Though my original plan was to attend law school and practice law, I ended up getting married early, starting a family and being an entrepreneur; though I did work 12 years as a Virginia Magistrate and fulfilled part of my dream to work in the legal profession. Since dropping out of college, I've racked up many hours of technical training in business, finance, and law. I completed paralegal training and have gone back to college for some very career specific classes and continuing education. But, for the most part, I consider myself self-educated - a "lifelong learner."
Though that raises eyebrows in certain circles, I'm quite proud of that fact. As a recent article at Art of Manliness points out . . .
Many, perhaps most, of history’s greatest men were autodidacts – those who devote themselves to self-education, either in addition to or as a substitute to formal schooling. A fantastic example of this is author Louis L’Amour. L’Amour was one of America’s most prolific and manliest fiction writers. During his career he cranked out over 120 dime Western novels as well as several collections of short stories and poems. What makes Louis L’Amour’s story all the more remarkable is that he was almost entirely self-taught.
Due to family hardships, L’Amour dropped out of school when he was fifteen and spent the next eight years traveling around the American West working odd jobs on cattle ranches, farms, lumber mills, and even mines. To earn extra money L’Amour boxed in small prizefights around the country and earned a reputation as a formidable opponent. While in his twenties L’Amour became a merchant marine and traveled the globe via steamship.
During all this time, L’Amour was voraciously reading books. As soon as he set foot in a new town, he’d locate the local library. If libraries weren’t around, he’d skip meals so he’d have enough money to order books from catalogs. He was also working on his craft as a budding writer, scribbling notes in cheap notepads that he kept with him all the time.
All of his experiences while traveling, all the books he read, and all the notes he wrote laid the groundwork for his later successful career. But even after L’Amour became an established writer, his pursuit of learning continued and rewarded him greatly. He is a perfect example of the fascinating life one can create for himself when he makes the commitment to be a lifelong learner. (If you want to learn more about L’Amour’s lifelong self-education, pick up a copy of his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man. Super inspiring read.)
The point of this post is two-fold: First of all, don't be intimidated by academics or those who are more "educated" than you are. Before becoming a magistrate, I was in awe of lawyers - even intimidated by them. They were, at least in my mind, the best educated and knowledgeable persons in America; ostensibly having a firm grasp (by necessity) on the English language, history, and an appreciation for tradition. But when I was first appointed to a four year term, my immediate supervisor - a graduate of Washington and Lee - told me that within 4 years, I'd know more about Virginia criminal law than 99% of all attorneys in the Commonwealth. He was wrong. It only took two years. It has become common knowledge that a bachelor's degree today is about the equivalent of a high school diploma in the 1950's. Big whoop. If you're well read, you can, in most cases, stand up to anyone with a college degree, even if you never finished high school.
Of course, those with advanced degrees often have very detailed and specific knowledge in their particular field, but knowledge does not necessarily equate intelligence nor wisdom.
Secondly, obtaining the level of education that most bachelor degrees now offer is relatively simple. Just read good books on history, politics, finance, and whatever else interests you. Read classic literature. Ask questions. Explore the world around you. The internet has opened up the world's libraries and books to folks who once could have only dreamed of having access to such treasures. No, you won't have a piece of paper making your education "official", but you can earn the same merits and respect through accomplishments, which is really what it's all about anyway, right?
Read the rest of the excellent article on lifelong learning here at the Art of Manliness.