If you are self-taught, you do not know what you do not know. The only dialogue is between you and you, which means that you believe you can dictate your position in any environment. You are unwilling to be educated. This leaves you with two options: either you are always right, or at the very least the most knowledgeable, or you are the most inferior. It does not matter which, because either way everyone else exists only in relation to you. Either way, the qualities that emerge are pride and arrogance. There is disdain for any authority that does not acknowledge your authority. There is resistance to learning from authority, as you are the only expert. Because of this attitude we cannot learn; we cannot receive from someone else. We remain limited and full of what we have decided.
The purpose of a teacher is to help us to gain mastery. When we learn, we take in and build the skill set and capacity to handle what comes our way. A good teacher does that; they do not shield us from learning. They actually allow us to go through what we need to in order to achieve mastery. The world is the laboratory. The truth is, we can learn our lessons everywhere in the world from a good teacher. The teacher is not interested in limiting us. They are interested in sharing their own knowledge.
Self-taught people are often terrible students. They are the ones who dictate their learning without ever having learned how to learn. Think of it: you are completely ill-equipped, but you are directing the interchange. Self-taught people believe they already know what they need to know, and so see the teacher as a resource, an object to be utilized according to the student’s design. “You are going to teach me when I want you to teach me. Not at other times will you teach me, because I am in charge of my education.” For these students, no one else really exists. They are not used to listening and taking in, only debunking.
There is a big difference between the arrogant autodidact and the person who has surrendered to learning from teachers, has learned how to learn, and then can go on to use those skills effectively and with appropriate discernment. These people know how to ask the right questions and especially how not to rest on their laurels. They are not satisfied with superficial knowledge but will dig deeper, and they know how to dig deeper into a subject or situation to find knowledge and resolution. They have actually mastered the art of learning, and so are in fact experts in how to learn, which allows them to approach any subject and be able to reach a certain level of expertise as long as they have the physical and mental capacity. A self-taught person will approach a new project with limited interest, perseverance, and ability to acquire any depth of expertise. They will hit a wall at some point and not know how to break through it. The person who has learned knows how to approach an obstacle or challenge and move through it to attain mastery.
Arrogant autodidacts are extremely irrational, though they think they are rational. The problem is, they based all their rational thinking on an irrational decision they made early in life. Because they have not surrendered to the rigors of real study, they have not advanced. The very foundation of their learning is based on a falsehood, and because they will not surrender to a teacher they have no chance of ever seeing this. Their house of cards will eventually come down, but they will not know why.
When I was four years old I went to Sunday school. My paternal grandmother was the teacher. It was Hanukah. I was just sitting in the class being babysat. To keep me occupied I was given a mimeograph to color of Judah Maccabee standing on some rocks. I grew up in Boston, so when I heard his name I knew he was Scottish. I colored him with a plaid kilt. No one said anything, so my decision was set. I never questioned this and grew up knowing that it was Judah MacAbee, a Scotsman. Not until I was 23 did the truth hit me. By this time I had studied with great teachers. I had a terminal academic degree and my own school in Cambridge, MA for Tai Chi Chuan. Being a martial artist, I was committed to my sense of being a warrior. Around this time of year, my memories came up of Hanukah; I remembered Judah MacAbee, and it hit me as a great insight (proving we should not be so proud of our insights) that Maccabee could not have been a Scotsman. He had to come from a different part of the world. Now everyone knows the extent of my childhood religious education.
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