I suppose taking a class or having someone teach you would be ideal, but I don't think it's necessary. I am just learning to cook after years of eating sandwiches and frozen dinners. I don't have anyone to learn from, but I think I'm getting pretty good at it.
My tips: watch cooking shows a lot. You start to recognize basic techniques, what goes with what, etc. There are also a lot of YouTube videos of cooking demos. I also like to read cookbooks and forums like this one.
As a beginner cook, I don't think you need to spend a ton of money on supplies. I would suggest investing in one really good chef's knife (after using a "real" knife, you'll wonder how you ever used anything else.) Of course, a set of really quality cookware would be nice, but it's pretty costly. That's something you might want to buy one piece at a time.
Lastly, I applaud you for wanting to be a renaissance man! As a single woman, I can tell you that's exactly what most of us are looking for.