Becoming a Self-Learner: When Formal Education is No Longer NecessaryPosted: March 21, 2012
How do you know when you have outgrown formal education?
In 11 days I will be taking the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to begin the process of pursuing an MBA. This is no surprise considering that ever since I was young, I planned on getting a graduate degree. I always assumed I would go to college, get an engineering degree, graduate, get an MBA, then have a successful career making lots of money. And that was about it.
But time has a funny way of changing things.
Over the past few years, I have started a company, spoken to groups of college students on personal finance, helped start a ministry, traveled for work, and I’m currently in the process of writing a book. Honestly, I’m having way too much fun right now for it to stop. I have grown more over the past five years than I have over the previous 18, and I literally wake up each morning feeling like I can change the world. My motivations no longer come from earning a paycheck, but instead come from seeing life change in people. I have big visions for the future, and I’m still deciding if an MBA will be the catalyst to get me there.
So if I pursue an MBA in the future, who would I really be pursuing it for? For me? For others? For pride? For my career?
This thought never occurred to me until I came across a short book entitled The Personal MBA. Recently, a discussion has arisen around the topic of rising education costs. Graduate school has always been seen as “the next step” in the corporate world, but considering it can cost you $40,000 over a two year span at a slightly above-average MBA program, does the cost really justify the benefit?
Think about the purpose of education for a second. Our goal is not to memorize a bunch of facts and theories, but instead our goal is to learn how to learn. As we enter an age where information is becoming ubiquitous and a Masai warrior in Africa with a cell phone has access to more information than the president of the United States did 15 years ago, our creativity and ability to innovate will be what set us apart.
And how to do we grow these abilities? Does it happen in the classroom, or is it the continual process of experience and self-study that mold us into the person we desire to become? For example, if I wanted to become a better public speaker, should I read about it for hours on end or should I start speaking? If I want to start a business, should I study the theory of entrepreneurship, or should I go out and start a business? We have so many resources available to us these days such as books, libraries, podcasts, the internet, and people that will provide us with the essential knowledge we need. But ultimately it’s the act of getting out there and doing something that makes our learning concrete, and it’s never been easier to do so. Think about how quickly we can start a company or website to get our idea off the ground. Take this website for example; it took less than a day to have a complete platform for expressing my thoughts and ideas up and running and you can do the same just as easily.
Since work and education have made so many recent advancements, it would be short-sighted to think we have to keep doing things the same way they have been done in the past. This isn’t to say that education doesn’t play an important role in our development, I simply want to convey that we have so many resources available to us that don’t carry the expensive B-school price tag and can be just as effective. Obviously, some careers require PhDs, graduate programs, or formal training, but in this age where entrepreneurship and innovation are booming, is it really worth the cost?
It’s a tough question to answer and honestly I still don’t know.
I am still thinking through the decision, but I’ve decided to move forward with taking the GMAT since my score lasts for five years, and I figure this will be the easiest it will ever be to take the test. I’ve been away from school long enough to grow and expand my thinking, but not so long that I forgot what sugar-infused all nighters feel like. But that could certainly change. What do you think? How beneficial is it to pursue an MBA in today’s changing work environment? Everyone will ultimately take a different career path, so what will yours be?