Ever hear of the term – autodidactic?

Yes, it is important to understand this principle because it goes to the heart
of all learning for students, and continuous education for adults.

Short and sweet, autodidactic is from Greek and means self-taught. It places the
responsibility for learning on you and me, and not on the teacher and school.

Our research indicates 90% of executives are unaware that lifelong-learning reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s up to 60%, and increases your longevity up to 10 years. The secret of life-long learning is being an autodidact, using libraries and
the Internet to discover knowledge on your own. Use it or lose it.


It is only since the 1950s that a college degree has become a prerequisite requirement for a trainee (bottom of the ladder) job. Today, the apprentice system
through on the job training by observation, trial and error, and asking questions, is limited to unions practicing specialized skills.

The list of auto-didactic writers, inventors, and investors who never completed
college or dropped out of high school is mind-boggling. Names you assume had
a PhD, and in fact had difficulty passing the 8th grade include the following:

Kirk Kerkorian, one of the richest investors in the world left after 8th grade.
Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, quit school at age 15.

R. Buckminister Fuller, architect, Robert Frost, poet, and Stanley Kubrick,
director of The Shining, 2002, The Space Odyssey, and Clockwork Orange,
created masterpieces through their own creativity.

Inventors including Thomas Edison and Dean Kamen had no degrees, while the sixteenth President, A. Lincoln trained himself to be a lawyer without the aid of an educational institution.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote two classics, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Ernest Hemmingway received a Nobel Prize for literature, but never had
a high school diploma.

Oh yeah, Bill Gates dropped out of college in his first year because he decided Harvard had nothing to teach him about computers. We all know he is not on welfare and makes a decent living.

Mark Twain wrote, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
The Little Red School House

The American dilemma is we hate change, it scares us to death, but
love newness and personal improvement. Our heart’s desire is for things
to remain in the status quo, our comfort zone, but for our lives to get much better.

It is common knowledge that the American educational system is modeled on
preparing laborers to work in factories. Call it similar to Henry Ford’s assembly line for mass production. We celebrate creativity, yet educate our next generation
to be conformists and not rock the boat.

The writers, inventors, and innovators in finance and industry are most often autodidacts because the colleges disparage original thinking. Stanford University
and MIT are the exceptions to the rule by rewarding creative thinking by both students and faculty.

These two schools have an enviable record of producing the next generation of leaders and managers of Silicon Valley technology, and national entrepreneurs. Most universities of advance learning do not produce the Vital Few (20%), but the Trivial Many (80%). Google: Vilfredo Pareto and the 80/20 rule.

Why Creative Students Drop Out

We train graduates in the art of criticism, fault finding, and being judgment when
confronted with their own or others original ideas and plans.

We strongly recommend reviewing Cracking Creativity by Michael Michalko, Ten Speed Press. The principle he recommends is a synthesis (combining) of unrelated ideas and subjects.

It requires a typed list to memorialize your ideas, and answer questions about your approach. Creating a written list also produces a speeding up of your thinking.

a) Can you substitute things, procedures, and markets, to make your idea better?
b) Can you combine your idea with something else to produce something new?
c) Can you adapt other proven ideas to improve your new concept?
d) Can you enlarge (magnify) or miniaturize your produce or service for a
different niche market? Can you add another use for your concept?
e) Can you eliminate something to produce it faster, better or cheaper?
f) Can you put it to a totally different use? The peanut (G.W. Carver) has
300 separate specific uses.
g) Can you turn your idea upside down? Look at opposites?

Look for unexpected ideas to make this system fun, play, and productive.

One brilliant concept Michalko explains is that creativity (uniqueness) occurs
by consciously setting yourself a threshold of a large quota of ideas. It is natural
to stop after finding just one or two ideas because you remember they worked
for you in the past. When you force yourself produce 20 ideas instead of the standard couple, you will discover the best, most original ideas are in the final 30% of your creativity.

It takes your mind time to clear out the traditional solutions, and reserves the best
for last. More ideas are better because your thinking and intuition gets in the Flow, in the Zone, and you discover Peak Experiences.

The more time you spend on thinking in order to produce volume, the greater the probability of hitting the Mother Lode of ideas.

Life-Long Learning And Longevity

What does it take to live a long life? Most of us would suggest, more money, peace of mind, a good family, and not getting hit by a crosstown bus. According to
fifty years of research, up to 2008, the most powerful answer is education and life-long learning.

Longevity is not evenly distributed across the 300 million population of the U.S.
Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, says, “Education keeps
coming up.”

Michael Grossman of City University of N.Y. says, “What affects health and longevity? I would put education at the top of my list.”

Our brain is no different than the muscles in our body in following the rule,
Use it or Lose it. After formal schooling is finished, most of us live another
fifty years. Ask yourself, what have I learned in the past ten years in terms of
a new field of knowledge or skill? Are you exercising your brain regularly?

Dr. Yaakov Stern, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University
coined the term, Cognitive Reserve. It’s a saving bank account for brain power.
The more you use your cerebral cortex, the better it gets at being creative.

Using your mind is like lubricating the moving parts of an engine to prevent rust from disuse and wear and tear. Dr. Stern has a body of work indicating that you reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s up to 60%, and adds to longevity by life-long learning.

Google: Yaakov Stern and discover specific learning activities to extend your longevity. Would an extra 10 years of healthy life motivate you?


We suggest learning to triple your reading speed and double your long-term
memory will advance your schooling and career. It might just add years to your life.
Ask us how Speedlearning can give you a competitive advantage over your peers.

See ya,

copyright © 2008
H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published
by Barrons; business partner of Evelyn Wood, creator
of speed reading, graduating 2 million, including the
White House staffs of four U.S. Presidents.