Usman Riaz and Attitude of Self-Directed Learning

One of the most critical skills for modern day students and professionals is ability to learn beyond the confines of a class room. We are fortunate that so much of profound learning is available for free – why do we not learn then?

There is a saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. One can have presence on all sorts of social media channels but that does not ensure learning. Because learning starts with an intent, an inner force to know more, dig deeper and understand. It expands as we internalize what we learn and then do something about it. Learning is not one-time-4-year-degree-course, but a lifelong commitment. Degree may be a launch pad, but ability to learn beyond the classroom, self-directed effort to learn and do are wings!

Consider the story of 21 years old Usman Riaz, a Pakistani music composer and an ace acoustic guitar player. Usman grew up learning the art of percussive guitar by watching videos on YouTube.

Usman recently played onstage at TEDGlobal 2012 followed by a brilliant solo performance from the master of percussive guitar, Preston Reed. These two guitarists then took on a very spur-of-the-moment improvisation to stamp their mastery.

Watch this demonstration of what wonders self-directed learning can do.

In an interview, Usman Riaz says (emphasis added),

I think my generation is one of the luckiest generations of people because up until the Internet became such an integral part of our lives (for me it was around 7 or 8 ) I had seen how the world functioned without the Internet, which just made me appreciate it even more and not take it for granted.

We have so much knowledge available to us at our fingertips. I try to use it to the best of my ability. I want to get better everyday. You can never stop learning.

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You may also like reading:

  1. Lifelong Learning: Lesson From A Cab Driver

  2. On Personal Mastery and Commitment to Learning

  3. Lifelong Learning – 20 Lessons

Wisdom on Creativity


I recently read a fantastic book titled “Creativity: Unconventional Wisdom from 20 Accomplished Minds” by Herbert M. Meyers and Richard Gerstman. This book features 20 accomplished creative individuals from different walks of life and they narrate their journeys on creative path. Here are some unconventional and thought-provoking insights from the book:

Money and Creativity

I don’t think money stirs creativity. I think if you are naturally creative, you end up doing it because you cannot do anything else. If you think “I want to be famous” or “I want to make a lot of money,” my sense is that you don’t go into most creative jobs. – David Halberstam

Taking Risks

I think to be creative, you have to resist taking the easy path. You have to resist common truths, and you have to take certain risk. Not risk for the sake of taking risk, but risk to delve into territories that are not well traveled. – Daniel Libeskind

Business Creativity

To my mind, a lot of business creativity has to do with visualizing the future that others don’t see. In business, success comes when you see something – you see a pattern, and may be you look at different things that are not completely related – and when you look across those things, you suddenly see a kernel of an idea. And that has the potential of making an impact. – Nandan Nilekani

Surrendering Yourself

…the process of creating the work is a process of discovery, both inner and outer discovery. It cannot be forced and you don’t know where it comes from, but in surrendering yourself to the process, you make discoveries. – Erica Jong

Creativity raises questions

My creations try to be a question, rather than an answer – James Rosenquest

Method of Creativity!

My method is more like golf, which is the only sport where you move from general to specific in an ideal number of discrete, correcting moves. The first stroke is just out there, the second stroke corrects that, and the third corrects that further. – Chuck Close

Essence is in the act

When I attended art class in college we would argue for a whole session over “What is Art?” Someone suggested, “It’s something you do and not something you just talk about. – Chris Bangle

Ultimate Human Creativity

Creativity within an individual can manifest itself in many different ways such as in somebody actually being an amazingly good parent. There’s nothing at the human life level that’s more fundamental than being a fantastic parent. That’s the ultimate – that’s probably the most creative act. – Paul Warwick Thompson

Also Read:

– Posts on “Being Creative” at QAspire Blog