#itsdad ~ Do We Have To Go To College?

OK guys, I’m goin’ out on a limb here, so bear with me. If I get this one wrong, I’m in trouble!

A few years back I had the privilege of attending a business conference with a guy named Tony Robbins. He’s a pretty neat guy. He makes tons of money coaching people so that they can grow professionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. He has coached all kinds of people, from a guy who simply wanted to quit smoking to the world’s biggest leaders, the best athletes, the wealthiest business owners, and people who’ve been through physical and emotional tragedies. So, when he speaks…people listen. I listen! I listen very closely.

At the conference I attended, Mr. Robbins was standing in the center of the stage when he gave our group a simple instruction. He said,

“If you believe that school is important, raise your hand!”

Of course, every single one of us raised our hands enthusiastically. Then he said something that I’ll never forget. He said, in a loud and angry sounding voice,

“That’s complete BULL ****!

Seriously, you all think that ‘Sit down, shut up, and do what I say’ is important? It’s not…and you know it!”

We all sat silently in shock; almost ashamed.

Then he asked,

“Now, how many of you think that education is important?”

It was a massive turning point for me; recognizing the difference between “School” and “Education.”

You see, sometimes simply seeing things from a different point of view can change your lives forever. For me after years of training in the corporate sector and teaching in public schools…I never saw teaching, learning, or education in the same way again.

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

So how do I see education now? As a teacher who has taught fourth-grade all the way through college it’s hard to write this, but the truth is that “school” in and of itself is not important at all.

Yes, “school” teaches us languages and math skills. It may even teach us how to behave in a group. But it misses its target as often as it hits it. More often than that, it’s aiming at the wrong target to begin with.

Consider how time has changed the way we live our daily lives. When I was growing up, your uncle Mark loved a TV show called Star Trek. It was a science-fiction show, a lot like Star Wars. The characters had unimaginable devices like lasers, spaceships, and this really cool “transport” thing that would beam you from one place to another…instantly. But one of the coolest things they had was called a “Communicator.” It was a small, hand-held device that was little enough to be carried in a pocket but powerful enough that users could literally communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime, right through this little device.

As kids, we talked about how amazing it would be to just be able to reach into your pocket and call anyone in the world…whenever you wanted! That was a world that we couldn’t imagine in our wildest dreams. It was right up there with time travel. But, one short generation later, that is exactly the world that you were born into.

While you were reading the paragraph above, I’m sure you were thinking,

“Uh…Yeah…Dad! That sounds a lot like our cell phones. But we’ve got millions of videos we can watch, thousands of video games to play, GPS, access to every movie and every song ever recorded…in fact, we have access to every bit of information ever created…at any time…anywhere…and it’s all in my pocket.”

Yep! We live in an astonishing and very different time from when I grew up.

Now, what does that “one short generation later” have to do with education and the “Do we have to go to college?” question?

Well, just like I couldn’t imagine the Communicator on Star Trek, I’d never have dreamed that a little kid sitting in his bedroom in Canada could write a song, arrange it, record it, mix it, produce it, create a video for it, publish it…then become a multimillionaire virtually over night. One short generation ago that literally was every bit as impossible as time travel. Now it happens every day, in every language, all over the world.

If someone told me that you can play video games…for a living…and earn enough to own a collection of exotic Italian super-cars, I’d have told them to stay in school! In fact, as a teacher…I probably did! How misguided was that? How short sighted was that? In fact, now, you can make a career about reacting to other people playing video games!!! That’s…mind boggling.

Today, not only can you learn to cook by watching YouTube, you can use those cooking skills to become an international cooking sensation…on YouTube. You can earn a college degree without even going to ”school.” Doctors can sit in an office in Dallas and literally do surgery on a patient halfway around the world. Artificial intelligence can now collect information about a persons emotional state from their facial expressions as they look at their cell phones. There are countless realities that even a decade ago couldn’t possibly have been imagined.

But, did my schooling help me capitalize on these new technologies?

Absolutely not! In fact, my formal education may have hurt my chances of success, because school actually taught me…to stay in school!

“Believe me! With no college degree, you’ll never succeed…ever.”

