Are Autodidacts Smarter Than Regular People?

Many people choose to spend their free time reading non-fiction books, watching a few documentaries, and learning something new. They feel good when they can share their general knowledge on a few topics with others around them, though they may feel a bit overshadowed when an autodidact comes into the picture. Is the autodidact smarter than the regular person, though?

An autodidact is smarter than regular people in certain topics that interest them the most. Most autodidacts choose to self-teach themselves different topics, diving in deep to learn as much as possible. They will research, read, listen, take notes, and do hands-on work to learn their topic.

An autodidact is not necessarily smarter than a regular person. They just happen to have in-depth knowledge about a few topics that highly catch their interest. As we will see in this article, anyone can become an autodidact and learn as much as they want to teach themselves about any topic

What Is an Autodidact?

An autodidact is someone who takes the time to study a new topic on their own. They complete their studies deeply and comprehensively, hoping to gain a good understanding of the topic and not just a summary of it.

While many people are curious about the world and different topics, the autodidact will take this a bit further.

Rather than just visiting a museum and reading a few non-fiction books, the autodidact will find a textbook, even at the college or graduate school level, and read. They may take notes about what they learn.

Depending on what field they choose to study and how much they have to spend, an autodidact might even spend time doing lab work that includes more hands-on learning and experimentation. The goal of this is to gain a really deep understanding of the topic by studying it themselves without going to classes.

Facts to Know About an Autodidact

There are a few key components that come into play to help you understand who an autodidact is and how they are determined against an average learner. Some key features include:

  • An autodidact is considered a self-educator. This means they are a learner and a teacher at the same time in any subject that interests them.
  • The autodidact will often do their studies privately and informally. They may sometimes consult and discuss the topic with others to help challenge their ideas and elaborate on things they don’t understand. Most of the learning is done on their own, though.
  • This can start at any point in a person’s life. They can choose to start early in life or even when they are older.
  • This is not something that limits the learners to what they can find in books. Depending on the subject, they may be able to find hands-on ways to learn as well. They can use any material that is considered appropriate for that field.
  • This urge to learn comes from the need of the person to acquire more knowledge than some of their traditional settings, including friends, family, and the school can provide.
  • It is a direct result of humans’ inquisitiveness, the urge to engage with lifelong learning on a topic, or a discipline that you have passion about.

During this time, the self-learner will have complete control over the learning they do. They can decide what topic they would like to learn about, how in-depth they want to get about the topic, the learning approach they go with, and how many hours they want to spend on gaining the knowledge at any given time. It is all spurred on by the passion and thirst that individuals have for gaining knowledge.

This is all self-imposed. The autodidact has to decide it all on their own, doing the reading, the studying, and the pace based on what they have time for, their interest level, and more.

Are Autodidacts Smart?

An autodidact is not necessarily smarter than other people around them. They are often knowledgeable about a few key subjects that interest them and could spend all day spouting off facts, sharing information, and talking about those subjects. They are self-learners who are excited to learn more, with or without the help of others.

The fact that these individuals know endless facts about a specific topic can make them seem smarter than others. Depending on the topic they choose to have an interest in, and the subject they know about, the autodidactic will sound smarter and may make someone else feel less knowledgeable.

Autodidacts are not knowledgeable about every subject, though. While lifelong learners and regular people may know a few facts here and there about many different topics, just enough to keep the conversation going on a general level, the autodidact will not know about a variety of topics. They just know a lot about a few subjects that they care deeply about.

For example, you may walk up to a regular person and be able to talk about the weather, local politics, and a few other topics on a general level with one another. The conversation may not be deep, but you would be able to talk on a bunch of different topics and keep the conversation going well.

For an autodidact, this is a bit harder. If you talk about a subject that they have studied about or are willing to listen to their findings and their information about it, they can talk for hours on end. If you do not know anything about a subject and try to discuss something else, the topic may be harder for them, and the autodidact may not know how to respond well.

