Before You Rush to Be Self Taught

There’s a lot of pride involved in being self taught. You picked up a new skill without extra costs beyond buying an instrument/gear that’s mandatory. You probably even have friends who have done so with aplomb. That’s great. Before you take the jump however, do give it a moment’s thought.

Key question to think about. Which side of the spectrum do you lean towards?


As mentioned in the diagram, this is a purely unschooled view on people. I have intentionally not used words like OCD or ADHD so as to not incur the wrath of schooled psychologists.

My understanding is that we all lean towards one side in terms of our traits.

In my case, I clearly lean towards the Attention Deficit side of things. I have low attention span on most things and it takes a tremendous amount of effort to focus on detail. It’s not impossible but it doesn’t come naturally. Focus, attention to detail, being a sniper etc are hence learned traits. 

As far as thoroughness is concerned, I’ve found that to be a state of mind. If it’s something I consider very important, I can sit myself down and be thorough. But, that applies to few things.

If I have to learn something on the side by myself, I would likely learn enough to get by. And, if you’ve ever seen me swim, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I am an average swimmer. I can swim a few 50 metre laps pretty okay but I don’t do it right. The strokes are not right and there’s no elegance in the process. Of course, I’m self taught. It’s a similar story with football.

When we watch someone who hasn’t learnt things right, it’s tempting to think it’s a person problem. In my case, I judged myself as someone who couldn’t learn stuff properly. But, how could I explain table tennis then? Or some of the other stuff I can do right. The simple answer here is that I learnt under a teacher.

For someone with my traits, a teacher helps greatly when learning something that I deem a hobby/not a ‘main thing’. Teaching myself guitar, for example, would be a big mistake. I would learn enough to get by but I would be doing it wrong. Being thorough is not my strength.

If you can identify yourself in some of these traits, then please do yourself a favor and get yourself a teacher when you want to learn something outside of your job. I’m of course assuming you deem what you do important. If you don’t, then a coach would do you no harm there either. :-)

Essentially, teaching oneself is not for everyone. There’s no pride lost if you don’t have the natural discipline or thoroughness required. In fact, if you understand yourself enough to game the traits that might be holding you back, that’s a big win.

And, if you are on the other side like a few good friends of mine, what are you waiting for? Decide, and get proficient!