You might think of a learning project as the mythical hero’s journey. My 6 learner’s principles are based on some of the basic principles that define a hero.
1. Ask Great Questions
The hero of fiction is often depicted as starting off on the journey as the Fool who doesn’t have any idea of what lies ahead but is compelled to go. Likewise, the Lover of Learning usually follows a passion , not a profession. They inquire for different reasons than “serious” scholars, which is simply because they want to know. They are natural askers of questions. There are right questions and wrong questions; if you ask the wrong questions you’ll likely end up with the wrong answers, something our political system does repeatedly. Learn to ask right questions.
2. Think Things Through
As an independent learner, you can be a generalist, ignore rigorous techniques demanded by credentials, and easily cross disciplines. You can have fun! But for real learning you still must use the experimental method that requires proof of a theory and real answers to questions rather than wild speculation and reckless linkage of unrelated ‘facts’ or ideas.
3. Be Courageous
However, you can make rash generalizations as beginning theories; you can invent new classifications, and new metaphors. Become a metaphor master. Look for anomalies. Trust your own authority and experience. Reject old explanations. Buddha said don’t believe it just because you read it somewhere, or some venerable person said, it. Believe your own experience.
4. Benefit from the Perspective of Others
Not withstanding the principle of being courageous, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Heros always have mentors. Benefit from the questions others ask and if they fit with your own research, accept them. Without the help of others all along my journey I wouldn’t even know how to turn on the computer. As in everything, trust yourself.
5. Liberate your Mind from Convention Wisdom
Drop cultural constraints. Open up your imagination. Play “what if” games with your topic. If you already think you know the answers, what you doing exploring the topic? Sometimes you don’t know right questions from wrong questions. That’s alright, just be ready to drop the wrong question when you realize it’s the wrong question.
6. Speak the Truth
When your questions have answers, don’t be afraid to say so. When a hero goes on a journey, he always returns with a boon. That boon is meant to be shared with others. What will you do with your new knowledge?