An autodidact is good for the subjects that they have studied. They are self-taught, so they let their interests take them without having to bring in a teacher. And they are assured of their knowledge in those topics. But a regular person may be more of a lifelong learner and knows a little bit about a bunch of topics.

Can Anyone Become an Autodidact?

Anyone can become an autodidact. This is as simple as being willing to self-teach yourself about any topic you are interested in.

You do not need to be a scholar or someone who has endless hours on your hand. You simply need to be self-motivated to find the right resources to learn along the way. An autodidact does not rely on anyone else to teach them; they are happy to do the work themselves.

Anyone who has a passion for any topic, a few hours during the week to study, and the ambition to find many different source materials to learn as much about the topic as possible can become an autodidact.

How Is Autodidactism Different From Lifelong Learning?

At first glance, being an autodidact may seem like the same thing as someone who enjoys lifelong learning. It is related, but there are some distinctions. Some of these distinctions include:

  • A lifelong learner works to keep their mind active all through their adult life and into old age. They may watch documentaries on occasion, visit museums, and read some non-fiction books. They like to be curious and learn about many topics at once.
  • An autodidact may do a lot of learning as well, but they take this a step further. They don’t just learn here and there. They actively study and try to dive deep into a subject. They may even get to the point where they can contribute some new knowledge to the field because they learn so much about it.
  • The main difference between these two is the depth. The lifelong learner will know a little bit about a lot of things. An autodidact will have some very in-depth knowledge about a few topics.
  • There is nothing wrong with being a lifelong learner, either. These individuals often study in their free time and may learn a combination of things that interest them and current popular trends. Their knowledge may not be as in-depth, but it allows them to have conversations with many different people, and share a few facts along the way.
  • Lifelong learning often doesn’t take as much time either. Reading a book on occasion, looking at a few favorite blogs, and catching the news, with a little deeper research when necessary, is all that is required to become a lifelong learner and enjoy those benefits.

An autodidact learns a bit differently. While they may have lots of interests and some do try to have general knowledge on a few popular topics, they have their own passions they like to study. This allows them to go after it like crazy, reading as many books as possible, bringing it up in many conversations, and looking at multiple blogs.

Should I Become an Autodidact?

An autodidact enjoys learning about specific topics that highly interest them. They are self-taught and know where to find resources that help them learn even more.

With this background in mind, you may wonder why it is a good idea to become an autodidact. There are several reasons to consider this kind of learning.

First, it is a lot of fun. You can learn in-depth information about an important topic, though it may take some time. You may take classes, search online and at the library, and ask professionals about the topic. This helps you become almost an expert in the field yourself, and that is a lot of fun too.

Another reason to become an autodidact is that it will help you specialize in a field and gain the trust of those who would like to hire you. While many jobs are becoming automated over time, some will need specialists who know more than computers and can stand out from the crowd. An autodidact who knows about a specific subject could fit the bill.

The economy of our future will require those who can learn new skills and still be able to adapt. Almost everyone will likely become an entrepreneur to some extent, and that will change our business landscape.

How to Become an Autodidact

Anyone can become an autodidact. You just need to have passion about something and be willing to teach yourself more about it for as long as it takes to have in-depth knowledge about the topic.

This may take a few months or a few years. It all depends on what the topic is and your passion for working on this. Here are some of the steps that you can use to turn yourself into an autodidact.

Discover Your Passion

Think about what you would like to focus on.

Knowing your passion is the first step. Without passion, it will be impossible to maintain motivation to keep on learning. Start with some smaller topics that make it easier to obtain a bunch of information on any subject. Once you have mastered this, you can move on to more complex or inclusive views on that subject.

Let’s say that your passion is history. You may choose to pick out one specific country or period that intrigues you. You can then concentrate on one specific thing, rather than flooding your brain with too much at once.

Focus on “Just in Time” Learning

We are in a world where everyone wants to get instant gratification. This is why working with a “just in time’ learning method is popular. This is a method where the learning is available on-demand, and you can easily access it as needed.

