We are entering what has traditionally been “back to school” time. I have always found this to be a fun time of year. Like with New Year’s Day, birthdays, etc., the start of a new school year brings up thoughts and memories of fresh starts, new school supplies, and new experiences. While many of you are technically out of school, I would encourage you to continue to pursue learning and knowledge throughout the course of your lives. I know I have, both formally and informally, and I have benefited greatly, whether from winning the odd trivia night or expanding into a new career field.
We seem to have some fallacies in our thinking of learning, experience, and skills, though. I have talked to a number of co-workers and new hires who only think of being qualified in areas where they have completed formal training, but I think that is a mistake. The ability to learn new things brings personal improvement, whether through experiential learning or through self-study. In most university settings that I have been involved in, self-study of materials is essential to really understanding a topic, although not necessarily for passing the course. This disconnect, to me, makes self-study even more valuable than official transcripts from accredited universities. Conversely, the rigor of formal study, does indicate that at least a minimum level of understanding was achieved, which is important when trying to ensure a minimum baseline is known by an individual. In the end, though, self-study moves one from minimally qualified to expert.
Interestingly, to become an expert in something requires about 10,000 hours of study and experience. This, to me, means that learning has to be an on-going effort, and, secondarily, you can (and must) rely on self-study to forge a true expertise in an area. The neat part of that is that you get to decide what area that will be and you can tailor it directly to the things you love. So, as we enter into the fall and start thinking about school days, I encourage you all to pick up a book, search on YouTube, listen to podcasts and lectures on topics you wish to add to your level of expertise. Pick something you enjoy and get started today…of course, you probably need to pick up some new school clothes and supplies first! That part is always fun.