In Follow Your Dreams

Whenever I finish a book that I love, I scour the author’s bio trying to figure out what made him or her so amazing. I did this a few years ago when I finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and, believe it or not, there was one line from her bio that I found so inspirational, I never forgot it: Elizabeth went to college in New York City in the early 1990s, and spent the years after college traveling around the country and the world, working odd jobs, writing short stories and essentially creating what she has referred to as her own MFA program.

From the second I read it, I fell in love with the idea of creating your own MFA program based on your life’s experiences. It got me thinking about self-education and how important it can be as we pursue our dreams. Too often people let fears of inadequacy and education scare them into believing that they need to invest their time and money into one expensive degree after the next in order to achieve their dreams. But in many cases, this is just an avoidance tactic that people use to delay taking action. Some students can become overwhelmed with the amount of educational work that they have to get through, they will find ways to help themselves, whether that be group help, one on one tutorial help or going onto sites such as, the possibilities for them to get through their education is endless.

The concept of self-directed learning, or autodidacticism, is by no means new. In fact, some of the most influential people of the ages – Socrates, Descartes, Benjamin Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, and Malcolm X – were autodidacts. Some were thrust into it because they couldn’t afford a formal education and others happened into it accidentally.

Business philosopher, Jim Rohn, says, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

Don’t believe him? Check out this list of some other self-taught legends:

  • Musician David Bowie
  • Magic duo Penn and Teller
  • Filmmakers James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and Steven Soderbergh
  • Musician Frank Zappa
  • Author Terry Pratchett
  • Poet William Blake

Even author Mark Twain is known to have said: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Please understand that my purpose here is not downplay formal degree programs, just to remind you of the merits of self-education. As Elizabeth Gilbert and countless others have proven, self-directed learning can go a long way in helping you acquire the skills, knowledge and experience you need to follow your dreams.

So I ask you, what does your MFA program look like?

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  • Diar A.

    I used to be SO obsessed in finding MFA scholarship opportunities (since I didn’t get to study the major I so-wanted most for my bachelor’s degree). But after quitting my formal job (which is also not the kind of job I always dreamed of) and going through a freelance writing career phase (with financial shortage and all), I’m like “This IS life”. People may not think I’m successful (based on their own shallow definition), but I’m running an interesting life. Guess that’s what my MFA program looks like.

    Thanks for this inspiring article, Erica 🙂 I loved all the quotes you had on this post!

  • Chantal

    Great article. I have an MS, but I consider my biggest education living abroad after quitting my first job. I’ve learned so much about myself, my country, and my host country by doing so. And it’s creatively inspiring to live outside your comfort zone. Even if it means feeling like a 2-year-old half the time.

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