There is a disturbing trend in The United States in which we tell ourselves once high school or college are over so is our education. I couldn’t disagree more. I learned a lot of things in both High School and College. My real education is on going and constantly evolving. In fact I’m just now beginning to understand my place in this world and role in it after 20 years of moving through it as a “grown-up.”
I remember as a teenager I couldn’t wait to turn 18, because then I’d be a grown-up. I thought all my problems would be over. I’d do what I wanted go where I wanted, be who I wanted. I’d sleep as late as I wanted and stay up as long as I wanted. That fantasy lasted all of about 3 weeks then I was off to bootcamp for the Marines, where nothing was what I wanted, ever.
I certainly received an education in the Marine Corps. I learned that everything we do impacts somebody. Most of the time we just have no idea how much of an impact we make until later. I learned that being part of a whole, a group, a tribe is mankind’s default setting. Having a group of closely connected people whom you can count on and who count on you allows for accomplishing truly amazing things. In our growing isolation of this digital age, I think we should be running full speed towards closer interaction with the people around us, not more isolation.
Until I was in my late teens I didn’t have an opinion. What I mean was I didn’t have an original opinion. Most of my thoughts were simply parrots of those of my teachers, parents, friends, and media. One reason I’ve always respected and even admired my little brother was that while I was trying to toe the line in school and ensure my path to a prestigious college and career he was striking out on his own from an early age and looking for those things that truly mattered in life. My brother was on to something even back then.
In my twenties I wandered, a lot. College became less interesting a perspective the more I interacted with the world. I worked, I traveled, I loved, lost, got in serious trouble, rebuilt my life, and screwed it up again. This cycle repeated itself 4 times total until I broke that routine in 2009. I learned more from my decade of stupidity, 2000-2010 than from any success, lesson or book. That’s not to say failure was great. It wasn’t and I can’t stand people who say that. Failure is still losing, and while it does provide lessons in what not to do, I’d rather be learning what TO Do, from winning.
I’ve always been a voracious reader. My wife is constantly annoyed by how quickly I can take down a 700 page novel. I save them for weekends and read them straight through in about 12-18 hours. In my 30’s my reading took on a new direction. I was no longer reading for entertainment and escape but to learn and grow. My mind was hungry my testosterone fueled appetites had subsided, and now I was ready to actually do something in the world. Robert Greene became my oracle, along with Neil Strauss, Tim Ferriss, Christopher McDougall, and Dan AbNett. I began to ask more why questions, than how.
I think when you’re younger, your teens and twenties, you’re also a bit lazy intellectually so you look for opinions and views that enable you to remain comfortable where you’re at. Time is still on your side so you don’t worry as much about making your mark and success. the drive is there but its frequently overshadowed by more tangible things like getting laid and finding exhilarating experiences. I didn’t start college until my late 20’s. Ironically I think waiting so long to begin made me a better student, and learner. I certainly was nowhere near as good at math in high school. I flunked trigonometry horribly as a high school junior. I blasted through it in one semester in college and went on into calculus and advanced mathematics just as quickly. I also discovered Psychology in college and it changed my life.
Robert Greene’s books are really about psychology. When you know why people do what they do, you’re rarely taken by surprise by what they do. I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s thinking I was doomed, cursed, and fated to fail. Taking it on myself to study and absorb psychology outside of my degree was one of the defining moments in my life. It enabled me to see the real value and impact of all my life’s lessons. I realized that my real education was not from books or classes but from people, relationships, and interactions.
Now I’m beginning the decade of my 40’s and can’t help but feel a growing momentum towards something vast. I’ve once again taken it on myself to study something new and outside my normal sphere of influence. I’ve always been a writer. I started blogging in 2008, I started monetizing it later that same year. I have seen online writing grow, change, and overtake some old models and become something powerful. Now I’m watching social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter become more than just a distraction and entertainment, its becoming the new way we communicate with each other. I’ve also seen that those who refuse to adapt to this new communication are going to suffer for it. Education is evolution and adaptation. Organisms that fail to adapt, do not move on.