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Formal Education Is Not Coincident To Success

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire, Bill Gates, pictured with his wife, Melinda, during their visit to the Oslo Opera House in June 2009. Gates, a Harvard University drop-out, went on to achieve phenomenal business and philanthropic success. Photo credit: Kjetil Ree - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6934215.

Formal Education Is Not Coincident To Success

By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator

yvonne-samI appeal to the readers for understanding and rational following. Do not be misled by this column’s title, for I think education is very important, having pursued post graduate degrees, in both Nursing and Education, but that was only because I was passionate about social change and felt, strongly, that these avenues would situate me in a better position to accomplish the kind of change the world around me needed.

Nonetheless, at the same time, I refuse to believe that formal education and being an employee is the only way that an individual can wind up being a success in life. The commonly-held notion that going all the way through college or university and receiving a good payment package from a big company, is becoming old and on its last leg.

This is one of the many reasons why the unemployment rate is on the rise, even for graduates. Everyone is just waiting around to be employed, and no one is willing to create employment. Such a manner of thinking may have worked out well for the Baby Boomer generation, but it is time that we alter our way of thinking.

Formal education confines you in a foreseeable environment, where the results are predetermined and controllable. The formula is — finish college, possibly do your Bachelor’s or your Master’s, and get a well-paying job in a big, well-known company.

Sadly, formal education does not inspire you to think outside of this box, and most people never break out from this line of thinking. Sure, if you are pursuing professional, white collar employment, it may be essential for you to have gone the entire nine yards in formal education and attain that degree. But the question still remains — is this the only road to success? Why wait for a piece of paper to determine your life’s story?

What is necessary is that you first rethink your idea of success. What do you consider success to be — a big bank balance, a big house, top of the line cars and a prestigious job title?

I think that this is a misconception of success, but then again, everyone will have a different idea of what success is, and that is fine. From my personal stance, success is measured by how much impact (positive) you have on the world, when your story is ended. How many lives were you able to touch? Did you ensure that future generations will have a better life than you had? Did you inspire someone to move forward towards realizing their full potential?

Looking at the most-admired success stories in history — actors/actresses, writers, religious leaders, entrepreneurs, fathers — theses people are not remembered for the size of their bank accounts or mansions, but for the number of hearts that they touched, and the impact they had on the world. Their idea of success was the creation of something valuable and lasting, and I feel that we should all learn to view success in a similar light.

Formal education takes you out of the class, right into a career, possibly for a big company. Who creates these companies? Entrepreneurs. The spirit of entrepreneurship does not consider your educational level, if it finds you, it finds you. It is not a career you have to qualify for. It is a calling, a fire inside you that overwhelms you; it becomes a lifestyle, a way of life. From a basic point, entrepreneurs are the people who create the jobs for the college graduates. They are the ones who dared to break out of the traditional dependence on formal education to achieve success.

For example Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University to follow his passion, and along with his childhood friend, Paul Allen, found Microsoft. Let it stand for the records that in no way am I advocating or encouraging discontinuation or non-attendance at school, it is however, a noteworthy illustration of how a regular student, who over the years sharpened his skills in coding, and did not require a University degree to follow his passion and go on to build one of the most successful and wealthiest companies in the world, with an employee base of over 100,000.

In order to achieve true success you must have a vision. You cannot presuppose that you can take it easy and success will come to you, just because you have a formal education. No way! You have to pursue it.

You should institute broad, but flexible, long term goals that stipulate your long term success, while at the same time, having small, day-to-day goals, to which you remain committed, in order to realize the broad vision.

The real key to success is our belief in ourselves, this is what enables us to tap deep into our cores and unleash our potential.  Organize your work environment and, above all, encircle yourself with people who boost your productivity and lead you to success.

The founder of Apple, the late Steve Jobs, was an avid believer in keeping good company. One of his most momentous words were, “Surround yourself with the dreamers, the ones who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”

As a closing statement, let it stand for the record, that I do believe that education is necessary to be successful, however not in the conventional sense of the word education.

We need to redefine or reconsider what true success is and educate ourselves in a manner that will enable us to achieve it. While formal education has many benefits, do not be misled; it is not an automatic prerequisite for success.

You will not become automatically successful merely because you have a college or University degree, it takes much more than that. More than anything, your attitude is the most important determinant for achieving success, and formal education cannot teach you attitude or enthusiasm and without these, the drive to follow your dreams and to positively impact the world around you, will be little or non-existent.

To be successful you must educate yourself in your field of interest, beyond what you learn in the classroom. Study your antecessors and stand on their shoulders, in order to make an original/unique impact of your own, to positively influence the world around you, and leave a lasting legacy, before passing over the baton to the next generation.

Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.

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