Real Education

Would it be best for you to shortcut life and ignore the present moment, or would it make you more fulfilled to stay present and alive?

Those who cannot see beyond the symbols are like diners going into a restaurant and eating the menu. - Joseph Campbell

Fast-food education is the type of learning that most people accept. It tastes good initially, but it's not fun and it kills the soul. In this scenario, our mind slows down long before our body does.

This type of learning is cheap. It's commoditized. It's ineffective. It's safe. It's socially accepted. It's rarely challenged.

It's the siren call that lulls people into denying their true aptitudes. It leads them by gilded leash into a life authored by others.


Self-education is the type of education that compounds, because it is human. The world doesn't give course outlines to prompt your study. You have to learn it yourself and integrate it into your actions. It becomes a part of you.

This type of learning is expensive. It's robust. It’s natural. It's rare. It's taxing. It's retained. It’s actionable. It's real.

It’s the energy that lifts people into their own greatness and those around them. With many setbacks, humblings, and eurekas, it makes people strong and reminds them that they are only human after all. It makes people more confident in their decisions and less easy to manipulate, because they have learned to think for themselves. It teaches people that they have a say in their lives, and that the choice is always theirs.


Learning in this way doesn’t appear to be learning. It doesn’t always feel like learning. But it is the human way to learn. It’s the way that we have always learned, and will always (truly) learn.

Most people resistant to this idea have careers in formal education or academic research. And they are the very ones that would probably benefit from it most.

You come up with an initial insight, you formulate the right questions, you research and find the right answers to your initial questions, and continue that cycle until you are satisfied. You are humbled over and over again, but pick yourself back up. And suddenly, you look up, and you’ve actually learned something!


Because you don’t have a test to take, and you are intrinsically motivated to learn the thing. You recognize the underlying value of the thing you wanted to learn — this is called being alive.

When you are alive, you see things for what they really are: not understood. And then, naturally, you ask questions to try to understand.

Asking these questions doesn't tick a box or secure an exam grade.

Instead, asking questions and being curious fills your soul with the desire to continue learning. Every question you ask leads to another question, if you remain humble.

You don't seek out learning because you know that this thing is the "best" topic to learn, or "higher priority than the other tasks on my list". You instead seek it out because it makes you alive!


There is no direct feedback or grade on the application of your knowledge. The real world is much messier than a classroom. The real world gives messy feedback. In order to learn anything beyond a surface level, you want to take your time and apply your knowledge in the real world.

Many people have conflicting opinions, and your first job is to figure out who is lying more than the other! All of them are lying to some extent. They are only human and overestimate their understanding of anything and everything, exactly like you or me.

They may, with the best of intent, feed you lies that they know as truth. Look at them with the same judgment you'd want applied to yourself, and treat them well. They are doing their best.

It is up to you to step back and integrate the advice that appears to be most true. And while doing this, you will remember that this advice you integrate is often flimsy at best, indefensible against newer and truer information you will come across in the future.

You may realize that advice that works at one point in time doesn't work at another point in time. You may realize that the advice that works for one person doesn't work for another. You may realize that "better" advice is a crapshoot and only you can decide what is best.

Understanding this may make you a kinder person. You may lose interest in arguments and debates. You may start to look at what is talking, rather than who is talking. You may start to see that others are just doing the best that they know.

And once you've really figured it all out, the universe will look up from her crossword puzzle, laugh for a few seconds - then throw the nearest object at you.


The biggest advantage of teaching yourself is that there are no shortcuts. This is a valuable lesson to internalize because it snaps you out of your fast-food stupor. There is no one coming to rescue or spoon-feed you! Only you can take ownership.

There is no easy path to wisdom and competence. Why would it be easy to grow? Why would it be relaxing to become wealthy? Why would learning be tailor-made and pleasant just for you?

Seeking shortcuts keep you at the superficial level. It stunts your growth and teaches you to lie to yourself about your true understanding. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.


If we take a step back together and think about it for a second…

Would it be best for you to lie about the work you’ve done, or become the person who can do the job right?

Would it be best for you to rush into finding a spouse, or would it be better to take your time?

Would it be best for you to attempt the change the world, or would it be best for you to grow as a person and improve how other people experience you?

Would it be best for you to assemble a rigid and indefensible box of opinions that you defend with zeal, or would it be best for you to be aware of your own fallibility and seek truth even if painful?

Would it be best for you to shortcut life and ignore the present moment, or would it make you more fulfilled to stay present and alive?


If you’re not alive and present, it’s so hard to be curious about things, you can’t really ask the right questions, you won’t be able to discern shreds of truth from noise, what is real and what is fake. You are destined to suffer the doldrums of ignorance until the day you choose to be in the present moment. In this way — you die before your body does.

But it doesn't have to be that way.


Written with love,