"There are two kinds of education you get in this world. One you get from others, and another you give yourself." - Gerald Ford
In my most recent newsletter (March 25, 2013), I discussed and paying tribute to those who have taught you. That is only one way that you learn. The other way is independent study.
Herb Camburn taught many of my theater classes at California State University Long Beach. He stressed developing the ability to study independently. He said if we were dependent on what he taught us, our education would end when we left his classes. However, being able to learn on our own meant that our education would be never ending. According to Herb, independent study had two components, challenging yourself and critiquing yourself.
Challenging yourself means not settling for what is easy or what you have done before. I am currently Cubmaster of a Pack that has an annual rocket rodeo where everyone builds model rockets to launch. I had no previous experience with rockets so when I built my first one I used a kit and followed the directions exactly. The next year I used the same kit but altered the placement of the fins a little. I painted it to look like a totem pole instead of a rocket. The next year I selected a more difficult kit to assemble. Last year I created a model based on the first Toy Story movie that looked like Buzz Lightyear strapped to a rocket. (The Buzz character was a flat cut out attached to the side of the rocket.) This year, in honor of the Iron Man 3 movie, I am designing and building a model that will look like a three dimensional IronMan. It is my most difficult model rocket yet. I am enjoying the challenge. It may not work the way I hope, but no matter what happens I am learning from the attempt.
Challenging yourself requires finding new sources of inspiration. I am fascinated by origami, and heard about a version called Storigami which combines story telling and paper folding. As you make each fold the paper is transformed into a different object that is a prop in a story you are telling. So I challenged myself to do the same thing with balloon sculpture. The result is a motivational story where every twist of a balloon creates a different object concluding with a swan. (I will be performing this routine as part of my lecture Dare to be a Great Clown at the All Things Clown Conference in two weeks.)
Part of challenging yourself is selecting projects that require new knowledge. That requires being able to do the research to find the necessary information. That may be networking with others until you find the person with that knowledge. It may be using resources available on the internet and then evaluating the information that you find to determine its accuracy and relevance. That may mean going to a library and finding helpful books.
Reading is part of continuing your own education. My job description as World Clown Association Historian specifies that I continue learning about clown history. Every three months I submit a quarterly report that includes a list of relevant books and videos I've studied.
The last step in continuing your education is to critique your own work. That means studying it to find its strengths and weaknesses. That means don't be too easily satisfied. Look for ways it could be improved the next time. However, we often look only for the negative. Look for things that worked. Even in projects that don't meet your expectations you will be able to find positive lessons you can build upon if you look for them.
How can you continue your own education? How can you challenge yourself to continually improve? What next step can you take with a project? Where can you find inspiration for new challenges? Where can you find new knowledge? What books will help you continue your education?
When you complete a project ask yourself, what worked well? What did you learn that you can apply to other projects? What would you do differently?