When Should Education End? The Answer Is Never.

continuous education, life long learning

We always hear how important it is for children to have a good education so that they can get a good job after college. However, we do not hear much about education after college. Yes, some choose to pursue masters or other professional degrees, but that is a small percentage of the population. Most people still believe in the old model of front-loading education early in life. Unfortunately, that mindset puts too many people at risk of becoming irrelevant in our fast-changing world.

"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning." – Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian philosopher

That is a fantastic quote that captures the essence of how we should view education. Another helpful resource for understanding how to stay relevant through learning is Bradley Staats' book Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive.

Staats provides an interesting tidbit of information from a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. During the years of 1978 to 2012, employees between the ages of 18 and 48 held, on average, twelve different jobs. At first, I thought it was an unrealistically large number. However, after counting all kinds of jobs and internships I had before graduating college and all the jobs I had after college, I came very close to twelve. That was a shocking revelation.

Most people I know did not understand how I could change jobs so often, but I enjoyed the change. Also, early on in a career, jobs are typically not overly complex, which means that they can be learned very quickly. Without a change, such jobs seize being challenging after a short while.

Staats approaches the subject of change from a different perspective. We know that change is the only constant, even though most people hate change. However, to succeed in this evolving environment, we have to learn continuously. If we do not, we might become irrelevant as we continue to apply yesterday's solutions to tomorrow's problems.

Staats highlights the common challenges most people experience when it comes to learning.

  1. They are bad at learning.
  2. They are afraid to take a risk that might result in failure.
  3. They focus too much on the outcome and not enough on the process to achieve the desired outcome.
  4. They are quick to provide answers without asking questions first.
  5. They pride themselves on staying busy instead of recharging and reflecting.
  6. They prefer to follow someone else's path instead of forging their own.
  7. They focus on fixing weaknesses rather than playing to their strengths.
  8. They specialize without seeking variety in the long-term.

Peter Drucker coined the term "knowledge worker" and said that we live in a knowledge society. Staats takes this concept to the next level and posits that it is not enough for us to be knowledge workers; we should also be learning workers as we live in a learning economy.

"Ultimately, the 'learn-it-all' will always do better than the 'know-it-all'" - Bradley Staats

We have to develop new skills in order to innovate. Many people believe that most manufacturing job losses that occurred in the U.S. were because of outsourcing to China and other countries. However, according to a study The Myth and the Reality of Manufacturing in America by Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research, "almost 88 percent of job losses in manufacturing in recent years can be attributable to productivity growth."

Technology will continue to advance and increase productivity, reducing the need for more and more existing jobs. As mentioned in a previous post, companies are already automating repetitive and mundane tasks through the implementation of Robotic Process Automation.

On the flip side, nonroutine jobs are becoming more common. Those jobs, however, require employees to provide value through adaptation, innovation, and customization - all of which demand continual learning.

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