If you wait too long to learn this knowledge, it will be too late, and you will be behind. It doesn’t matter the topic. Information moves fast. Just in time, learning helps you stay up to date about a topic and know as much as possible about it.

Immerse Yourself in the Topic

The more you can immerse yourself in your chosen topic, the better. You can start by reading about the topic and take notes. Then move on to looking at blogs, listening to different podcasts, watch videos on YouTube, and take classes at your local college or on Skillshare.

The more resources you can use during this, the better. This introduces you to many viewpoints on the subject and makes it easier to learn something new. If there is a debate, you can make up your mind concerning it.

Attend Workshops and Courses

Always look for alternative methods that will help you learn. Many universities offer open courses online. You can choose a few and learn more about your topic. If you do take an online class, be engaged. Interact with others during the class to get the most out of it.

Workshops and talks online work if you cannot make it in person. You can look on YouTube and other social media to find a few options for discussions and workshops to help you learn more. Forums on your topic can be useful to find others with ideas to challenge you or to ask questions about anything confusing.

Take Lots of Notes

The more notes you can take about any topic, the better you can review and learn. You can even start by writing down any ideas you have on the topic before you begin.

During the study time, brainstorm some more and write out summaries of the knowledge to help you keep track of the learning. A good tool to consider helping you organize all your notes in Evernote. Pencils and paper work great too. Pick the note-taking method that works the best for you.

Reading the information once will not help it stick in your memory. Writing it down and reviewing the information helps you to remember it. Once you have read through the new information you find, you can look back at the notes and take stock of the new knowledge.

Keep on Learning

An Autodidact does not stop learning after one or two books on a subject. This is lifelong learning. Someone who is considered an autodidact will want to dive in as much as possible. They spend their time looking through many books, online, watching videos, going to classes, talking to professionals, and learning by using their hands.

Keep learning for as long as your passion and motivation will help move you forward. Some autodidacts will spend a month or so learning about a topic with an obsession and call it good. Others may do it for a few years, never getting tired of new information that comes out.

Since this is self-taught, you can continue with your learning until you feel done. So keep learning and exploring until your curiosity is satisfied.


An autodidact is someone who loves learning and doesn’t have a problem teaching themselves a new topic. They like to explore through books, by talking to others, and from hands-on work, though they will take any situation they can to learn more about their chosen topic. Anyone can be an autodidact as long as they develop a passion for learning. 


3 thoughts on “Are Autodidacts Smarter Than Regular People?”

  1. It seems to me like you are confusing self learning with some sort of obsessive compulsive behaviour to learn one subject; or maybe a form of autism. An autodidact is about learning, not memorizing and regurgitating facts. To say autodidacts “spout facts” is indicative of someone who is not an autodidact, nor understands what autodidactism is. An actual autodidact would have *learned* that by now. Rather it indicates someone who needs to be taught, and cannot understand things outside of their ken without being helped. So let me help: being able to spout facts is indicative of someone who is good at memorizing; something that traditional schools are exceptional moulding children to do (fortunately for us so far, some kids rise above this). Learning is understanding the topic and being able to extrapolate from it. An autodidact will learn root fundamentals to be able to extrapolate ideas to be able to use it later, in different and sometimes novel ways.

    Autodidacts do not necessarily and often do not obsess on one particular topic. They learn what they need across a range of topics in order to achieve their goals. They are often more balanced and able to accept new ideas from different people more easily than the average person. But on the other hand, they may have some ideas that are counter to what the average person thinks, primarily because their thought processes are not the same as average folk.

    And consider, pretty much all of modern science comes from autodidactism. The folks who laid the groundwork of modern science did it in eras where people didn’t have the time or money, in general, to devote to learning one subject in an autistic manner. Most from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries were relatively well off, even rich, successful people who had to know many things in depth in order to maintain that success. How autodidacts think and operate has not changed to this day, they are not the one dimension obsessive compulsives you describe. This is really a terrible article that doesn’t explain what and who an autodidact is well at all.

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