"Experience is a hard teacher, the tests come before the lessons" - Vernon law
A practical education begins at birth and ends when our curiosity or
ability to learn fades away. For the lucky few, it ends at death. There
are no degrees awarded. There is no graduation ceremony. The testes
never end. The effect is cumulative personal autonomy, which enables a
vibrant and fulfilling life experience.
K. Chesterton said; “Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly
danger of taking educated people seriously.” Of course Mr. Chesterton
was not talking about people with practical educations. He was talking
about those who weren't really interested in learning. He was talking about those who
crammed a day or two before an exam and forgot everything the day
after. He was talking about those who managed by hook or by crook to
graduate with a degree and little else of any practical value to show
for the time they spent in school. He was talking about the class of
smoke & mirrors.
Learning and applying what you learn to develop useful skills is what makes education
practical. An article that was published in Fast Company
on September 11, 2017 describes how some exclusive schools, founded and
supported by successful tech executives, approach education with
emphasis on developing curiosity and true understanding. This is done
by encouraging school children to conceive and develop their own
and demonstrate how what they created can be applied in the real
world. This type of learning helps to develop soft and practical skils. The
children who have the privilege of
going to this kind of school have a head start on life. Of course
us have attended "normal" schools, some better than others. But the
realization that learning and applying knowledge as a life long pursuit
isn't exclusive to
rich kids. Everyone who has learned to love learning is already rich.
Alone, the ability
to read can fuel a curious mind with the stuff that animates lifelong
learning. The right
stuff to read is entirely up to you. But it should include material
that will help you to overcome your personal deficiencies. If you
don't have any personal deficiencies, you can skip over the next 3 paragraphs. If you're not sure where
to start, then you might enjoy reading them.
to identify personal deficiencies is by examining what irritates
you about others. Carl Jung
said: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an
understanding of ourselves.” It’s not
within the scope of this project to analyze the psychology of why we
get irritated by a particular behavior of someone else. But it’s an
important point. Because allowing what someone else says or does to
cause you to overreact and loose your composure, is the opposite of
personal autonomy and a common cause of unnecessary stress.
You can find a lot of self-improvement programs and reading material
out there. For example here is a blog by Mark and Angel Chernoff with some practicle suggestions about how to learn not to take things personally. You can also find some
decent books that touch on the subject of self-awareness in the recommended
reading section below. But reasonably healthy people do not have to torment
themselves with incessant self-analysis. Awareness and insight in
situations where you would normally feel irritated can
help you to understand and ignore harmful emotions, and that’s
It goes like this: As
soon as you start to feel irritation caused by someone else’s
behavior, stop everything! Stop thinking about the one who did it!
Stop thinking about how selfish she is or how conceited he is or how
arrogant they are! Think about why this comment or action stings! After all, the irritation is your
emotion; so own it! And then disown it! Think
about how not allowing toxic emotions to hijack your composure will
mitigate the disadvantages that come with being irritated! All this
thinking takes milliseconds.
It's not even necessary to actually to find answers to the questions.
Simply being aware that these
reactions are hurting you is enough. It is an important step in
learning how to manage your behavior; a significant characteristic of a
practical education. Mastering
any newly acquired skill requires a lot of effort in
the beginning. But as we discussed earlier, awareness and persistence
will hone it until it becomes instinctive.
With your self-destructive defense mechanisms under control, you will
not only be happier and healthier, you will be able to direct your
attention toward more constructive aspects of your practical education.
These could include the knowledge and expertise you will need to
satisfy your life goals. There is no end
to the reading material, seminars and workshops on any topic you may want to look into. The greatest problem is finding the
information that’s right for you. All the information necessary to
explain the practical value of most fields of interest would
probably fit on 50 pages. I would venture to guess there is enough
material written on each subject to fill a bookmobile. So how do you
find the right stuff to read? We all have particular preferences as to the way we absorb information.
One suggestion would be to try e-books. Some e-book providers
permit customers to download
a free sample before committing to buy the book. If
you find an author
whose style speaks to you, the book will be more enjoyable to read and
you will absorb the information more efficiently.
