The only way out is to publish

A public declaration of self-education.

The only way out is to publish. And to publish regularly.

This is my hypothesis for what the core tenet of a successful freelance education looks like in our increasingly digital age.

To introduce this newsletter, I will start by publicly committing to publishing an article once a week. These weekly articles will be released on Thursday mornings @10:00 EST. Stating this publicly will help me hold myself accountable, feel free to shame me publicly @bartadamley (I am serious) if I don’t stick to this.

The quote that inspired this idea?

I recently, read a brilliant book: “Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet” by Ian F. McNeely and Lisa Wolverton on essentially the evolution of how society has organized the most brilliant minds and ideas on an institutional level. In the book, the authors expand on Libraries, Monasteries, Universities, The Republic of Letters, Disciplines, The Laboratory and last but not least… the great equalizer of knowledge, The Internet.

Within the fifth chapter “The Disciplines” I found this captivating passage:

"The system's many washouts joined a swelling "academic proletariat" likened by contemporaries to starving artists or traveling comedy troupes. The only way up and out was to publish. Unlike the lecturer's reputation as a teacher, which spread off campus only in the most exceptional cases, printed scholarship acted as a calling card for the professional intellectual."

Let’s reflect on this quote for a second. Academia’s washouts joined a swelling “academic proletariat” comparable to starving artists or traveling comedy troupes.. the only way up and out for them being… to publish their work. The only way for them to survive financially, mentally and spiritually was for them to release their work to the public. No longer were these former students keeping it confined to just “research” but instead they transitioned their work to act more like a publication.

I am still convinced this is the case today for many former students, it is just coming about in a different form. As the great Mark Twain once said “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

The only way out is to publish

Clearly, the overburdening student debt crisis, adjacent with the rise of overpriced courses of Zoom classes from the Ivory Towers, are leading some of us to doubt traditional academia.

Increasingly, we find an over-educated mass unable to find an appropriate job upon graduation from these academic institutions.

With the emergence of COVID, forcing everyone to stay at home and learn remotely, we have cumulatively learned a valuable lesson: That online education can be very bad.. and yet, online education can also be really good.

The critical part of this being.. Online Education is a legitimate option when one is passionate about the material.

But how do you structure what you have learned to make connections across different areas of thought? How do you verify that you learned anything?

Just as it was in traditional academia, you publish.

The dreaded term paper

Think of what any course structure was like at (insert your university here)… chances are, you started off with a syllabus. Took 3-4 exams, wrote a few papers, and the most important assignment of all, that one you progressed on all along the way…

The term paper.

Did you ever share your progression of thought outside of the ivory tower?

Did you go to the internet for feedback?

Chances are no. I know I didn’t.

Let alone, for your final assignment.

Did you ever share your term paper?

Yet again, I know I didn’t.

Why didn’t we?

Researching with open arms

Due to the subsequent growth of threaded Twitter, newsletters, YouTube University, podcasts, discord/slack, a lot more of us are now actively partaking in Learning in Public. Acknowledging that we learn a lot more in a day, than we ever realized while attending traditional schooling.

Sure, learning online is different in the sense that we aren’t always given grades, due dates, and methods of accountability can be spotty.. but the thing is we just have to get creative with it. And this is the part where an education online can actually become really fun.

As has with their experimental “Learning Adventure Club”, you set a goal as to what project you want to work on, making steps towards your daily/weekly targets all along the way. Full Disclosure: This is a course I am apart of, which I also highly recommend!

Directly from the Learning Adventure Club Description:

“A peer cohort for propelling ambitious self-directed learning projects. Join for motivation, accountability, feedback, structure, clarity, and creative momentum.”

In this course, individuals all across the world come together, meeting weekly as a group, 1:1 partnerships, as well as putting in the work to develop an artifact by the end of the month-long club. Just as an one does with that lovely term paper, that I brought up earlier :)


The only way to rid yourself of traditional academia is to pursue the new and embrace the mantra of Learning in Public.

The new, which consists of sharing your research, creative endeavors, publicly and consistently.

Let’s end this newsletter by remembering that knowledge has always been about connecting individuals, not hoarding information.

This newsletter is a stepping stone for my attempt of building connections, extensive learning and exploring what is possible with an online education. Let’s strive for PhD level educations, while sharing our research publicly.

I dare you to assign yourself a term paper.

I dare you to start a newsletter.

Cheers to freelance learning,

Adam Bartley