Ten weeks ago, I started this experiment with one goal in mind: learn to code. Now, I have learned a little bit of Java, but I’m no where near the skill level that I planned to be. Despite getting sidetracked from coding, I have learned a lot about a wide range of topics. 

I am insane. Mostly.
Who in their right mind would take four home release periods and not spend them sleeping? Who would try and improve their piano skills after not picking up the instrument for nearly five years? Who would give up the opportunity to be a part of the Davis High School Wind Ensemble, one of the finest concert bands in the country? Who would be crazy enough to think they could completely control their education and be dedicated to learning for six to eight hours straight every other day?

Yep, that’s me. 

The other day, I was talking with a childhood friend of mine, now in his twenties, who is pursuing a career as a professional musician. This is a difficult field to succeed in for anyone, but he couldn’t even read music when he decided to take that path a few years ago. I commended him for not only finding his passion, but chasing after his dream. I said that it takes bravery to do that, to which he replied, “Yeah, and maybe a little stupidity.” 

In my decision to take on this experiment of going to school every other day, I didn’t think that there was a ton of risk involved. I wasn’t “selling the farm” and starting my own company, nor was I giving up my high school diploma. I could see more risk in me not  trying the experiment than doing it.

Looking back, there are distinct opportunity costs to my decision and there are risks involved with the nature of what I’m doing. For example, by staying home, I have forgone regular social interaction with my peers. By opting for online learning, I miss out on experiencing face to face interation with a teacher. Though I have enough credits to graduate, taking home release periods gives me no credit and eliminates me from the high honor role. I could have taken AP and CE classes that would help me get farthur along in college. 

But what good is college if you don’t know why you’re there?

I learned that It can be tough learning on your own. Here’s why: 

1. It takes discipline

2. You need lots of willpower

3. You only have so much willpower

4. You get frustrated when your willpower runs out

5. You need to create a syllabus for yourself

6. You end up abandoning your syllabus

7. You get distracted by the next shiny thing to learn that passes by

8. It’s tough to ask questions to a teacher that is a computer screen

9. You have to stay in your house all day

10. Some days you just don’t feel motivated

The list goes on.

One thing that I have discovered is that the Internet is a wonderful place. Yes, there are the dark places of the web where the trolls hang out, but there are also incredibly bright spaces. Rather than 40-year-olds who live in their parents’ basement, the best parts of the Internet are populated with 40-year-olds who work from their own basement, making millions while supporting a family and leading a happy life. One of these places is the Learning How to Learn group on Facebook, which I would highly recommend joining. Another is Medium, specifically Benjamin P. Hardy’s articles. Others include YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Kahn Academy, Pluralsight, Udemy, and TED. 

All of these places can easily suck away your time if you’re not careful. We’ve all been there–what begins as a study break watching basketball highlights on YouTube quickly spirals into a binge populated with random suggested videos and finally ending with you watching cats get scared of cucumbers before you snap out of it and get back to your homework. The key to using the Internet productively is intent. There are countless hours of valuable online learning on YouTube, they are just surrounded by distractions. If you go in with the intent to learn, you will be able to resist distractions and come out with that intent fulfilled. 

One of the best parts of not going to school is having the freedom to fill my schedule with lots of different good things. I feel the most productive when I prioritize what I need to do and fill my time hierarchically.

Here’s what I mean:

Day X 

Big things to do:

– Design a week’s worth of graphics for CollegeCon

– Email John Doe about scheduling an interview

– Study the scriptures 

– Go to Ultimate Frisbee practice

Other things to do:

– Watch TED talks about public speaking

– Read articles on Medium

– Practice the piano

– Do my homework
I will take the biggest priorities on my list and schedule them first, starting with scripture study. From there, the smaller things fill in the time cracks between the big priorities. 

Going forward, I am going to define specific goals to accomplish daily as well as long term goals that I want to achieve between now and the time I leave for Arizona. I want to continue to have a flexible schedule while maintaining a structured environment focused on getting results. 

If there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that staying accountable is a great motivating factor. Writing down what I do on a daily basis has helped me maintain focus and stretch myself to learn new things. That being said, writing about learning pales in comparison to actually discovering new things.

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