Why a wealth of knowledge and practical experience is more important than a piece of paper

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.
Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
-Steve Jobs, 1995
Trying to fill gaps with our own understanding is far more beneficial than being told how to do it.

Far too many times we’ve been sucked into the void, trapped in the system with apparently no way out. I used to think that the way things worked was that we had to follow a certain norm like everyone does in order to attain our goals.

I never imagined that there was so much more out there that the world could offer to us once we learn not to confine ourselves with our current situation and its societal barriers. Finding our footing in this world is a long and arduous process that some of us still continue to go through to this very day, and I believe that it could be attributed to the fact that we are simply riding with the system or going with the flow, per se.

More so than trying to make our mark in our short time here in the world, deep down we all have ourselves to satisfy before anything else. We are told to follow the status quo, stick to what makes many others before you great. Does this really satisfy you? Has staying with this formula done enough for you to grow exponentially? Is the way you live your life right now leading to the future you envision it to be?

One important thing to take note of is that every individual is unique. We have different talents, different interests and vastly different personalities. To say that we could do what we want after struggling with something we don’t love or enjoy is an outdated way of thinking. We live in an age where people are constantly in touch with each other. We are able to gain learning experiences previously exclusive to institutions that we pay extravagant amounts of money to simply with a few strokes on the keyboard and a press of a button.

Information is readily available anywhere we go and therefore real education is now found in experiences, applications and pursuing our interests.

We must learn the skills not taught in school.

My mentor shared some wise words to me that should be taken to heart. It’s now all about what you want and the effort you dedicate to get what you want. Networking constantly, using resources and learning continuously play an important role in that. It is now far beyond what classrooms can teach us given the technology that has allowed us to progress. Our diplomas are not the important thing to present when we want to succeed. We have to build our own wealth of experience and practical knowledge. We have to stop dealing with the non essentials and try to find our niche. Build something great and let people know us from what we’ve built.

Giving attention to unnecessary factors that hinder us from reaching our goals will prevent us from realizing our full potential. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that focusing on my core competencies has bolstered my confidence tremendously and completely removed the factor of intimidation even if I was well aware of the fact that there will always be a handful of people better than me in what I do.

Time is a form of investment as much as it is a part of life. We can choose to carry out the same menial tasks everyday or we can find something productive to do that will take us one small step forward towards our goal of achieving something bigger. We must continue to learn different things, study trends and see the direction that our chosen expertise may head to within the next few years. This, I truly believe, is the new measure for success. It’s no longer about getting a diploma, rising up through the ranks and struggling to come to terms with the perils of work. The amount of information that we can get for free now allows us to fully go for what we want and with fervor as long as we are genuinely interested in improving.

“Arriving at a university, I was confronted with reality.”

My way of learning outside of the classroom has been to set informational meetings with different people at least once a week. Sharing insights, building a solid network and meeting like-minded individuals has helped me find where my passion truly lies. No matter what their position or stature in life, remember first and foremost that they are also human beings. Some of them might not be interested in talking to you, but I haven’t found one person so far that has said no to an opportunity to offer genuine advice to one who asks for it. They’ve been in our stead before, we share their frustrations and they more than anyone would know that sharing information is the only way to progress. When we want to collaborate, It’s vital to show them what you know, demonstrate and deliver. Focus on it and people will be happy to work with you.

Taking online courses, attending summits abroad and gaining exposure to different cultures is extremely important. We must assess the environment we are currently in and compare it to many others. The culture I was in was toxic, demoralizing and utterly hopeless. By going out and meeting people that had the same dreams as I did, I realized that we were being caged in a certain demographic, and that we could easily break out of it if we continue to learn exponentially.

Lastly, we are never taught that mistakes are important, and that failure is necessary. When we are not afraid to fail, they can only be one of two things:

  1. “I’m so good that there’s no way I’m going to fail!”
  2. “Even if I do fail, I’m going to learn so much.”

The latter is the one which we should latch on to. Failure is our best friend. We musn’t be concerned if people will laugh at us for looking bad or what others think of us. When we don’t know which path we should take, any road would lead us there. I’ve tried a lot of different things and some of them just didn’t work out. We learn something when we do it from the beginning all the way to when it crashes and burns and doesn’t work anymore. At the end of the day, we are our own teachers. We steer the wheel through passion and discipline. We have to love what we do. We must assign our own homework.

It isn’t about going through the motions and hoping for the best, but rather going out of our comfort zone to widen our horizons, expand our knowledge on perspectives and become the best version of ourselves.

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