If we can spend hours watching cat videos online then I could not recommend more highly to spend 20 minutes watching this profound TED talk from 2006. Whether you are a parent or single, I implore everyone to watch this.
Whilst I was in high school in my formative years, my parents would often say how they wanted me to attend university after Year 12 and VCE was over. Much to their disappointment (then, not now), I held a firm view that I had no intention or desire to attend university. As a result, I have no university degree. I am not ashamed that I have no degree, yet fast forward all these years later, and I am in a comfortable position in my life. Why am I saying this and sharing such personal information about myself? Contrary to what you make think, it is not to gloat, because ego has no place in this blog post. Rather, because I feel that after having seen this TED talk, sharing my story and view from the other side of the fence is very relevant. I feel compelled to share it because for a long time, since I was a teenager, I had a belief that obtaining a degree was never the pinnacle of educational or life success. I honestly never wanted one. It's not that I didn't have any aspirations or goals either, I had and still have plenty. So I chose to work my backside off from day dot, always holding down a MINIMUM of two jobs since I was fifteen because I envisioned a comfortable and relatively stress-free life when I was older - which is now.
Those in my inner circle who know me well, know that for my age I have achieved quite a bit, all of this has been done without university, without a degree and without the constraints of an educationl system that largely eradicates creativity, embraces conformity and supresses the fire within the soul of young students. I have allowed myself the freedom to follow my heart, my passion and my natural talents and abilities, which have led me through different journeys and down interesting paths. Paths that helped instil the confidence that was required to leave a corporate role and take on the challenge of a start-up company, eventually growing it into a successful national business as well as pursue my creative passion and endeavours in the film and television industry.
I've simplified my life, ridding myself of all manner of toxicity and baggage that I felt held me back or stunted my personal and spiritual growth, including people, food, habits and lifestyle. I became a vegetarian, discarded my television, began reading as often as I can, exercising as consistently as I was able to, travelled and allow myself to just 'be' whenever I felt like it, as opposed to being made to feel that I constantly had to be 'on', 'online' or ‘available’. If I don't want to go out, I don't. If I want to hibernate and zone out, I do. If I didn’t want to be online on social media for days, I wouldn’t. If I receive a fine that I feel is unwarranted or unfair, I'll take the time and challenge it, rather than just complain about it and not feel empowered enough to do anything about it.
What I’m getting at is that I don’t feel for a second at all that not having a degree has hindered my abilities, opportunities, experiences or results professionally or personally for one second. It frustrates me to no end, the level of importance that western society has placed upon the revered university degree, as though that is some official recognition of a superior being that comes with a promise of a high powered, fulfilling, enriching and financially stable future, because quite frankly it’s not, increasingly so.
I have friends that only just recently fully paid off their university education debts, these are men and women well into their thirties. From the moment their ‘superior education’ begins, they are financially crippled for at least a decade afterwards. How on earth is this helping society? How is this helping our youth to achieve more than the generation preceding it and how is it creating an environment that fosters ingenuity, creation and creativity, when their main concern is repaying a debt for industry knowledge that will most likely be outdated prior to the debt having been paid off?
Even worse, the amount of university degree holders I see who struggle with one of the most basic of competencies, spelling and grammar, as well as having a good command of the English language continues to astound me.
Think of it like this. You could be applying for a job and despite possessing a glowing resume which proudly shows your university degrees and unit results, it is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. What message do you think this sends the recruiter? In the blink of an eye your $20,000+ degree, which you spent years of your life attaining and even more years of your life paying off, all amounts to nothing when in one motion, the recruiter flicks past your resume because you clearly demonstrated a below average understanding or care of what should be the most basic of skills; a command of ones own primary language.
Now think of this. A resume with no university degrees attained, however a wealth of expertise and industry experience complete with a cover letter drafted by a wordsmith akin to the great literary minds of our time. Do you think this would impress a recruiter and that they’d have an interest and desire to learn more about this person and meet them?
Then once you have met them, how will you behave? Is your personality as flat as the Nullabor plain or do you possess such rich charismatic flair, creative passion and self-confidence that would impress even the most astute of employers?
Can you see what I am getting at? What I’m attempting to do is make you understand that what you have is not necessarily who you are. What you believe you need to attain, or told to attain in order to become successful or noteworthy is actually based on an out-dated belief and premise brought upon by the industrial revolution (as mentioned in this TED talk).
As a close friend beautifully articulated, the education system is an artificial construct designed to add some attempt of order to society, it's not a validation of intelligence.
Does this mean that all degrees and university-based education is out-dated or irrelevant? Most certainly not. For careers involving highly specialized job functions and responsibilities, such as a surgeon or structural engineer (as an example), these qualifications are most definitely a necessity, although interestingly enough, some of the greatest architectural constructions such as the Colosseum were designed and built without the attainment of a university degree and continue to stand the test of time as opposed to modern day constructions, so therein resides quite the thought-provoking paradox.
Unlike much of todays society, by no means do I judge success solely upon financial remuneration, in fact quite the contrary. However if this is your one motivation, your one determining factor of success in your career, then pay extra attention to the stories of people such as Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Michael Dell to name but a few. These special people have helped to change the course of history as well as amass fortunes without the ‘help’ or necessity to attain a university degree. They had a vision, they had a passion and they were propelled to greatness after having the belief and self-confidence to conquer rejection or fears and allow their creativity through their endeavours to guide their journey.
Then there are others such as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Diana, Princess of Wales. Neither of these amazing human beings completed university degrees but all of them impacted the world and the course of human history. They have left legacies that continue to be remembered and cherished to this day, as well as work, charities and causes that are still ongoing right across the world. They followed their hearts, they followed what felt right, rather than something that felt foreign and was being forced upon them.
When the masses graduate from university with degrees but are unable to find work, what good is a degree? What value does it have? Does this just continue to raise the minimum standards of societal acceptance? Will a masters or PHD be the new norm, the new minimum acceptance, carrying the burden of additional and ever-increasing financial debt that will follow like a shadow well into their forties? By which time they’ve spent half of their life doing what they felt was a necessity whilst extinguishing the very thing that makes us human – the spark, the flame, the overwhelming desire of freedom to think, create and express that is innate within us all.
This TED talk was given in 2006. Eleven years later in 2017, it saddens me to see that little has changed in the education system of the west; although there is some hope. Some schools are now adopting mixed curriculums, embracing creativity and placing importance upon subjects other than mathematics and science.
A degree is no guarantee or assurance of success, financial stability or job satisfaction. On the same token, following your heart or your creative passion also offers no guarantee of success or financial stability, but undeniably it will guarantee you job satisfaction and happiness and joy within your heart. Come to think of it, isn’t that success right there?
We are constantly bombarded by the vision of luxury sports cars, luxury homes and endless supplies of money telling us that this equates to success, yet amassing financial fortunes has never been high on my list of priorities. Authenticity, integrity, enlightenment, contentment, freedom and love are my highest priorities. Working towards, achieving, amassing and attaining these is my definition of success. Of course you can have all of this with a mountain of money, but even the wealthiest people can have the most miserable, unfulfilling and unsatisfying lives.
Let’s be sure to prepare and equip the next generation for success. What your definition of that is may differ, but please be sure to provide them the appropriate tools, values and freedom to follow their own hearts and trust their own journeys, rather than the paths and journeys we unknowingly set for them.
Now watch this beautiful TED talk: