Education is held by our society to be one of the keys to success. Certainly, there are certain professions in which formal academic education is a prerequisite not to success itself, but rather just to get into the front door of the profession.
The question we need to ask is whether or not formal academic education as offered in the current structure of our society is in fact a prerequisite, or even a significant help in achieving success in general (as opposed to within a specific profession) and what are the underlying reasons for this.
What is Success?
Before we can do this we need to decide exactly what we mean by success. It has been defined by some as 'the progressive realisation of a worthwhile dream, goal or ideal', and this is a good definition, but lacks some of the specificity we need to truly determine the role of education in achieving it.
For the purposes of this article I am going to define success as the following.
Achieving a progressively improving state of making a meaningful contribution with integrity, good health, good relationships, material abundance, and self determination.
To further explore what this actually means, what I am saying is that;
To be successful is to be making a positive difference in some way, whilst acting in good faith, looking after your health, enjoying and building strong meaningful relationships, being able to do all of this without concern caused by lack of resources, but rather based on what is good and right, and finally, to be in control of your own life and not reduced to unwilling servitude by slavery, ignorance or an oversized mortgage.
Does Formal Academic Education Teach Us to Do This?
If we judge by the results in our western societies, where nearly everyone has had some education, the majority have finished High School, and a great many have gone on to college. We have to seriously question the true value of formal education to the success of the individual.
By the rates of suicide, drug use, depression, and hopelessness in our society, we can infer that there are some deficiencies in our education system in so far as teaching people to make a contribution they see as meaningful.
By both the increasing obesity, diabetes levels and drug problems in our society we can judge that the education system is ineffective in teaching people to be healthy.
By the divorce rates and level of violence we can make an indicative judgement as to the effectiveness of our education system in teaching people to get along and build strong relationships.
By the level of dependence on welfare, the levels of homelessness and the levels of relative poverty in the richest nations in the world, we can take a good guess as to effectiveness of our education system in teaching people to create material abundance in their own lives.
By the by the mere existence of Blue Monday and TGIF (Thank God It's Friday), we know there are enough people who are forced to do something at least 5 days a week that they would rather not have to do, so we can gauge the effectiveness of our education system to teach people self determination.
I hope this is not too harsh for you, but it is the way it seems from where I sit.
Why is Our Formal Education System so Ineffective?
What nobody tells us is that our existing formal education system is either unable to teach us how to be successful, nor designed to teach us to become successful.
The education system as it currently exists, is based on the needs of an industrial aged society. In the industrial age our own personal interests were in conflict with those of the larger society and of those in power.
Let's look at Relationships
During the early industrial age, when the current system of education took its early froms, we lived in a predominantly patriarchal society in which very few women ever dared to leave their husbands, and husbands therefore didn't actually need to know how to keep their wives happy, similarly, wives just had to be submissive and obedient and that was enough, the marriage lasted for life.
Nowadays, when we have so much freedom to enter and leave relationships without for the most part significant repercussions, we actually need to know how to keep the other person happy. Yet we as a society still don't have a structured means of educating everyone to have functional, long term, meaningful relationships.
What about Material Abundance and Self Determination?
What our industrial age government and society needed was producing tax payers. Society needed some entrepreneurs and business people to assume the risks, acquire the skills, employ these workers and provide capital, but there was still a need for the majority of people to be part of the working underclass.
To keep people going to work to produce for the country and pay taxes to the government, it was necessary to NOT teach them how to create financial independence, in fact it was necessary to actively teach them to be lifelong employees and live from paycheck to paycheck.
One of the effects of encouraging people to manage their long term financial position poorly, is the rise of the attitudes necessary for today's consumerism, buy it now pay for it later, keep up with the Jones's , my identity is created by what I own, and I want it all for me!
This mentality is great for keeping people in debt, keeping people locked into jobs, stimulating the economy, and, you guessed it, raising more taxes. It does not serve the individual in terms of creating long term financial independence, truly sustainable material abundance or achieving the self determination that comes with not being up to your eyeballs in debt.
