It’s back to school season and for the first time in my life, I am not gearing up to attend class or teach a course.
I have been in school since age 6 and am a tenured professor turned entrepreneur. It is safe to say I have been in school just about my whole life. As a social entrepreneur who really believes one can make money and make a significant difference in the world, I have been really dealing with myself as well as my clients-purpose-driven high-achieving experts, execs, entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional services providers who have walked through some sort of fire in their life-who are extraordinarily accomplished with credentials and experience out the wazoo, but have difficulty translating their expertise into big bucks.
So as we enter the third quarter of the year, which is also the back-to-school season, I am exploring the dissonance between education and success. My intention with this inquiry is to offer a new paradigm for success I am calling a Ph.D. in business for successful people.
Let’s start here. In 1991, Chris Argyis published an article in the Harvard Review, Teaching Smart People How to Learn, where he notes how success is directly link to a person’s ability to learn. Well, smart people, particularly leaders types, suck at learning. Learning requires failing, and smart people identify their sense of self with winning. So if they fail, their behavior becomes defensive and they are not open to feedback, suggestions or help. To accept such overtures would signify to the smart leader that she or he is not enough.
I think about my clients-smart, passionate, committed, beloved Type A personalities with hearts as big as Texas-who limit their success because they can’t fail. A failure to them makes them a failure at the core level. My client base is diverse, yet we all have the same sort of experience. How? Why? Where did we get this sense of ‘failure/I’m a failure’ propensity as a culture of high achievers? The answer is obvious: school.
I know there are many other factors involved in identity theory-trust me; it’s my area of expertise as a theorist and philosopher-but walk with me for a moment on this one. North American education is rooted in an Enlightenment notion of learning: deductive logic and repeating facts. Meaning, if you work hard and do well, you can expect to be rewarded with a good job, which leads to success. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, How Education is Killing Creativity, explains how traditional education is obsolete in the 21st century because the old Enlightenment Period model of education is completely outdated for a globalized economy and a hyper-connected world.
Think back to your educational experience. In school, you were rewarded for getting the answers right. In school, you learned how to play by the rules or there were consequences. In school, you learned to work hard, be congenial, get along, not rock the boat and beat the competition.
Can you see where this is going?
All of those behaviors directly undermine your business success. If you want a sustainable and profitable business, you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed. You have to break the rules to be successful-especially the self-imposed rules that limit your performance. You have to work smart, not hard, to have your business grow. You have to be creative and flexible instead of trying to do it right.
Let me say it like this: the traditional education paradigm teaches students how to land a ‘good job’ where your skills, talents, experience, and personality save the day. Yet most MBAs, marketing programs, and sales trainings didn’t account for the economy tanking. What do you do when you have spent a fortune on an education that is just about obsolete in a globalized, Internet-connected world?
Even if you haven’t dropped bucket-loads of cash-or student loans-on your MBA, you have poured the equivalent in sweat equity into your business, career, or job, working countless hours and sacrificing health, family time, and peace of mind in order to ‘make it.’ But when you look at where you are, you realize you have gone nowhere fast. No traction. Just incremental movement at a snail’s pace.
This dependency on ‘a good education’ puts a glass ceiling on one’s revenue, fighting for clients from the competition, and thousands and thousands of dollars poured down the drain into trainings, sales courses, and marketing programs that haven’t worked. The result for high achievers is that they are so not where they thought they would be by now. The feeling of impending failure lurks, just under the surface.
Here’s the thing. It’s time to get into the 21st century by upgrading your most valuable asset-YOU. It’s time for you to go back to school- a different kind of school that offers a different kind of education.
Let me explain. It’s a new day. Globalization, a recovering economy, and the Internet have changed the face and the value on traditional education. You were taught to get a ‘good’ education so you can have success. But a good education doesn’t get you success like it used to 50 years ago, even 10 years ago. The traditional education model for success taught you to develop your skills, get experience, and promote your strengths.
Except everyone is doing that. Don’t everyone’s emails, commercials, elevator pitches, and videos sound the same to you? It’s because they, we all, have been doing our business in an old paradigm of selling, positioning, and marketing our skills, talents, and services.
Here is a RADICAL thought-one that can change your life, eradicate the competition, and take you business to levels you may never have dreamed of. What if you stopped trying to build your business based on your skills and started to elevate you business by leveraging your worth in the market place?
Think about it. If you are anything like me, you went to school to get your credentials to be credible. When I was 12 years old my mother took a pair of scissors and cut all my hair off. I decided I was stupid because I didn’t move. Get this: ONLY a stupid person would go get 4 degrees-including a 2nd Masters degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. Why? To prove she is not stupid or to cover up she is-for herself. So education, training, and credentials have been positioned as the credibility one would need to be successful.
Credibility is directly connected to self-worth. Most high achievers don’t believe they are worthy, so we amass LOTS of credibility-education, money, social proof, the right home, neighborhood, car, 2.5 kids-so we feel like we have the right to speak, to sell, to present, to teach. And we hide. We hide in plain sight behind our credentials, our titles, or our affiliates. We haven’t made the transition from proving we are worthy to building true holographic wealth.
A good education can be bad for business in that the behaviors we once used to survive and get by are still the ones running our business. Our inability to fail keeps us playing small. And we have used education as a way to gain credibility to prove our worthiness instead of healing our hearts so we can leverage our worth in the marketplace. I propose that we purpose-driven, high-achievers who want so badly to do well with our lives, stop trying to position our skills, talents, gifts, experience, pedigrees, affiliates, in the marketplace and start to elevate our worth.
It is a radical notion to come from the perspective that you have something completely distinct and precious to offer the world. Yet there are millions of people praying for what only YOU can bring, and they are willing to pay top dollar for it through you. As far as I am concerned, you are sitting on a gold mine. I call this worth you naturally bring to life (which you would never pay YOU for) your Million Dollar Moneymaker. And it is not your talents, gifts, skills, experience, work ethic-none of those things. All of those aspects of you will serve your Million Dollar Moneymaker, but they are not it. Your Million Dollar Moneymaker is located in “your mess.” It was forged in life’s fire when life broke your heart.