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Learning for its own sake – and everything else, too

Posted Feb 03 2013 10:22am

So, I’ve got this new perspective on things, and I’ve got this new role at work, which is expanded and far better than what I was doing before… and all the while I know that it is not what I truly want to be doing, over the long term. I also know that it actually puts me at a disadvantage to focus 100% on this role and make it my long-term choice, because I do not have a college degree (I attended for four years, but ran out of money and hit a rough patch, and I could never afford to carve out the time to go back to school. I had too many health / TBI / learning issues, and I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, from the time I hit the workaday world. So, no college degree — and there’s probably never going to be one, unless I become magically independently wealthy and can take time out of my life to do the coursework.

Yeah, not much likelihood of that happening anytime soon. I’m pushing 50. Maybe after I retire — at age 85 — I’ll have the time.

Anyway, what this means, realistically speaking, is that for the type of leadership work I am going to be going into (that is, being in charge of getting people on board and ensuring they deliver on what they’ve promised), if you want to progress in any organization — especially a global one — you must have a degree — if not several. You can’t just get by with “equivalent experience” — in order to play at the top levels, you have to possess that piece of paper… preferably several, most of them advanced degrees… in order to move up.

So, while it’s all very well and good that I’m in this high profile leadership position in the new organization, I have to be realistic and expect that it will not be long-lived. So, I have to stay fresh and current in the cutting-edge areas that don’t yet have a lot of coursework associated with them. And I have to keep building my portfolio of products I’ve helped create, so that I have something to show for all my work.

That is the one area where I am well-appointed — an actual track record of things I’ve produced and helped to build.

Now I just need to get them all together.

And I shall — especially because the most beautiful part of this whole portfolio building process is that I will be using the technologies I am seeking to perfect — so I will get more bang for the buck — a double-whammy of “how you like me now?” that speaks for itself, even where my educational background falls down.

Yes, this is good. I am in a good position at work… and I am in full possession of the realization that this will not last forever, and the bubble will eventually burst. Heck, it could burst in a year, when they re-org us again. Or it could happen sooner.

Bottom line is, I can’t waste time and rest on my laurels. That would be a terrible mistake.

So, I’m getting inventive and taking initiative. I’m training myself and using what I’m learning, not only in my daily job, but also in my side activities. And it’s good. It’s really, really good. For three reasons:

  1. It is keeping me current with emerging and highly popular and in-demand (and lucrative) technological skills.
  2. It is giving me a safety net of skills I can fall back on, if/when the current managerial/leadership position ceases to pan out.
  3. It is helping me get my brain back to where I want it to be, learning-wise, so I can not only know how best to learn, but I can also know that I can trust my brain again.

These are three incredibly important aspects of my life that — more than any amount of money — are the true “safety net” of my life.

  1. Proficiency
  2. Fund of marketable knowledge and skills
  3. Confidence in my ability to learn and adapt

I let these things slide before, when I got comfortable and over-confident… and never imagined that a fall down some stairs would derail me this severely. I made that mistake repeatedly over the past years, when I figured I was “good” where I was, and if I just kept doing what I was doing, everything would be fine. I was wrong – so very, very wrong. And I have a lot of ground to make up.

I’m not making that same mistake again. This is a new day for me, a new world. A new life.

So, that being said, I’m going to get on with my day, learn some things, and make the most of this day off, before I go back into the fray.


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