I almost decided to skip posting this week because I’m immersed in a boatload of new learning experiences: relationship coaching with Lisa Kramer; Gottman Institute level I training for working with couples; and dream/archetypal pattern analysis teleseminars with Michael Conforti at the Assisi Institute.
My studies take me through to the early part of next year, and at that point I’ll probably continue with more classes. I’ve also decided to complete some professional certifications in the coming months.
So clearly, I love learning. You probably picked up on that. It’s one of my top values, and doing it brings meaning to my life. But there’s more to it.
Bottom line, I know it’s a smart move. Statistics tell us that education is almost always a good thing. Not only in terms of income, mind you, but in job security too. And these days job security is as much about developing your talent, skills, and savvy as it is about keeping your spot on the company payroll. Because as tough as it is out there, those who have planted their professional gardens with perennial learning and development seeds are reaping the bounty right now.
Of course, as a business owner, job security means something a little different to me. And after ten years I definitely get it. It’s one thing to bring in clients; it’s another altogether to keep them. And have them leave with good experiences that they want to tell others about. I’ve learned that business is built by enthusiastic clients, so I’ve got to keep learning. Growing. Staying on top of my game.
Actually, at its core, it comes down to ethics and integrity.
I can’t, in good faith, fly by the seat of my pants and give good service to clients. And because I’m in a period of professional transition, letting go of certain things and taking on others, it’s vital that I carve out opportunities for more education, training, and credentials.
Which brings me to the deeper point of this ramble (I know, I know, that took some time). I’ve noticed something interesting in my online travels lately. Something that looks a little like a devaluing of education, training, and credentials.
It might be my imagination, but I don’t think so. I’m usually pretty good at picking up on these things. So when I read words like, “I never went to college and I’m glad I didn’t” or “I have no credentials for the service I’m offering but all that’s just bunk anyway,” I begin to wonder what’s going on.
Maybe it’s because the virtual world is a lot like the Wild West right now.
Rip roarin’ and gun totin’. A slew of modern-day forty-niners who can’t be bothered with the learning curve on gold mining. No siree, they’ve just gotta forge ahead and get as much of the good stuff as they can, as fast as they can.
And I can appreciate that. Sort of. I mean, some people, like Peter C. Whybrow, have suggested that this drive, this pursuit, this race forward, is genetic. Hard wired within us. No time for the new breed of forty-niner to stop for a little book learning.
But when it comes to the slightly cheeky dismissal of education that I’m picking up on, I have to wonder if there’s something more going on. Like, dare I say it: FEAR.
Yes, fear. Because, you see, I’ve been there. It took me 15 years to get my bachelor’s degree. I started college when I was 17. Dropped out three years later, when my mom died unexpectedly. I was rudderless. Floating. And I sure couldn’t handle getting myself educated. But I did make another failed attempt at 23. Still another at 28. And then finally, at 30, it worked. I stuck with it and graduated.
But oh, how I railed during all those years leading up to it: What a waste of time! That’s stupid! I don’t need it! Who are they to tell me I’m not qualified just because I don’t have a dumb piece of paper?
And with each attempt and subsequent failure, I got more scared. I feared I’d never get this thing I wanted so badly, and I almost gave up. As a result, my bluff and bluster grew exponentially.
After that experience, you might think I learned my lesson. But no, I didn’t. In fact, I repeated the same story (just a little different version). I sat on the fence for five years before I decided to jump down and go for my master’s degree. And again I railed: Why do I need this? So I waited. And then waited a little more, because I didn’t know for sure that it would get me what I wanted. Which is just another way to say that I was afraid.
Finally, though, I came to understand this story. In my second year of grad school I took a job as a career and academic advisor, working with adult reentry students at a local university. Most of my advisees were in their thirties, forties, and fifties (although one of our students graduated at seventy). During my time there, I heard countless versions of why these adults couldn’t and shouldn’t return to school. I held their hands, I listened, sometimes I even had to tell them to stop yelling at me, because I wasn’t the one who decided they needed a math class to graduate.
And somewhere along the way I realized what was underneath the false bravado. The proclamations of not needing an education. The anger. All of it. What lived beneath were two most universal fears: the fear of not being enough, and the fear of being overwhelmed.
On graduation day, though, I saw those fears float away, like a bouquet of helium balloons let loose all at once. I saw other things, too: doors opening, connections made, promotions offered, salaries increased. And best of all, I saw the burst of confidence. Self esteem. Realizing that you are indeed enough.
Because that’s what education provides, inner and outer growth.
Now I’m not saying that everyone should go out and get a degree (or another degree). Absolutely not. But we do need to get good at what we do. We need to educate ourselves, traditionally or non-traditionally. And we can’t just say we’ve read a lot of books, so that’s that.
Nope, we simply can’t do it alone. Think, for a minute, about the most talented artists. The singer who takes voice lessons once a week. The dancer who’s in class regularly. The novelist who meets with his writing group. The painter who attends the yearly retreat. All of them understand that they need mentors and teachers. They know they must continually work at their craft. And being the best takes effort and ongoing education.
So here I am, gearing up, at a time when some of my peers are winding down. Maybe it’s because of all that railing I did, and I’m making up for lost time. I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure: I still have much to learn.
How about you? How important is education? And what’s been your most valuable educational experience?
WHY NOT START NOW?