to be a beginner.
If one learning strategy doesn’t work, I look for a different strategy.
As I learn I make careful self-assessments and adjustments.
Those who have the most success with learning are those who try the hardest.
I learn actively, not passively.
I share what I learn with others.
There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.
Never cancel dinner plans by text message.
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.
Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.
When entrusted with a secret, keep it.
Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of ‘horse’.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Don’t dumb it down.
You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.
If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.
Never park in front of a bar.
Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.
Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first boy/girlfriend.
Hold your heroes to a high standard.
A suntan is earned, not bought.
Never lie to your doctor.
All guns are loaded.
Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.
The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.
Take a vacation of your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.
Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.
A handshake beats an autograph.
Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.
If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.
If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.
Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.
Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.
Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.
When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.
Eat lunch with the new kids.
When traveling, keep your wits about you.
It’s never too late for an apology.
Don’t pose with booze.
If you have the right of way, take it.
You don’t get to choose your own nickname.
When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.
Never push someone off a dock.
Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.
It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.
Don’t make a scene.
When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.
Know when to ignore the camera.
Invest in good luggage.
Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.
When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.
Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.
Give credit. Take blame.
Suck it up every now and again.
Never be the last one in the pool.
Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.
Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.
If you’ve made your point, stop talking.
Admit it when you’re wrong.
If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.
Look people in the eye when you thank them.
Thank the bus driver.
Never answer the phone at the dinner table.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes.
Know at least one good joke.
Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.
Know how to cook one good meal.
Learn to drive a stick shift.
Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.
It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.
Dance with your mother/father.
Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.
Always thank the host.
If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.
Know the size of your boy/girlfriend’s clothes.
There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.
Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.
Keep your word.
In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.
Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.
Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.
Don’t be the talker in a movie.
The opposite sex likes people who shower.
You are what you do, not what you say.
Learn to change a tire.
Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.
An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.
If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.
You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.
Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.
Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.
Make the little things count.
Always wear a bra at work.
There is a fine line between looking sultry and slutty. Find it.
You’re never too old to need your mom.
Ladies, if you make the decision to wear heels on the first date, commit to keeping them on and keeping your trap shut about how much your feet kill.
Know the words to your national anthem.
Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun then sitting on the bench alone.
Smile at strangers.
Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.
If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard
Realize that nobody cares, and if they do, you shouldn't care that they care. Got a new car? Nobody cares. You'll get some gawkers for a couple of weeks—they don't care. They're curious. Three weeks in it'll be just another shiny blob among all the thousands of others crawling down the freeway and sitting in garages and driveways up and down your street. People will care about your car just as much as you care about all of those. Got a new gewgaw? New wardrobe? Went to a swanky restaurant? Exotic vacation? Nobody cares. Don't base your happiness on people caring, because they won't. And if they do, they either want your stuff or hate you for it.
Some rulebreakers will break rule number one. Occasionally, people in your life will defy the odds and actually care about you. Still not your stuff, sorry. But if they value you, they'll value that you value it, and they'll listen. When you talk about all of those things that nobody else cares about, they will look into your eyes and consume your words, and in that moment you will know that every part of them is there with you.
Spend your life with rulebreakers. Marry them. Befriend them. Work with them. Spend weekends with them. No matter how much power you become possessed of, you'll never be able to make someone care—so gather close the caring.
Money is cheap. I mean, there's a lot of it—about forty thousand billion dollars floating around the world, largely made up of cash whose value is made up and ascribed to it, anyway. Don't engineer your life around getting a slightly less tiny portion of this pile, and make your spirit of generosity reflect this principle. I knew a man who became driven by the desire to amass six figures in savings, so he worked and scrimped and sacrificed to get there. And he did... right before he died of cancer. I'm sure his wife's new husband appreciated his diligence.
Money is expensive. I mean, it's difficult to get your hands on sometimes—and you never know when someone's going to pull the floorboards out from under you—so don't be stupid with it. Avoid debt on depreciating assets, and never incur debt in order to assuage your vanity (see rule number one). Debt has become normative, but don't blithely accept it as a rite of passage into adulthood—debt represents imbalance and, in some sense, often a resignation of control. Student loan debt isn't always unavoidable, but it isn't a given—my wife and I completed a combined ten years of college with zero debt between us. If you can't avoid it, though, make sure that your degree is an investment rather than a liability—I mourn a bit for all of the people going tens of thousands of dollars in debt in pursuit of vague liberal arts degrees with no idea of what they want out of life. If you're just dropping tuition dollars for lack of a better idea at the moment, just withdraw and go wander around Europe for a few weeks—I guarantee you'll spend less and learn more in the process.
