Gaining Life Experience

I’m a firm believer that college is only half (if even that) of one’s education. For example, my new job has taught me more about (Access) databases in one day then I’ve learned all semester in class (no offense). Plus, I can tell you more about the telcom industry than you’d ever care to know. Welcome to day two.

In school you typically learn at an ‘average’ pace and classes try to cater to everyone. Hence the bell curve. Sure, classes can be challenging but when you make mistakes you merely get a few points off. In the business world you’re not always handed a textbook or a study guide.. you figure it out. Very, very quickly.

With that said, mistakes become costly. So, keep in mind, there are worse things in the world than getting a problem wrong on a test. In the grand scheme of things, that mistake was a very cheap learning experience.

This leads me to my next point: I’d say that ‘picking up stuff quickly’ is one of my most valuable traits. Not everything in life is technical and being 100% book smart is not something to strive for. No, I strongly subscribe to the ‘you dont have to be smart, you have to be clever’ philosophy. Unfortunately, if you can’t do that, if you can’t quickly absorb new skills and acquire new knowledge you need to compensate somewhere else.

My thought is that you start out with 100 points to assign to different characteristics. For me I’d say my breakdown is as follows:

  • 50 points go to ‘cleverness’ (picking stuff up quickly, understanding overall concepts, doing well on tests),
  • 20 for ‘leadership’ (management, ability to relate and understand different people),
  • 10 points to ‘helpfulness’ (willingness, capability, patience),
  • 10 points of ‘creativity’,
  • 5 points to ‘friendliness’ (outgoing, cheerful, funny, caring), and
  • 5 points of arrogance and egoism (being an ass, not listening to others)

I’d like to shuffle my points around a bit. In fact I’d love to reassign my arrogance points to friendliness… but if I did that I’d sacrifice a level of confidence. And if I lacked cleverness I’d probably need to be a bit more friendly and creative.

As time goes on, though, your point pool increases… hopefully. You don’t just resize the slices of pie, you end up working with a bigger pie! I’m constantly trying to add points to certain areas while learning how to avoid sacrifices in others. You don’t necessairly pick this up in college.. for many it eventually happens. But, take the student who spends more time practicing sports than in class, or the guy who can’t balance a girlfriend and studying. High school and college are good for teaching people how to shuffle points. This is great because you learn where you want to focus your enegergies: you find what few things you’re best at and passionate about.

But, as you grow, you want to better yourself in all your strongest areas. You want to take those few things you’re the best at and continue to improve them. This is Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept and I’ll be writing about my personal ‘hedgehog’ in the next week or so.

Interestingly, I’ve done most of my betterment outside of class… maybe that’s just me, though? How does your pie look? Are you simply shuffling the slices or are you striving to increase your overall size? Do you have a ton of little pieces? Are you focusing on the right areas?
[tags]improvement, education, ledership, clever, skills, experience[/tags]