When it comes to money making, education is your best weapon.
Don’t believe me? You don’t have to look very far for an example: just look to the right of this page. You see the picture?
Yes, it’s me.
Twenty five years ago I landed in Manchester, UK with $20 in my pocket, I kid you not. Today I’m a full professor at a top UK university, have developed side hustles and have a more than great net-worth. (Apart from being worth my weight in gold, that is.)
I still meet Bulgarians who moved to the UK sometime during the last twenty years; many of them still do manual jobs and earn a bit over minimum wage.
People tell me: ‘Oh, but these people are not like you!’
True. Do you know what the main difference between these people and me is?
They had university degrees; I had great education.
Oh, I had degrees as well. When I arrived in the UK, I had a degree in sociology; then I realised this doesn’t mean much. I had finished my PhD – just to find that it carries very little clout.
My first idea was to get some more degrees: completed a Masters, did another PhD.
What got me where I am though is all the knowledge I collected on the way.
I was offered a job not because I understood social structures (sociology, you see), but because I had education. I advanced fast – and earned more – because I had knowledge and kept it up-to-date.
More specifically I knew how to:
- Do data analysis;
- Use computers (yep, we are talking early 1990s and most people couldn’t);
- Write (I’ve always done this one);
- Sell my competencies;
- Present and hold the attention of large rooms full of people;
- Learn fast.
You see, your labour (or your time) is the most important piece on the board of the money making game. There are other pieces like building exceptional reputation, starting a business and investing. Still, amid all this, education and knowledge are absolutely key.
Education is your best weapon for success because today’s economy is ‘knowledge’ hungry. Look around: everything that can be automated is being automated. At airports we self-check in; in factories routine jobs are done by robots; and surgical robots are also being developed. This all changes the nature of jobs: humans are necessary where analysis, thinking and decisions take place. This means education.
In today’s economy, education is also not an act but a process. You have to learn continuously since the economy is changing so fast that jobs – and your skills and competencies – become obsolete in a matter of years rather than decades.
If you are at the beginning of your career, you should be prepared to change your occupation approximately fourteen times over your working life. This is a lot of education!
To thrive in today’s economy, you need a somewhat different competency set from the one you’d have needed three decades ago (though, it seems I had some of these). I call it a ‘maverick’ competency set and it consists of learning how to:
- Sell (your ideas, your competencies, products etc.)
- Negotiate (anything from work conditions to pay)
- Be creative
- Network effectively (success is as much about ‘who you know’ as it is about ‘what you know’)
- Re-invent yourself (remember what I told you about needing to change your occupation a number of times?)
- Generate and combine ideas
- Make mistakes and learn from them
- Master a field in record time
- Spot opportunities and act on them
In brief, you need education, and a lot of it. But note that I’m not talking about degrees: I’d rather keep your mind on getting educated and acquiring knowledge. The degree is just a certificate of this knowledge.
Here are seven ways to get education, and stay educated:
#1. Go to university. If you haven’t already completed an undergraduate degree, you probably should. Do it for the knowledge, for the opportunity to become a thinker and a doer, and for the contacts. Focus on these aspects and you’ll get a good degree. Oh, and your knowledge will impress future employers and give you a much needed advantage in the labour market.
#2. Enrol regularly on courses. Doing a course is still the fastest way to break into a new field, to up-scale your competencies and to keep learning. These can be professional courses offered by universities, like this ACCA F1 professional course, online courses or MOOCs. If you are interested here is a list of 15 free online courses that are worth considering.
#2. Read broadly. Yes. To get, and stay, educated you’ll have to develop the habit of reading. Reading a lot and on a variety of topics.
#3. Develop an open mind set. There is one difference between an open and closed mind set: the former works with problems and the latter with predicaments. Which one do you think is better? (Let me give you a clue: problems have solutions and predicaments don’t.) Train yourself to see your life, both personal and professional, as a sequence of problems that can be solved. Then go away and learn how to solve them. Your education will benefit immensely.
#4. Use every opportunity to learn. Use every opportunity to learn and reflect on what you’ve learned. Many a time, we let experiences slip over our minds – like oil off a hot pan – without leaving a trace; and this is in the way of education.
#5. Experiment. Don’t only learn from other people (courses), through other people (examples) and from books (reading). Try things for yourself and experiment. This makes learning and education so much more fun!
#6. Become an ‘ideas factory’. Ideas without application are worth nothing. Still, there can’t be application without having ideas first. Learn how to generate ideas; you can learn this from James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. And please do the exercises if you want this one to work (I do. Every morning.)
Want to be a head above the rest?
Go get yourself education. And remember that education is not an act but a lifelong process.
When was the last time you did a course? What is the last book you read and when?