Learn the ancient art of rhetoric. The elements of rhetoric, in all of their forms, are what make the world go around—because they are what prompt the decisions people make. If you develop an understanding of how they work, while everyone else is frightened by flames and booming voices, you will be able to see behind veils of communication and see what levers little men are pulling. Not only will you develop immunity from all manner of commercials, marketing, hucksters and salesmen, to the beautiful speeches of liars and thieves, you'll also find yourself able to craft your speech in ways that influence people. When you know how to speak in order to change someone's mind, to instill confidence in someone, to quiet the fears of a child, then you will know this power firsthand. However, bear in mind as you use it that your opponent in any debate is not the other person, but ignorance.
You are responsible to everyone, but you're responsible for yourself. I believe we're responsible to everyone for something, even if it's something as basic as an affirmation of their humanity. However, it should most often go far beyond that and manifest itself in service to others, to being a voice for the voiceless. If you're reading this, there are those around you who toil under burdens larger than yours, who stand in need of touch and respect and chances. Conversely, though, you're responsible for yourself. Nobody else is going to find success for you, and nobody else is going to instill happiness into you from the outside. That's on you.
Learn to see reality in terms of systems. When you understand the world around you as a massive web of interconnected, largely interdependent systems, things get much less mystifying—and the less we either ascribe to magic or allow to exist behind a fog, the less susceptible we'll be to all manner of being taken advantage of. However:
Account for the threat of black swan events. Sometimes chaos consumes the most meticulous of plans, and if you live life with no margins in a financial, emotional, or any other sense, you will be subject to its whims. Take risks, but backstop them with something—I strongly suspect these people who say having a Plan B is a sign of weak commitment aren't living hand to mouth. Do what you need to in order to keep your footing.
You both need and don't need other people. You need others in a sense that you need to be part of a community—there's a reason we reflexively pity hermits. Regardless of your theory of anthropogenesis, it's hard to deny that we are built for community, and that 'we' is always more than 'me.' However, you don't need another person in order for your life to have meaning—this idea that Disney has shoved through our eyeballs, that there's someone out there for all of us if we'll just believe hard enough and never stop searching, is hokum... because of arithmetic, if nothing else. Establish your own life—then, if there's a particular person that you can't help but integrate, believe me, you'll know.
Always give more than is required of you.
• A now in which the necessity of interdependence is not only acknowledged, but considered a tool for growth, strength, and survival.
• A now in which local people work to re-invigorate their city spaces.
• A now in which the definitions of possibility and impos- sibility transform.
• A now in which fruit is not something bought from a store, but something found in our neighborhoods.
• A now in which censorship is prevented through exer- cises in solidarity.
• A now where maps reveal not simply roads, but spaces of collective hope and action.
• A now in which “the economy” is something that eve- ryone can understand and shape.
• A now in which we acknowledge the complex relation- ships of existence.
• A now in which creativity is valued as a legitimate force of change.
• A now in which GMO seed development and corporate agriculture are questioned and disrupted.
• A now with food economies that answer the needs of people, rather than corporations.
• A now in which we share meals with strangers and friends. A now in which the “capitalist juggernaut” crushes itself instead of crushing people.
• A now without so much “stuff.”
• A now in which cyclists feel safe on our roads.
• A now in which people can barter for their educations, and diverse skills and talents are valued.
• A now in which the underrepresented and underserved
have accessible avenues for sharing their stories.
• A now in which language is a form of activism.
• A now in which there is no separation between life and art.
• A now that plays with different conclusions.
• A now with independent and democratically controlled
financial support for creative projects.
• A now that is open to interpretation.
• A now in which art is synonymous with protest.
• A now in which disused spaces are re-appropriated for
• A now in which we can grow our lunch on our rooftops.
• A now in which our every action towards the environ-
ment is carefully considered.
• A now in which acceptance of sponsorship from unethi-
cal companies is questioned.
• A now in which exercises in rhetoric become exercises
• A now in which public space is reclaimed and re-shaped.
• A now in which alternative histories are made visible.
• A now in which space-making is engaged in as a practice
• A now in which residents greatly influence how their
• A now in which Permaculture means not only sustain-
able agriculture, but sustainable culture.