Are You Smart, Educated or Both?
I was extremely touched to receive an email from a young lady in India who had read and was reacting to a column I wrote years ago called "The Trouble With Kids Today." In the column, I commented on the lack of entrepreneurial spirit and drive in a younger generation accustomed to having things given to them and structured for them.
Her email deserves to be quoted at length:
"Education is definitely a boon bestowed, which if inculcated does give you the result of being recognized in the society as educated. But I think we have to ask: is that the end or is it the beginning? If education was enough to be qualified for a happy life, then why do we have people in the category of 'educated unemployed'? With all this education and still striving to make a living, don't you think that they are not truly 'educated'?
"My brain and my heart had a joint committee meeting and the result turned out to be saying 'education' is the process of teaching and making oneself productive enough in the field of his/her liking. It is just not about hanging degrees and certificates around the neck but making the mark of self recognition.
"Many people with little formal 'education' have ended up as chapters in the school books for the students to draw inspiration from: for example, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, (Indian entrepreneur) Dhirubhai Ambani, (Indian cricket star) Sachin Tendulkar, and William Shakespeare. Their success hardly rested on the virtues of education but on the shoulders of the determination and focus that brought out their abilities, which enabled their recognition as pioneers in their own fields.
"Despite unprecedented technological and cultural sophistication, this generation's 20-year-olds lack some of the 'soft skills' that are necessary to move up the professional ladder: perseverance, humility, flexibility and commitment. Instead, they are obsessed with textbook education and white-collar dreams.
"Could you please write something about this?"
You bet I will.
The difference between book education and what I will call street smarts -- the ability to deal with people; to see and exploit opportunities; and to adapt to a world that is constantly changing -- has been noted for generations.
One of my favorite quotes, from former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, is this: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."