Learning Through Life

I’ve recently started a book by Louis L’Amour, an old western novelist who wrote nearly 100 novels and stories. In this book in particular, he writes of his education and while his formal schooling ended when he was fifteen years old, he goes on to say he continued to learn throughout his life.

L’Amour said when he was young, his house was filled with somewhere between 200-300 books. When he was young, he didn’t know what he wanted to learn, only that school had taught ways to learn and his formal schooling was no longer of much use to him. He began to read whatever he could get his hands on and would learn about any subject. L’Amour said that while traveling the world as a hobo, described as one who travels but is willing to work, he would work any job he could and had held many before departing for a new destination, all the while his pockets would be bulging with books.

L’Amour said he would read whenever he could and if one wanted an education, rather than going to a university, which in his eyes could only provide you with guidelines on ways to learn, one could simply find multiple books on any subject and learn a great deal from the local library. He read books on botany, mineralogy, and many other topics simply from picking them up at the local library and L’Amour said they were much more fun to read than the boring textbooks that were prescribed in schools. L’Amour learned whatever he could and while he wanted to be a writer, he wanted to learn anything he could because it was instilled in him at a young age that he loved both reading and learning. L’Amour said something that stuck with me: if someone wants an education, they’ll find the time for it. He said he counted how much time he had to read one year and had read 25 books just while he was waiting for people whether for a job interview or just for dinner.

I’ve written a number of posts about self-taught or self-learning education and experience versus expensive academic institutions and L’Amour only adds more evidence to the self-educating way of thinking. He was an accomplished writer and still an adored storyteller who attributes his writing and education to his love of reading. Before universities became so commonplace and before it became expected that one would go to college just as it was expected that one would finish high school, people only learned about a subject through reading, experience, or learning directly as some sort of apprentice to a craft. As L’Amour puts it, universities really are only guides to learning a subject, not the end-all, be-all.

Reading is a sure-fire way to earn an education. People who love the act of reading will read whatever books they cross paths with, whether it be a novel in a window or a science book at a library. Even universities teach almost all their classes from a book, whether they are written by another source or by the professor of the course who’s trying to make extra money by forcing his students to purchase his work. Almost every college course has required texts that the professors teach from, so if you’re goal is receive the knowledge, why not just go find a book on a subject you’re interested in for free at the library or cheap on the internet as opposed to spending $2K on a course that will teach that same book anyway?

I’ve found myself wanting to read more books and watch less TV and play less video games and I’ve been pretty good about it so far. The Kindle app on my phone has made reading on the go much easier as I always have it with me. I also have multiple tablets that allow me to read from a vast library when I don’t have my book nearby. I think unplugging and focusing on reading while avoiding social media and the other “distractions” that I allow to keep me from reading will enable me to finish more books and learn much more.

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