Learn by thinking AND doing

I was at a party the other day chatting to a second year media student who wanted to major in digital marketing. She seemed really passionate about social media and it’s potential to be a major communication channel… blah blah blah. Wanting to shift from the textbook Social Media pitch I popped the question: “So, what’s your blog called?” After an initial confused blank look she went on to explain that she can’t start one because she does’t have her degree yet and that she didn’t know enough yet. I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

I know I’m in a ‘unique’ position to be able to do a Real World Degree, but I still cannot understand why more people are not actively pursuing their passions in their spare time. Take the above example where this girl could have had 3 years of creating engaging, social media content behind her as well as her degree in Digital Marketing. Imagine how much more impressive her CV could be by merely practicing in her spare time what she is learning at varsity. Who knows, maybe she could have been working for herself by the time she has her degree.

This is a simple case where the barrier of entry is pretty low. But what if you look at a more intense field, say engineering? Some names that come to mind are those of Gates, Ellison, Brin and others who gave themselves a head-start by working on the side while at school or university. Even as a Civil Engineer Project Manager you would be far better off if you had actually spent a holiday or 2 working on a construction site. The same applies for a vet, teacher or a number of other fields.

I think the biggest mistake is that most people are trying to do it with a sense of entitlement. As with my Inbound Business Model I believe that the value of experience is heavily underrated by the young. Yet when you are looking to apply for your first job the most common reason for being turned down is lack of experience. Why not go out and get that experience? I have yet to come across a startup or an SME who would not be willing to take on someone willing to learn. Especially if they are not asking for money. If you approach it with the sole aim of trying to gain experience I think you will be surprised by what you get in return. I certainly have been.

It is the disparity between education and reality that puzzles me. It may be down to the fact that we are a very consumer driven society and that universities are so dependant on maintaining the importance of degrees that they undermine the most valuable asset in the workplace: experience. But for the life of me I cannot understand why more people are not investing time and experience to help them get the edge in the future.

What are you doing when your head is not in your books?

Can your hobbies make you millions?

What do Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Richard Brandson and Steve Jobs have in common? Yes, they are all very rich and successful – they also all dropped out of school or college. But what is the reason for their success? Is it because they are drop-outs and being over educated is a restriction to success? As there are many college dropouts not nearly as successful, I think not.

Not having a formal qualification does put pressure on you to be more innovative, but I think that important thing that most people miss is that with all these successful guys that dropped out were moving onto something else. It was a side project, a dream, a hobby that they managed to make a business out of. Some other project in their life just became more important thatn getting a degree at that point.

Most successful people that I deal with are the types of people who have laods of projects on the go, or at least did before they dropped everthing else to focus on one specific project. When they werre at university they were involved in other societies, clubs, hobbies or businesses. Like Steve Woznaic who designed and built the entire Apple I and Apple II computers in one year… all while working a 9 to 5 job at HP. It was Sergy Brin’s hobby to “donload the whole internet” that lead to the PageRank script that was the foundation for Google’s search.

The fact that many wealthy people don’t have degrees has very little to do with the value of a degree or not. I believe it has way more to do with what they do in their spare time. Hobbies and side projects are far less constrained by the rules of society and are often far more out-of-the-box than the convential 9 to 5 job that you rely on. After all, the more side projects that you run the higher the chance that one of them might just work out.

So next time you meet someone interesting, instead of asking what they do for a living, ask them what they do in their spare time.

Why Drop out of University – Real World degrees

While there is a staggering number of people at the top of the “rich List” who are university drop-outs, there are still unrecorded masses for which it didn’t work out so well. Why does dropping out sometimes help and most times not? What are good reasons to drop out and what are the benefits from doing it? As a UCT drop-out myself*, here are my thoughts – it would be great to hear yours.

While there is plenty of merit in getting a degree, isn’t it strange that so few people actually use what they learnt in their degree in their first job? Nowadays a degree is more proof that you are trainable and can think than a means of showing your experience. It is more about extending your title (i.e. Roger Norton, BSc Electrical Engineering) than giving you any real experience in that field and limiting you to use what you have learnt…
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