I have a complicated history with higher education. On one hand, I very much value learning. When I dive into new information (or even old information seen freshly from a different perspective), I feel almost as alive as I do when I’m creating worlds or characters in fiction.
There’s something that fascinates me about human interaction and human ingenuity, whether used for good, evil or otherwise.
However, I’ve never quite connected with classroom education. The petty drama concerns of the other students, the tendency of the teachers to move at the rate of speed most conducive to the slowest in the class, the metric shit ton of unnecessary busywork… none of that appealed to me. When I can see where the teacher is going with his or her lessons five minutes into the class, but I’m forced to sit for another thirty to forty minutes going over the same concept, it leaves me akin to a Seventies British punk stereotype. I just want to smash a bottle against the chalkboard, throw up two middle fingers and scream, “fucking bollocks!”
And yet, I still love to learn. I can learn from teachers, but they have to be engaging and non-repetitive, except where it matters to drive a point home. I don’t mind the work, if I’m getting something out of it. I don’t even mind repetition, if its purpose is to ingrain a new concept into my repertoire.
But I can’t stand bullshit. Part of all the work I’ve done over the past month and a half or so has been to identify what is bullshit in my life and cut it out. Synthesis is best done while stripping away all the unnecessary flotsam and jetsam that tends to stick to core concepts and synthesis is how I operate. It’s how I learn.
I’m good at identifying patterns and systems within seeming chaos (while letting chaos reign). Order and chaos are the yin and yang of the education system (or any system, really). It’s important to remember that when identifying patterns, there are still a lot of moving parts and other perspectives yet to be taken into account. Chaotic fluidity drives systems and keeps them moving; a rough order is the tenuous clip that holds it all together, and keeps the chaos from spinning apart. One cannot exist without the other.
So when I found The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, part of me thought, “Ah! Enlightenment on the cheap!” and agreed wholeheartedly with his assessment of the value of an MBA. Thousands of dollars and years of my life to get a piece of paper and some networking contacts, plus some knowledge I could have gotten for a fraction of the price at Chapters or the local library?
Sign me up.
It’s actually pretty invaluable, if you’re looking to do business, as a reference point. There are many other books to be read on the subjects it covers. The good news is that Kaufman points you in the right direction.
Plus, you don’t have to be one of those douche-y MBA types, of whom, I admittedly only know a few, but who all seem to be cut from the same mold: drastically overrated, too busy “networking” (aka, kissing ass and stabbing backs) and flashing around their fancy piece of paper to do anything of actual use. It’s the university/college debate here in Canada. University is great for theory, but if you want someone who actually understands a subject practically, you want a college grab.
I use to hate to hire university trained networking guys for tech support. They went straight to the most complicated solutions, couldn’t intuitively grasp real world problems and in the interest of maintaining their illusion of intelligence, had difficulty connecting with customers in layman’s terms, while eschewing the simple solutions that were often most effective (like turning it on and off again).
The college guys, or the self-trained ones, they were more prepared. They lived in the world of application, where one tests theories like a true scientist. Start with the most obvious assumptions based on the given evidence, and eliminate piece by piece what doesn’t work, based on the actual data and occurrences presented. Their work often took a quarter of the time with quadruple the satisfaction on the part of the customer.
They were more interested in real world solutions and applications than showing off how smart they were.
Getting an MBA isn’t done to get an education; it’s done to get a status symbol that says you’re educated (whether you are or not).
Learning, true learning, however, speaks for itself, through application and evidence in the real world.
Of course, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care, and maybe they’re right. Institutional education works for some people.
Just not all of us, and for those for whom it does not, there’s everything else.