I heard that from my earliest days. But today is so different, and tomorrow will be different too. Today we live in a world that I couldn’t imagine when I was your age. With that mindset, doesn’t that mean that we don’t really have any idea of what’s coming in the next 10 to 20 years? How are the world’s best public schools supposed to teach us skills, how to use tools, to use languages, technologies, and ideas that don’t even exist yet? They can’t. No one can.

But do they even need to?

This feeling of “not knowing what’s coming” might just be what we need to master in order to succeed in our unknowable future. Coming to terms with the simple fact that we can’t know what’s coming…might be the most important thing we could learn. If nothing else, with that certainty (the certainty that we can’t possibly conceive what our lives will be like in 20 years) we can be empowered to thrive in any environment! It can give us a new target to hit. But this target won’t be still. It will always be moving but it will be all-encompassing. If we can hit a moving target…we’re gonna be doin’ just fine!

We know that life won’t be the way it is now so we can stop focusing our resources on learning what’s here now. We can start learning timeless skills and principals such as critical thinking, cause and effect, and even learning how to be more comfortable being…uncomfortable. 

We can learn how to solve problems without creating bigger ones in the process! We can learn and own the fact that failing is a function of success, not an obstacle to it, and that the only true failure is giving up.

So how can we be prepared for the unknown? We just need to focus on three simple things:

  1. Become excellent learners. Expose yourselves to things that you don’t understand, then strive to understand them. This can be sports, the arts, politics, spirituality. Just stay curious and keep learning. Be curious. Ask why! When we were young, our parents sang a song to us called “Rock-A-Bye Baby” to us before we went to sleep. Why? I have absolutely no idea! What a horrible song! And when I asked “why?”; why would you sing a song like that to me, I heard, “I don’t really know. I never really thought about it!” Be curious. Ask Why. Keep learning.
  2. Do what you love. If you love your work…then every day is a vacation. For example, I love teaching. So, if I teach during my ‘work week’, then it never really feels like work! Follow your hearts and your passions, then every day will be a day off. Do you like surfing? Be a surfer. Not good enough to earn a living surfing? Move to Costa Rica and become a surf instructor. Do you like basketball? Not good enough to go pro? Be a trainer. Be a commentator. Work in the advertising department for the NBA.
  3. Consider your natural aptitudes. Keep in mind that you’re naturally great at something. That “thing” might be the key to your future successes. It might be an ability to solve riddles. It might be drawing. It might be finding an almost imperceivably small difference between two seemingly identical objects.

So I don’t have to, but should I…go to college?

I did. I loved it! I learned far more than academics while I was in college. I still believe that, if used properly, college can be priceless. But, if your questions are really, “What should I study?” or “How am I supposed to know what I’m supposed to do when I grow up?” I’d say…

Keep learning.

Be curious.

Investigate.

See both sides.

See all sides!

Dig down under the surface of something that doesn’t sit right with you.

Ask why.

Follow joy.

Love what you do.

Love people.

That is what you do. If you know how to do all of this…and how to be an effective communicator and how to live in alignment with your values, you win. By “win” I don’t mean that you’ll have the fanciest cars and the biggest houses (Although in your cases that is highly likely). I mean “win” in the sense of satisfying your innate needs for certainty and uncertainty, for contribution, to live with the most fulfilled hearts, and to love and to feel loved.

Live your life the way you choose. It’s yours, and it just might be the only one you get.

Oh yeah. One last thing to keep in mind…

If you go back far enough, scientists believed that if a human traveled faster than a horse he or she would die. They then believed that if human beings traveled faster than 1 mile per minute they would die. That’s 60 miles per hour. Then, science passionately proclaimed and proved that man cannot survive breaking the sound barrier. Clearly not true.

Now, in spite of all of those ridiculous “scientifically backed” and disproved assumptions, scientists claim that traveling at the speed of light is impossible. What do you think?

We; your parents, your teachers, your government…we’re clueless…and I’m OK with that. That’s the way it’s meant to be.

But when I’m long gone, when you guys have those new pocket time machines, will you set the time for today and come back so I can give you guys just one more hug?

I love you, boys.

#5words

Love, Dad.

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