I walked out of the class a bit awestruck thinking how fortunate those kids were. They were all obviously smart. The cream of the crop. The next wave of corporate movers and shakers.
I don’t have a degree of any sort unless you count a PhD for the school of hard knocks. I was a bit envious. Not so much about the credentials they would receive but of the education they were getting.
I’m not complaining, my lack of credentials allowed me the advantage of humility.
The fact is that many these students would probably miscalculate, precisely because of the credentials they would receive.
Reality is that credentials are green fees. In the real world all that matters is knowledge and experience. One without the other is useless.
In my career I’ve been pretty successful. I’ve competed with people with Bachelors and MBAs. They had the credentials.
My advantage was that I was ignorant and I knew it. In fact the times in my career when I thought I wasn’t led to consequences that were not good.
I was hired for my first white collar job fresh out of the 5800 level of a hard rock copper mine. The company that hired me had an intensive management training program that was geared to guys with a degree. Lucky for me, my boss didn’t believe in degrees. He believed in hard work and learning.
I was good with that.
Along the way I realized the level of my ignorance. I had so much to learn just to keep up. I figured the guys I worked alongside had already learned this stuff in college so I needed to read and study just to get to their level.
I was wrong. What they had were credentials. For many of them college stunted their desire keep on learning. I actually heard a VP of a multimillion dollar company with an MBA once brag that he hadn’t picked up a book since he left school.
Now “everybody” talks about the necessity of lifetime learning. We face a real problem when we set out on that journey.
Mastering the process is the only way to achieve independence and take control of our life separate from the slings and arrows of fate and the economy. Unfortunatly, many of us are pretty passive. We react rather than take proactive steps. We’ve been conditioned by years of schooling where we were fed predigested lessons about reading, writing and arithmetic. We’ve learned to sit quietly and accept whatever THEY wanted us to learn.
The problem is quickly apparent to those of us who choose to work toward a PhD. To be awarded one you’re required to present original work. You can no longer recite the lessons you’ve learned, you have to forge NEW knowledge with very little supervision. Trying to uncover a new thesis and carry it through after years of passive learning requires a completely different mindset.
Life’s like that too for different reasons. Any push to learn in a systematic way is submerged by “things are pretty much okay and I’m pretty tired after a long day’s work…
And there is no one to help and guide us. No one to kick our ass and tell us to get moving.
Things are further complicated because accumulation of knowledge is not enough. We have to master a skill set to apply the learning. That combination of knowing and doing requires behavioral changes—which are difficult at best.
So we generally move on with our daily lives working, raising kids and paying bills,
Until hard times hit. The economy tanks. We lose our job.
Our self-confidence takes a big time nose dive.
If we haven’t done the work, if we haven’t shaped our lives toward independence we’re deep down in a hole.
And it seems like we can’t win for losing.
That’s the reason I stress to the people I speak to that it’s critical that you look at your career(s) as separate from the company you work for. It’s your career it’s up to you to feed it knowledge and skills. Nurture it with challenges. Then when the hard times come, you’ll be ready to adapt and overcome.