I read Ayn Rand’s lengthy novel The Fountain Head in only a few days. When I was finished I just sat there, staring into space. “What the…?” I thought. The book had some unusual ideas that I’d never considered before. I was confused and I really needed to talk about it with someone. Soon.
It’s true: this site is all about learning independently. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need other people to make the most of your studies. When you come across a difficult problem, it often makes the most sense to seek out an intellectual companion or “study buddy.” Your buddy can be a peer who is learning alongside you or a mentor who has been there before. Whether you’re trying to understand a piece of literature, attempting to fix a broken code, or building a house, it helps to have a second brain along for the adventure.
Many people already have a built-in intellectual community. If you’re surrounded by people who are learning the same things you are, it may be easy to find a “study buddy.” If you find that your friends and family members aren’t interested, it may be more of a challenge. Consider these possible places for finding your intellectual companion:
- An organization or club. Just about every subject has a club devoted to it. Google your city and the subject you’re studying to see if there’s one nearby. Join the club for access to an entire group of like-minded individuals. Or, just ask the group’s president for suggestions on who would make a productive “study buddy.”
- A conference or convention. You may have to travel a bit further, but subject-oriented conferences can be another great place to meet people studying your topic of choice. Stick around for the dinner or cocktail hour; that’s often the best time to get to know people and pass out your business card.
- A college. Most professors love to talk about their subject of choice, especially to people who are actually interested. If you’re courteous of their time, you’ll often find that they’re more than willing to discuss your questions.
- The internet. If you can’t find someone in real life, the internet has chat rooms and message boards for just about every topic imaginable. Websites are helpful, but there’s also a lot to be learned from actually interacting with people.
It may take some time to find someone who is interested in learning with you. However, having someone to discuss your thoughts with can be a huge help.
When I was done sulking about in confusion about the book I’d read, I hit the internet and read some forums discussing Ayn Rand’s ideas. Then, I ordered three copies of her book and gave them as Christmas presents. “It’s more of a gift to myself,” I admitted to the recipients. “Hopefully, we can discuss it when you finish.”