I have been in school since age 6 and am a tenured a course in miracles books 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 Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, How Education is Killing Creativity, explains how traditional education is obsolete in the 21st century because the old Enlightenment Period model of education is completely outdated for a globalized economy and a hyper-connected world.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.