The Pain Of Being An Autodidact

I’ve talked about it before. I’m trying to pick up some mad skills here in Arizona. Right now, I’m working on three skills:

  • InDesign
  • GED
  • General Blog Knowledge (wordpress, writing, etc.)

I know. Three skills is a lot to take on, but I’m running out of time. I only have 4 1/2 months before I’m unemployed. When I have a day off here, I’m cramming on all three of these things. I stop studying/working around 6 p.m. and then just free to read/chat online.

But I want to not only leave with some money in my pocket, but to look back and say, “Here’s what I accomplished.” Or that one guy from MAD TV, “Look what I can do!”

But it is difficult and kicking my butt.

I’m learning InDesign from a book, and it is grueling, but I’ve spent a ton of money on the software and books, so I’m plowing ahead, trying to get a chapter done every two days.

For my GED diploma, I started on learning online through a website named MyCareerTools, and it is working pretty good. It’s all about online learning through video instruction and they also provide free practice tests that tell me what to concentrate on most. Very entertaining and efficient.

For blog stuff, I’m using It’s a membership site with guys from the World Domination Summit and I’m learning a great deal on the forums. (Movies take awhile, but they are worth it.)

I just want to quit the InDesign, but I’m sticking to it. (For non-design nerds, it’s a program to do layout for magazines and books.) I read this article: about giving yourself permission to suck and I’m adding that to the Ryan McRae Manifesto of What is Going On (I gotta write that sometime.)

But I’m carrying on. I’m really trying to get my GED credential. All study material is available without spending money on it, and this helps me secure a good job or continue studying at college.

I write this to tell you, if you are trying to learn something new and you feel yucky and dumb, that’s ok. It will pass and you will get it. When I ran my first blog,, it was super awkward, but the stumbling is part of the journey.

So tell me, are you tackling anything? Are you learning something brand new? What keeps you going?


I make it no secret. I’m a huge fan of the show Intervention. It’s on A&E and it follows an addict or two and their road to recovery after their loved ones confront them. It could be food addiction, drugs, alcohol, etc. Sometimes people make it and sometimes they don’t.

I’ve never missed an episode in 8 years. 

I watch it from start to finish, and I have to tell you: if there is a father hugging a son and one of them is crying I am bawling my eyes out here in Arizona. I’m not saying I have an issue with that or it triggers something. No, no, no, my readers. No, no, no.

But I have an addiction that everyone must have seen, but no one will sit me down and tell me about. At some point between my 20’s and (very close to ending) 30’s, I expected people to be sitting around a family room, waiting for me to walk in.

Ryan, we all love you and we have something to say. Will you sit down? And someone else would say, “Ryan, everyone feels they are losing you and they are going to fight to get you back. Will you listen?”

“Um, sure. What is going on?”

But no, that hasn’t happened. Because my addiction, my sweet, sweet addiction is that I’m highly addicted to books.

Amazon and Powell’s are my pushers and I will click, click, and click to get the books either delivered wirelessly to my exhausted Kindle or just to my door here in Arizona.

My Kindle is bulging with stuff I haven’t read. Now, mind you, fair reader, I do read. I can put some books away, but when I’m reading 200 pages a week and ordering 400 pages a week, that’s a problem. As I’m working with through work on my identity, trying to nail down who Ryan McRae is (or at least in theory), this comes up time and time again. I have this issue of being hooked on what people think of me. And one of the biggest issues I have is that I desperately need people to think I’m smart. And books are the only way I can show people, impress people, and fool people into thinking I’m smart.

I have friends who actually don’t read or watch television. They are busy writing or raising a family; they create art and write 7 blog posts a day. But I love to consume, consume, and then consume more and more. But to what end? I mean, I enjoy fiction and nonfiction, but I don’t have this ability to say, “Ryan, that’s enough.” If books were alcohol, you’d be carrying out of Stone Brewing Company, time and time again. If tomes were heroin, I’d be strung out in an alley.

On Black Friday, I found publishing companies that were selling their books for 50% off. My fingers twitched and my eyes danced across the screen. I scoped out Amazon and Powells (I have credit with Powells from all the books I turned in. Yes, I know. Addiction. Got it.)

I have some choices in front of me. You see, I have some series that will be coming out with the next book soon and I need to read that book (The Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss. Come on Patrick, get those hands a moving! Typee Type Type already.) And I can’t imagine not delving into those books. (The addiction was so bad I almost bought some cookbooks. Cookbooks. In Arizona!)

So here’s the deal. I thought about going cold turkey. Really, I did. And I’ve thought about reading two books gives me permission to buy one. Then I thought about the backlog on my Kindle. I have maybe 12 books I need to read on there, plus the books I have back at my base.

So here’s what I’m doing.

I, Ryan McRae, am not going to buy a single book until May 1st, 2013. No books. None. Now, I can grab free ones, but I have to focus on the following:

1. Clearing out my Kindle of all the books I’ve bought.

2. Reading the physical books I have and either send them home or give them to soldiers.

3. Getting space to really read what I love to read instead of this “buy on a whim” crap.

This isn’t going to be easy. And when I finish a book, I’ll put it at the end of a blog article.

Pray for me. And pray Amazon stays in business.

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