I remember being frustrated in 7th grade math.
The damned teacher wouldn’t slow down. I’d just grasp a topic and he was moving on to the next one. And, better yet, I’d feel that I was JUST BEGINNING to understand something and he’d skip ahead.
Worse yet? I’d ask questions and he’d reply, “Oh, that’s easy.” Then he’d quickly scribble something on the chalkboard and erase it before I could even understand what was happening.
It was frustrating. I got a D. Later, I became a financial advisor. I know…irony, right?
That same summer I started working in the cornfields. We were organized into crews to do this job called “detasseling.” It was great. Not only was I wrestling with puberty, but I was now also struggling to keep up every day from 5 AM until my fingers bled. Our supervisor was a nice guy, but the field manager, a guy known simply as “Dale,” was the cornfield version of Satan.
“The best thing I get to do this summer is to lay you assholes off,” He’d yell at a bunch of seventh and eighth graders. “You crybabies belong at home with your mama.” He’d yell. We’d move faster down the field. More work got done.
After the first day something clicked. I went from struggling to pissed off.
I wasn’t an asshole, he was.
I wasn’t a crybaby, I was a kid trying to buy a damned bike.
I didn’t want to get laid off.
NOT being laid off had nothing to do with the bike. It had to do with the fact that what I really wanted was to be good at something. I wanted someone to be proud of me.
BUT after a couple days of rocking in the cornfield, or at least keeping up and being as positive as possible, I realized that it wasn’t Dale I was trying to make proud of me. I also knew that my parents, who’d been there for all of my baseball games and cross country races, they had no idea what was going on out here. They couldn’t be proud of me.
That’s when I realized…I needed to be proud of myself.
Not only did I NOT get laid off when all the other seventh graders lost their jobs, but I was one of the last kids working that year…and the next, and the next. Before long, once I had my driver’s license, I drove kids down to the field on the bus. I became the youngest supervisor. Before long I was in charge of whole fields. I was Dale.
The Importance of Education
That job, and all of my bad jobs, taught me everything I needed to know about education.
- It was up to ME to teach myself skills. Given the task of training me more or letting me go, Dale was happy to let me go. I’ve found this to be the case with most employers. Sure, a qualified employee is a better one, but training someone new (apparently) absolutely sucks. Quality workers would get along, drift to the top, and figure out a way to get the job done.
- I wasn’t trying to please a boss. I was trying to please me. Organizations today come and go. I just hired a sound engineer for our Stacking Benjamins podcast. Do I care about him? Sure. Is he excited? I hope so. But he shouldn’t be trying to impress me. He should be using this opportunity to put together some awesome shows so that he can work on more projects in the future. Even if he stays with me long term, he should be focused on his own path and on using my opportunity to score bigger and better things in the future.
- That said, loyalty rocks. In the age of teams that come and go, groups of people tend to stick together. I don’t have time to look for quality people…I need to rely on my network to help me quickly find bright minds to help me move forward. I want people who help Stacking Benjamins become the awesome place I want it to be. I also want to help my clients become the awesome people they want to be. I’m loyal and expect loyalty in an era where it seems much of loyalty has been forgotten.
So, Do Graduate Degrees Matter?
Sure they do.
You should create your own degree. Rather than worry about my 7th grade math teacher or Dale, the asshat foreman, I need to learn math and become a better detasseler for me. I need to craft my own path. I’m going to succeed if I create Joe University, not if I rely on someone else to train me to be the machine they’re looking to find.
I believe degrees can help. Graduate schools are fantastic ways to get advanced learning in specific areas, and the courses a graduate school offers can help you move forward toward your goals. Universities that offer higher education have fantastic resources (not to mention networking opportunities) that will help chart your path for the rest of your life.
But you have to be in charge.
The Perfect Education
I think there are some important takeaways:
- Graduate school might be the right path for you. But it’s up to you to use your learning to advance your career path AND your knowledge in your chosen field.
- Impress yourself mostly. You deserve to be great at whatever you set out to do.