The short: I graduated from high school, went to college by default. Stuck around for 3 semesters, then 7 years later came back to finish my undergrad, a BBA in Business Management.
The cliches came to mind when I thought about writing about going back to school, and in reality reflecting on the past 11 years. Let’s get those cliches out of the way because they are all true:
“One step back to take two steps forward”
Yes: I found more value being in school with a bunch of experience from the 7 years away. Not to say it was a step back, but it took my gained experience for the lightbulb moments with many of the concepts in the classroom. It qualified a lot of what I had been doing, and refined my ability to explain what was happening.
“Success comes to those who wait”
Yes: I wasn’t in the mindset of learning when I first entered school. I was too eager to apply what I already knew. I wasn’t ready to succeed at school. It took time for me to really value being in the classroom.
“Success is the collision of timing and being prepared”
Yes: the timing needed to be right. I needed by education to be a catalyst in the midst of my career rather than a foundation. I was in a position where my business had just failed. Luckily, my wife could support us both and it was the right time to register for courses. Some things just work out.
“When you’re ready to learn, the teacher will appear”
Yes: I appreciated my professors. I saw them as my biggest asset, and to this day, I feel comfortable approaching many of them as trusted advisors. They were not the dreaded dictator assigning too many readings, forcing unwilling people to complete group projects, or relishing in seeing each student struggle through exams.
There are a few things that I have realized from going back to school and I wanted to leave them here in hope to inspire students and to encourage everyone to keep a learning mindset. I have seen too many students just doing their time on campus, and some brilliant people get trapped in their day-to-day jobs because they have become complacent.
Five ways to keep a learning mindset:
1. Read for Yourself
There is no negative here. Reading will differentiate yourself from your peers. I know how labouring it can be to read assigned texts, reports and papers. That type of reading is work. It won’t all be fun. So have knowledge consumption that is rewarding. Choose books that are easy to read or have a topic that you’ll be interested in. Once you have a book that you can’t put down, you will stick with a habit of reading. I encourage you to start, even if it is 10-20 minutes per day.
2. Focus on Adding Value
When the largest organizations in the world will pay a external body to add value to their company, why wouldn’t you try to do that with what you’re working on. Make something better.
Improve a process at work. Find a more efficient way to study. Develop a side project that fixes a problem. DIY something at home that makes your life easier.
3. Do Multiple Things with your time
How many things have you juggled at once? 2 jobs? 5 courses? School and work? Raising kids and working? Social and work circles?
Think about it. You’ve applied yourself to be doing multiple things at once. This isn’t about being busy, my least favourite word. It is about pushing the envelop just enough to see a difference.
4. Apply Yourself
There are numerous avenues for you to apply yourself. It doesn’t have to be a job, a business, sports, family. That just what I know, and am striving to achieve. Finish each day knowing that your full effort was applied.
5. Always Keep Score
Naturally, its easy in school to keep score. You’re always being measured. Test results, GPA, SAT, GMAT, Peer Percentiles, etc. Have some goals so that your can continue to measure yourself. It doesn’t have to be as rigid as a course, but force yourself to win. Read a book per month, spend 3 hours per week exercising, one day per week start a new project.
Whatever is on the score card, use this as a way to accomplish self actualization. Yeah. I went there. Remember that from Maslow’s heirarchy of needs? Its the top of his pyramid for a reason. It really matters.
Depending on your school experience it may feel like the best years are behind you, or the future is looking bright. Either way, the mindset you have can dictate how much you can gain from the next step. Keep a leaning mindset and gain along the way.