On the job, the best education undeniably comes from making mistakes and
learning from them. However without a little guidance, learning by
doing can get out of hand. I assume that since you are reading this, you
have been endowed with a healthy dose of chutzpah.
Clearly you want to
contribute, you want to make a difference and you want to reap the
benefits of your hard work. But before you start going where no
employee has gone before or suggesting how to make things better,
time in sizing up the environment you are working in! Find out if
deviations from "the way we've always done it" are appreciated or
even tolerated! Determine if there is any real interest in suggestions
to improve things! Once you have a good handle on the prevailing
company culture, your contributions will be more meaningful to everyone
involved. Experienced colleagues can be a good source of direction in
this regard. Observe these people! Ask questions! Engage them in
conversation! If they are authentic, they will probably be happy to share
their experience with you. And if they're smart, they will let you know
they are still learning themselves. Colleagues, who claim to have all
the answers, don’t. But that does not mean you can’t learn from them
too. Learning what not to do is as practical as any other aspect of
Landing a good job at a good company normally requires
an academic degree in a field related to the business being conducted there.
The days of getting a degree in art history or journalism at the best party
university available and then landing a management position at a high tech
manufacturing company are probably gone forever. Globalization has changed the
scope of education. These days, in addition to children of the elite and the
best and brightest home-grown talent, good universities attract serious,
hard-working young men and women from those parts of the world where the job
market is booming. They are seeking educations that are tailored to specific
needs of the global economy The Third Education Revolution
published in The Atlantic on March 22, 2018 describes how some schools
and cooperations are collaborating on to establish models which support
life-long learning in order to meet the the needs of todays econonomy. Assuming that you do not fit into any of the
scenarios mentioned above, please note that some sort of documentation
asserting that you managed to graduate is normally required to open the right
doors. If you haven’t already done so, get a degree! It doesn’t matter how old
you are. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t have to be a Ph.D. or
an M.B.A. It doesn’t have to be in one of those trendy fields that enjoy a
certain prestige until they get saturated and devalued. A Bachelor of
Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in a field of interest that comes easy to
you will do just fine. Choosing a field that comes easy to you doesn't mean
that you are uninspired or lazy. It means that you will enjoy your work and be
good at it.
A degree doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. These days you can do most
of the work independently on line and hold down a job at the same time. In addition to awarding degrees,
most colleges and universities offer useful information, valuable knowledge and
the foundation for building professional networks. But you don’t have to strive
for the best possible education. You can’t get that in a school anyway. Just learn
as much as you can and get that degree! Degrees are the keys to the kingdom.
Once you have landed a job, what you learned in school will have little to do with
genuine job satisfaction. The kind of jobs that offer worthwhile
intellectual and commercial incentives are aggressively contested and
tenaciously protected, especially by those who are not qualified to hold
them. This leads to environments that conventional educations cannot
adequately prepare you for. The math, the science and the communication skills that you learned in
school will help you to discharge your responsibilities. The challenges
and showdowns, that you
encountered in the school yards and hall ways may help you to deal with bullies. But
formal education does not supply the awareness and skills you need to
survive and thrive in the world of smoke & mirrors.
are those who seem to possess the right stuff congenitally. Or it could
be that their parents had the insight and wherewithal to reinforce their
practical education from childhood, like the kids mentioned in the Fast Company article. God bless
them! The rest of us, have to figure it out and work at it. But there are
fewer things in life that are more rewarding than satisfying curiosity
and acquiring practical skills. Obviously non-career oriented areas of
interest like travel, learning to speak another language, play a
musical instrument, paint, sail, dance or do yoga all belong to a
practical education, which makes life more interesting and enjoyable.
Here are a few points to take with you:
1. Read! (listen Observe)
2. Never think you're the smartest person in the room! But if you are, find another room!
3. Understand that life long learning is becoming a necessity and no longer a luxury!
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves + 1
The Social Animal by David Brooks;
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman;
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi;
An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield
| "through the smoke, a practical education" © Bill O'Connell 2013|