Mirko Fabian

Being self-taught

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Unsplash

Hey there, this is the first blog post telling about what it’s like to be self-taught and going the way of following my heart. During the last year, I learned so much more than in my almost five years in IT. Why? Because I found what I love to do because I am passionate and motivated. I’d like to give you a better understanding of my way and motivate you to do the same. It’s never too late to make a change in your life. So I welcome you to join me.

About me

Let me introduce myself shortly. I’m Mirko, 24 years old and a self-taught Multimedia-Designer and Photographer. My former profession was in IT, I took a regular three-year apprenticeship and worked as a technical telephone support engineer. At the end of my second year at the apprenticeship, I realized that this isn’t the right job for me. I thought about quitting, fortunately, I didn’t. Even among my IT colleagues, I was different, because I was the one who prefers Mac OS instead of the other systems. In IT I was the underdog, nobody understood me or my workflow. I’ve always been a creative guy, so I was completed misplaced but I stick it out until the day I lost what’s the most important for someone like me, creativity. I’m not just a creative mind, but also empathetic which can be tricky when working on the front line in telephone support. I’ve been told I shouldn’t take anything to heart, but it’s easier said than actually done. While everyone in my team was thinking in one way, I was thinking a completely different way. Yet again I realized that I’m different, and don’t fit in. And like Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work, is to do what you love to do”. 

I’ve never been passionate about the IT job.

What is it like to be self-taught?

To me, it’s the greatest kind of education or training for a job I can imagine. Although I completed a distance study with a voluntary project at the end of it to get a more specific certificate I had freedom. I finished the distance study that was supposed to be done besides a full-time job instead of 19 months in just 6 months. I had a straight plan for every week and simply learned at my own pace. I was motivated because in Multimedia-Design I found what I love to do. Every morning I woke up with a smile, in my previous job it was quite the opposite. That’s why I’m so grateful that I’ve got the chance and financial support that allowed me to go this way. After finishing the regular distance study I didn’t feel “ready” yet. I wanted to learn more, dive in even deeper, and specialize.

Why not go the ordinary way?

Well, I wasn’t allowed to study at a university because I didn’t meet the requirements. Passion, motivation, and creativity aren’t enough to study a job like Multimedia-Design. At the time I quit my job in summer 2020, I was 23 years old. Studying and taking another apprenticeship would mean up to three years of learning and not earning enough money. It would have meant starting over again after I figured out IT wasn’t my kind of thing. 

But this distance study allowed me to learn faster, graduate faster and achieve my goals much earlier than going the way everyone else goes.

Is it worth going this way?

I have to be honest, at this point, it didn’t work out for me as I initially expected and planned. But not getting hired until this day, was the best that could happen to me. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yeah, but it taught me even more than I planned, getting into the mindset of an entrepreneur and thinking about starting my own business. I never wanted to go this way, but yet again it taught me more valuable life lessons. That’s why I can tell you, being self-taught can be the most rewarding path. You not only train for a new job and get to know yourself better but also learn for your entire life. This is so valuable and something nobody will ever teach you, neither during an apprenticeship nor in college.

Learning what you want, when you want.

This is the biggest benefit of the self-taught journey. It’s up to you what you learn, when, and how long you learn. But with great freedom comes even greater responsibility. To me, it wasn’t something I had to worry about that much because it was my passion and eagerness to do what I love to do that drove me day by day. Multimedia Design contains Graphic Design, Web Design, Audio recording, Video Editing, and basically everything from Web advertisement, graphic elements, and websites to videos. Everything you see on screen. That’s pretty much when you keep in mind those areas are specific professions themselves. Multimedia Design is probably wider in terms of abilities, but less specialized. That’s why I decided to dive deeper into what interested me the most. Graphic Design and Video, in addition to that I combined with my hobby in Photography. 

Having a strict plan really helped to learn everything I needed to have a solid base. 

