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The Absence of a Degree: Become a Self-Learner

If you know anything me, you may know that I am a partner in a small business.

What many people are surprised to find out is that I don’t have a college degree.

Now, I’m by no means rich. But, I do have a lot to be thankful for. My wife and I live comfortably and are able to save money each month. Not a lot of people find themselves in this situation.

I only have 6 hours of college credit to my name. I didn’t get those credit hours around the typical “college age”. Instead, I got them later in life, and only because it didn’t cost me any money. My work paid for it (the company I am now a partner for).

I used to see my lack of having a degree as a disadvantage, since everyone around me put so much emphasis on a piece of paper. But now I see it as an opportunity to encourage people who don’t have a degree, that they can be successful.

Let Me Give You Some Context

I grew up in a small house with my parents and 2 siblings. In elementary school we all attended a private school, but in 5th grade my mom decided to homeschool us.

Back then, I didn’t enjoy learning. I didn’t enjoy the idea of school and being forced to learn something I would never use in my life. I just wanted to play video games.

We would wake up around 9:00AM in sweatpants, or whatever I had on the night before. I would have arguments with my mom over the curriculum that we were going over, because I really didn’t want to do it. I hated the whole process of school and found the whole thing to be a drag. (Looking back, I’m amazed at the patience my mom had for me and my siblings.)

For better or for worse, I made it through High School.

I’ve always had a competitive drive and a perfectionistic attitude. I would only push myself in areas that I had interest. But, if there was no interest in whatever I was doing (like school) I would hardly put forth any effort.

I have to be honest – I still have that same attitude. But, as an adult in the “real world”, the context is completely different. I have an entrepreneurial mindset. And for that, the drive to jump into things is of an advantage.

So… Degree or No Degree?

I’m not suggesting that degrees are always a bad thing. In fact, they are required for some areas of business (law, medicine, etc). But if you think you NEED a degree to be successful in life, you are completely wrong. That’s just something the culture throws at you.

In my view, its experience and results that trump a degree ten out of ten times.

The hardest thing that you will have to do is try. The worst that will happen is that you will fail. Failure brings about opportunity to learn.

But, What if you already have a degree?

I have a lot of friends and family that have college degrees, but end up going to a completely different field. I can imagine how discouraging this can be, especially for millennials, since most of the time a degree comes with high expectations and a giant pile of debt.

You can’t let your degree (or lack of one) define your path, or your success. Look at me, remember? No degree!

If you have a degree that you’re not using, it’s all the more reason to become a self-learner!

Yeah, But How do I Become a Self-Learner?

Allow me to introduce you to my patented “self-learning” formula!

Read. Learn. Apply. Reflect. Grow from mistakes. Repeat.

The most important factor in this formula is that you are learning and growing. If you are doing neither, then your intake of information may be wrong.

Remember, there’s no teacher like failure. And it’s best to learn from the failures of others. So, educate yourself as much as you can. Ask those around you about their failures, and see what you can lean from them.

Continue to Educate Yourself

One of the most dangerous things we can do in our lives as individuals is become stagnant. If we don’t grow… we don’t evolve… if we don’t evolve… we will get left behind.

This is especially true in the business climate we find ourselves in today.

Look at Toys R Us, Blockbuster, Sears and Applebees. What’s the common denominator? They failed to learn, grow, and evolve.

If you don’t continuously improve, your business will eventually tank and you will severely limit what you are capable of.

When you don’t create an environment where employees can learn and grow, your business will become stagnant.

Fight for a culture that will cultivate learning. Within your own life, and within the life of your business. Lead by example.

Food for Thought

I’ll leave you (and myself!) with a few thoughts for reflection.

  • What are you currently doing to learn?
  • Who are you surrounding yourself with? Do they help you to grow?
  • Can you identify areas where you have become stagnant? What can you do to change that?
  • Do you cultivate an environment for learning and growing? If not, how can you change the culture around you to empower learning?

What are your thoughts on learning?

Do you love it? Hate it?

Do you find it hard to sit down and read? (I do!)

Let me know in the comments below.

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