As the old adage goes, knowledge is power. In life and in business, knowledge is the backbone of your ability to problem solve, analyse and manage risk, hold effective and constructive dialogue and give yourself the confidence to put your ideas in action.
Interesting then, that a lot of our formal education stops after school or university and never continues from there, despite the fact we are constantly growing and changing while having to adapt to environments around us.
Robert Kegan P.h.D, a leading Harvard professor on adult education and development, insists that a committed approach to improving skills through education is essential to a thriving adulthood to tackle what he calls the “hidden curriculum of adult life.”
“Most career-oriented people end their graduate studies in their mid 20s,” he explains. “They have a whole life ahead of them. There is a need to support that continuing growth and development the same way in which we support such development in the young.”
Living in a developed nation where education is readily accessible often leads to a lack of appreciation of how education can empower people. We tend to take it for granted: we often begrudge a dedication to ‘slaving’ over studies and deny the real opportunities education can afford us.
In communities that are regressive in issues as broad as environmental sustainability and gender equality, education is more than just a way to equip students for future employment. The Barefoot College in India, which offers free education for women in countries as far reaching as Afghanistan and Malawi, is the perfect example of this. The instruction of women in skills like solar power installation and rainwater harvesting has been the agent of change not just in knowledge of energy sources but also in transforming the wider understanding of a women’s role within a community.
“The most important consequence of relevant, appropriate and meaningful education here is the empowerment of rural women,” writes Sumthira Prasanna, a filmmaker who observed the workings of the school firsthand. “There is a visible change in the attitudes of men towards women, and women towards men, and the villagers’ perceptions towards social issues.”
While a primary education is virtually a given in developed countries, the demonstrative value of these women’s experiences proves again that knowledge provides an advantage which is ultimately beneficial to several areas of your life. Whether you’re looking for a complete career change, a promotion at work or simply trying to find a way to advance your skills, education can get you there.
There’s also a lot to be said for educating to fuel your passions, as studies agree that finding a subject that you’re interested is far more beneficial for your development (and personal longevity in the field) than focusing on an industry that you’ve only chosen for financial reward or perceived stability.
“My parents wanted me to study ‘useful’ modern languages,” author J.K Rowling explained of her own educational path. “They thought English literature (my preference) was a ‘where-will-it-lead?’ option, so I studied French instead – which was a mistake.”
Perhaps had the enormously successful author studied her original choice, she would’ve avoided the now-infamous number of doors that were slammed in her proverbial face.
Investing in education is an investment in yourself and dedicating the time, money and energy into gaining new skills is the type of investment that will continue to show its rewards long after you complete your studies.
“I see this behaviour over and over in those who feel thwarted and unsuccessful,” Forbes.com contributor Kathy Caprino writes of people who struggle to find personal success. “They are incredibly reluctant to invest time, money and energy in themselves and their own growth. Successful people don’t wait because they know without doubt it will pay off – for themselves and every one around them.”
In short, no investment in yourself is ever wasted, so it’s time to take the plunge.