First I finished my distance study and got the official degree as a certified Multimedia-Designer. Then I took online classes, to learn the basics of Graphic Design. Next up was Video Production, including writing, storyboarding, directing, and editing. I practiced what I’ve learned to make the small video series under the video area of this website. After going through the entire process of video production I then turned back to Graphic Design. Taking more advanced-level courses. My training basically was stacked, learning the basics of one field, then of the other field before diving even deeper into the more advanced stuff. This allowed me to strengthen my skills more consistently, but also kept the training diversified. What I realized at this time, when I worked and learned in one field like Video, I kinda missed working on the Graphic part of my profession. The same goes when I worked in Graphic Design, I missed video editing. That’s another important aspect I decided to learn stacked, to build both pillars of my profession equally. I learned things that complemented the other parts of my profession constantly. In Video Editing, for example, color correction and grading gave me a better understanding of color itself. Photography made me think about whitespace, both in that field and also in Graphic design. And that’s the most wonderful thing when you train for something that, no matter what you do, is complementing the other fields of expertise. To me, all fit well together like pieces of a puzzle.

Would I recommend going your own way?

It depends on how much you want this. In my case, there was no doubt at all that I wanted to do everything to learn, train and practice for a profession that I’d also refer to as my calling. This was both the toughest kind of training but also the best because the passion within me was greater than the fear of failure. Due to the fact you probably won’t have certainty of success, I’d only recommend going this way, when you … 

  1. are really passionate and excited about what you’re training for. 
  2. when you know that this profession is 100% or more what you’re looking for.  

To me, my innermost desire to do something creative, design something or tell a story was the best drive I had.

When you overdo it

I thought becoming a workaholic is something that won’t ever happen to me, at least not in my former job. But the more I learned and dived into what I enjoyed, the more … addicted I became. Okay let’s face it, this is something quite positive when everything is locked down and you have to stay at home, but I almost couldn’t stop learning and working on my goals. And when you chose something where a hobby (like Photography to me) can be flawlessly integrated into the work process, you tend to be working all the time. One day I started having a walk during my lunch break, a walk with my camera which turns out as a nice compensation. At least I was outdoors, far from my desk. 

This is something I’d like you to keep in mind. Don’t overdo it, because you want it bad enough. Have faith, trust that it’s going to work out. When you come to this point there’s nothing you can do more. You already showed that you’re willing to. Don’t risk losing everything by working and learning too much in a day.

Finding role models

Due to the fact you’re leaning by yourself and rarely having a mentor or someone you can talk to, find a role model. Having someone who inspires you, keeps you stay motivated and keep. Going when facing challenging moments or even challenging times. Soon you’ll find out that many really successful people began from the lowest points you can imagine. Then you’ll probably find out … many of them went their own way. So, when they could, you can do it too. Just keep believing and working on your goals. One day it definitely will work out for you, when you’re dedicated enough.

Final thoughts

I not only trained for a new job, but I also learned so many valuable lessons in life. In the end, you don’t get a fancy degree or title, which basically is worth nothing when you don’t have passion and motivation. It’s worth noting when it doesn’t fulfill you entirely. Today e-learning platforms give you opportunities to learn all you need, for a little money. There are tons of sources, YouTube for example is entirely free, and the quality of content might vary, but it can help you in this way as well. 

Watching courses, and doing the little tasks of the distance study is one thing, but it’s not enough. When you train for something (depending on what kind of profession) you have to practice, and execute what you’ve been taught. Otherwise, the learning experience isn’t as good and effective. My favorite project I’ve been working on was the production of my videos. Working at least with another person as the camera operator. Actively talking, planning, and sharing ideas on how to get the shot gave me just a hint of what it’s like to be on a bigger set. Facing problems, coming up with a solution, and improvising, that was part of the whole process. For example, I planned a complex drone shot and when we arrived at the location … the drone wasn’t able to fly in a certain area. Though filming in nature didn’t require any permission but having a drone flying, just filming a Full Shot to Medium Shot in less than 10 m high wasn’t possible. We had to improvise and shoot hand-held. I followed the storyboard as well as I could, to realize it without a drone and it turned out quite okay. Overall saying, this was the most fun part and project I did during my one year of training. 

It’s never too late, to start from the beginning. When it feels right, when you’re motivated, do it. Otherwise, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Being different or just going a different way is a challenge, but I think it’s the most rewarding path someone can go. Learning so much, for your life. Passion and motivation are the greatest teachers you can have because they’ll lead you to where you want to be. Simply have faith and keep learning. 

I said to myself, even when I achieve my goals, what I trained for, I won’t settle. Because I’m looking for growth, learning more, and experiencing more. 

Thank you very much for your time. 

Mirko Fabian

Self-educated creative problem solver and entrepreneur. Writing about personal development, self-education, photography & filmmaking.