I’ve always been a big fan of Dilbert cartoons. Created by Scott Adams, they provide hilarious perspectives on many aspects of worklife, education, politics, the environment, and just about any frustrating ritual of life that many people experience. A recent Saturday essay by Adams in the Wall Street Journal focused on How to Get a Real Education, and detailed how he learned more usable skills outside the classroom than inside it during his college years. In short, he didn’t simply follow the prescribed path, but instead crafted experiences to fit his interests, fund his education, and have fun doing it.
It helped that he attended a small college with a culture of flexibility in supporting student ideas. I’m sure the expectation was that he’d learn the most from his academic experience. Instead, he learned more about entrepreneurship, leadership, and motivation from his extra-curricular activities. Adams said that by the time he graduated he had “mastered the strange art of transforming nothing into something,” and this formed the basis for his successful adult experiences. As I read Adams’ story, I admired his creativity to see opportunities in his environment and his boldness to convince others to go along with his ideas.
I was reminded of a young woman who recently complained to me that she’d been reassigned laterally to a new job within her company that in her opinion involved less responsibility than her current assignment. She was feeling frustrated because she had hoped she was in line for a promotion. I recounted to her that over the course of my career, the assignments that I least desired, turned out to be the ones that I learned the most from. Not only did I learn the specific work involved in the role, but my initial reluctance at the position forced me to examine my motives, my desires and my abilities. I instead honed new skills, took on new responsibilities, and changed my thinking about the challenge ahead; and as a result I experienced life changing personal growth in those positions.
I encouraged the young woman to approach her new assignment with a perspective of learning more than just what was in the job description. Quite possibly she could add a dimension to it that had not previously been contemplated, and it might turn into a pivotal learning experience…a real education. The thought of this made her smile brightly, and I knew that she had grasped a new perspective on her role; one that would enable her to grow in the coming months. I’m convinced that a real education doesn’t come simply through academic or intellectual pursuits. Instead it comes through emotional, mental and spiritual experiences that shape our perspective and pursuits in life.
Moses provides us with an example of this. Though a Hebrew, he grew up in the Egyptian king’s home, and likely received the best education of his day. He somehow knew that he was to deliver his people from slavery and thought that killing an Egyptian soldier might just launch his career. Wrong! Instead he fled for his life to the desert for the next forty years. There, in the middle of a flock of animals, God was able to deal with his spirit and teach him the greatest lessons of his life. Moses learned about God’s:
• Purpose – sending Moses back to Egypt to deliver the Hebrew people.
• Provision – Moses would have everything he needed to get the king’s attention.
• Power – God equipped him with signs and wonders to prove His power.
• Presentation – His brother Aaron was provided as a spokeman for Moses.
• Presence – God promised to be with Moses, and told him to tell the children of Israel that “I AM” sent him.
In the natural, Moses had become the least likely candidate for this job. But because he obtained a real education in the midst of the most undesirable assignment, he was prepared for the role. He carefully followed God’s plan and was successful in leading the Israelites out of Egypt.