“No man who worships education has got the best out of education…Without a gentle contempt for education no man’s education is complete”…G.K Chesterton
When I refer to education here, I mean the traditional concept of schooling, chasing grades and getting a degree. You know that cycle of societal expectation we are supposed to complete. Next comes getting a good job, getting married and for many…… (Fill in the gap).
Just before you think I flunked it. Honestly, I have no problem with school. I have a degree in the biological sciences that I’m proud of even if I’m no longer in that field. It has shaped who I am today and I still nourish the hope to do business in the biotech world in the nearest future.
My problem is just when we make education the holy grail of life, when we make it an end rather than a means.
I find myself in these conversations with myself why education is overrated in Nigeria. Yet with all our education, we are still where we are. The panacea is not to get rid of education but to pursue a new kind of education (The subject of another day).
The crux of the matter is that beyond the technical competence that school can help develop (when it is able to), there is little you can learn there to help you succeed in the real world.
Most people think the solution to career success is just another MSc or PhD. And that is absolutely fine if it is your dream. But I don’t think that is helpful when your motive is just to increase your economic status.
Let me share with you the five skills that will determine your career success after you have met the minimum requirement of ‘education’:
1. Ability to learn or reinvent yourself
Your ability to pursue your own education with a unique curriculum designed by you will be the ultimate skill of success in the knowledge economy.
Most of us will not have one career in our lifetime. How many of us knew ten years ago that universities will now be offering courses or degrees in social media. It is now the new media and except you understand it, you can choose to remain in the Stone Age.
The dizzying rate of innovative disruption means you must be nimble enough to acquire new knowledge and learn new skills. Knowledge is fast becoming obsolete yet people who immerse themselves in new knowledge can become thought leaders in their field in 2-3 years.
The order of things have been disrupted. The geek with a laptop, tablet and internet connection who dedicates himself to learning and excellence in a field can earn more respect than a complacent, title-wagging college professor who rest on his oars.
2. Ability to lead
I assume you understand that the real foundation of any leadership is self-direction, self-leadership. Influence, except if it is the superficial kind, cannot be sustained if you do not govern or direct yourself successfully.
Having established that character and discipline is the foundation of leadership, we can then proceed to understand that leadership is not about position. Influence and credibility is earned and you can start right where you are.
As John Quincy Adams said, “When your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
You can lead right from where you are. The moment you are leaving your life in view of your legacy, taking responsibility to translate your own vision or your organization’s into reality, you are a leader.
3. Ability to market
Sincerely, this is not the age of modesty or half-hearted convictions about your own worth or the value you can add. We need to be aware of who you are and the value you bring. It is your fault if we do not know you or what you can do.
The marketing of your brand cannot be outsourced to anybody or organization. We are in the age of a million rambling voices. How will you stand out? How can we become acquainted with your uniqueness, your expertise and your experiences?
More importantly, Google is the new resume. If we google you, what will we find? Do you have an online presence that you are steadily cultivating? Does what show up online about you promote your unique essence or exuberant nuisance?
I believe you are a person of unique value and contribution. At least you are reading this article because you want to become a better person. But how will the world know? Think about it.
As an aside, self-aggrandizement doesn’t work. If you are not the real McCoy, we will look away.
4. Ability to sell
I wrote about these earlier, we are all in sales now. Some of us sell products, services, ideas, inspiration and the list is countless. Selling is now one of the most important skills for success in the real world.
Just what do you think you are doing, when you ask a lady to marry you or go out on a date with you? At some point, you were marketing, creating an awareness of who you are and your qualities (and for the shallow ones – what you have).
After you have solidified your marketing, as soon as the opportunity shows up, you close the sale. You proceed to ask her for a date or ask her to marry you having spent time showing the benefits of being with you.
This allegory is typically how we should manage our careers and businesses. You must know how to sell yourself when your opportunity shows up. You must be able to convince people to hire you or do business with you because of the uniqueness you have been able to demonstrate.
5. Ability to execute
This is the most important quality of peak performers – ability to start now and follow through with excellence. Eventually, it is not our intentions about something that counts. It is what we do, what we make happen.
As one of my client’s email signature reads, “Excuses are excuses, reasons are reason, it is only results that counts.” We admire and pay for results in the real world not excuses. Stop telling us your dream. Make it happen. Show us.
Nobody is celebrated based on what they intended to do. Don’t be a bundle of good intentions. Push yourself into the zone of action, then push yourself further into the zone of extreme execution.
I agree, motivation is important and we all need it every day. I encourage you to read good books daily and hang around people that fuel your dreams and passion.
However, understand like Jim Rohn did, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit (discipline) is what keeps you going.” You can’t always rely on warm fuzzy feelings.
It is the in the thinking and the doing that the feeling comes. If you wait to feel like it, you will never do it.
This is true – the harder you work and the busier you become, the more likely that inspiration will visit you.
Let’s have a conversation
Which of these skills do you lack? What book are you going to buy and read about that area of improvement within the next month? Which training or seminar will you attend within the next three months?
On the other hand, don’t try to improve yourself in all areas at once. Focus on strengthening one area at a time, beginning with where you need urgent improvement.
I believe in you.