How about Health?
I don't really understand how our society can be so poorly educated about health as to be so unhealthy, I guess our addiction to (among other things) high fat, low nutrition fast food is tied in with our consumeristic, I want it yesterday lifestyle and attitude.
Whatever the cause, there is obviously money in unhealthy food and where there is money there is power to influence society, which of course means there is yet more money in unhealthy food, and in turn more power to influence.
A bit of a vicious circle, but one that at this point can only be broken by educating our children from a young age to exercise and eat healthy food, something that is obviously not being done in the current system, as evidenced by the growing problems with childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.
just based on this simple set of observations we can begin to see that a formal education is simply not teaching people to be successful.
The purpose of this article is not to whine about the formal education system, I only go down that path to make you aware of the need to take matters into your own hands, success education is one of the few areas of life where 'vigilante' action is a good thing.
The point of all of this is that if you are going to learn the skills, attitudes and knowledge you need to be truly successful you are going to have to seek that information out for yourself!
The information is out there, you just need to look for it, in biographies of successful people, in the countless books and audio programs on the market by the many experts in the world.
How do I Educate Myself to Succeed?
Reading books (both traditional hard copy and now days electronic) is the most powerful way to educate yourself.
Learning from the experiences of others who have gone before you can help you avoid making many of the same mistakes these pioneers have already made, it can stimulate your own thinking and help you find creative solutiosn to your own problems, and it can certainly broaden your thinking and your mind.
So start reading! Read a good mix of 'How to' books in your chosen field, biographies of great people, motivation books, books about success principles, philosophical books and make sure you read some of the classic self help books too (they may be old books but the principles they teach are timeless)
Whilst reading is vital, the problem with reading is that it takes dedicated, focused time, and in our busy world, listening to audio books, seminars, and other audio programs offers a great way to educate yourself in time that would otherwise be largely wasted.
If you have to sit in traffic twice a day, don't just let that time be wasted time, stick a tape/CD/MP3 program on and use the time to teach and motivate yourself. Zig Ziglar calls this enrolling in 'automobile university'. In my time in the military we used a principle called concurrent activity, which essentially means deliberately accomplishing multiple outcomes simultaneously, or "killing two birds with one stone" as the old cliche goes.
You can use this same principle by enrolling in Zigs University and making double use of your travel time.
One of the greatest powers for human change is that of association. basically we have a strong tendency to become like, assume the attitudes of, and start to think and act like those we hang around.
This is why parents instinctively want to keep their children away from 'the bad crowd', however we can use the exact same principle to our advantage by deliberately hanging around the 'good crowd'.
If we want to be healthy, we are better to hang around 'health conscious' people at a gym than 'anesthetised unconscious' people in a bar.
If we want to be wealthy, we need to make a deliberate effort to associate with wealthy people, not because we want them to give us anything, but because the way they think has led them to be wealthy, and we want to learn to think like them so we too can make ourselves wealthy.
Any group of people with the values and results you want to foster are candidates for association, however one of the best sources around are seminars and workshops on subjects relevant to what you are trying to accomplish.
Mentoring & Coaching
Having someone to whom you are held accountable for your performance or non performance is a great help in disciplining yourself to do what you need to do to get the results you want.
Coaching however is much more than that, a good coach will be able to give you ideas, encouragement and when you need it support to get you through the journey you are on. They can give you feedback from a more detached third party perspective, helping us see past our sometimes overwhelmingly personal involvement in a situation.
Getting yourself a good coach or mentor can definitely be a big help in educating yourself to succeed.
Go for it (and don't quit)
These four things, reading, listening, association and coaching will give you the necessary resources to educate yourself to succeed.
Keep in mind that your current 'education' has taken you many many years to acquire, so you can't expect change to be either instant or easy.
It is however very possible, and with your persistent determined effort definitely achievable, and when you start to see the results of your self administered success education, it is unquestionably worth the effort!