Do You Want Fries with that Degree?

In my senior year of high school, there was a young lady who subbed for a study hall I had. She was working for a few weeks before her next semester began at college. I heard she attended a university and proceeded to ask her questions about her field of study. Not because I was interested in academia so much as how cute I thought she looked with her brunette hair in a bob cut.

“So, what’s your major?” I asked as smoothly as a pimple faced seventeen-year-old boy in combat boots and a T shirt with a skull on it could ask. Her reply: “History.” “Oh, so you want to teach” I asked. “No, I’m just working on a Liberal Arts degree. Unless you are entering a specialized field, employers don’t really care what your major is so long as you prove you have the gumption to actually complete four years of college. A degree tells a company you have the necessary skills to pick up new tasks.” That statement permeated my mind as well as her perfume or deep brown eyes. Hey, I was seventeen.

That comment, however, really stuck with me when I entered college myself. I have long stated I learned just as much in college from the people I met, extra-curricular activities and debating with my professors. As a free thinker, that turned out to be fairly often.

In the not so distant past, more and more schools began offering online classes. Ideally for people who needed to finish out their degree or do some graduate work. Online classes are now the norm, not the exception. My own kid has five of her six classes online. One would think online would be cheaper, but her classes cost MORE than physical classroom instruction. What’s this movement all about? You guessed it, money.

Without the personal interaction, there is no meeting other people, no joining clubs and sadly, no arguing with professors! The whole process becomes one big, giant thought funnel. Open mind and insert beer bong of… whatever one-way thought. I am reminded of the finale episode of Psych, where the main character’s father, a retired cop, begins teaching at the local community college. His opening remarks to his tiny classroom was; “I just don’t believe you can effectively teach criminal forensics online.” To which a student replied, “Then why am I making all A’s?” Why was he making all A’s indeed? Was it the curriculum has been so dumbed down that EVERY class is a crib? I certainly hope American colleges are not sacrificing quality for quantity, but some of the evidence doesn’t look good.

gradsAcross the country, there are such ridiculous classes as; the “study” of Seinfeld, Game of Thrones, How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse and, God help us all; Lady Gaga and Her Fame. Princeton even has a class on how to get dressed. Princeton!!! No wonder the Chinese are kicking our ass on trade. Even where I live, there is an online “walking” course being offered. Walking… online. I guess the convenience is you never have to leave your bed to receive a passing grade these days. Perhaps they should include a few sections on the “The Art of Panhandling” to prepare graduates. Students may have fun, sail through college and never really have to think, but once they enter the real world, they will fail and fail miserably. Without responsible faculty and students being in close proximity, where will be the reasoning, the debate, the collaboration? Where will come the exposure to new thought? Where will teenage boys hit on girls?

Increasingly, the perception of a college degree is losing its prestige. Recently, an old college buddy of mine, presented to a group of high school student leaders. He essentially told the young crowd college is not all it’s cracked up to be and they should scrutinize the return on investment for four years. I heard about his candor because my own kid was in the audience. Of course, I set her straight by telling her that was complete nonsense. I want my children to have as many options in life as possible. Sadly however, I must agree with my friend. Though I don’t think he will be making any presentations at that school again.

Fortunately, there is hope. In 2017, I was conducting a management seminar in Louisville, Kentucky. At my hotel, I came across a group of students and instructors who were participating in a vocational / technical event put on by SkillsUSA. It was a big deal, even Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame was in town. In a national interview, Rowe stated there were 600,000 IMMEDIATE openings for American jobs in the technical field. These are plumbers, LPN’s, electricians, welders and even paramedics. You won’t study Chaucer at a vo-tech, but you will learn real world skills. Ironically, I appreciate one of Chaucer’s quotes; “The greatest scholars are not usually the wisest people.” Just having a bachelor’s degree does not make one smart. That is especially true today.

 

 

 

 

Where Are Your New Year’s Resolutions?

Well, how have you done so far? We are well into the year. Are you well into  your goals? Do you even remember what they were? Be honest. No, my intention is not to pour salt into an open wound, but merely to pose a very simple question; Where are your New Years resolutions? We put a lot of stock in our dreams, and we give a lot of significance to the plans we make for achieving them, but do those plans actually move us closer to where we want to be in life.

According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, only 8% of Americans actually achieve their resolutions. Yikes! Statistically, speaking (92% to be exact) I will NOT achieve my year-end goals. Now what? Anything but admit defeat! I know… I can “kick start” my goals anew. Re-energize my vision. Re-discover my purpose. Re-align my chakras. Maybe get in touch with my inner child?

What is a “goal” anyway? It’s a dream we write down on a piece of paper to make us feel like we have accomplished something, or that we’re at least on our way. It’s something we can tangibly hold in our hands in lieu of the actual situation. And as soon as that ink on paper becomes a reality, we’ll be happy. We post it on our bathroom mirror to remind us of it every morning, or better yet place it in our purse or wallets so we can review it a few times a day.  In short, we get a certain short-term satisfaction for having done something positive that day. We begin to take charge of our lives! Sadly, reviewing our little wish lists, is NOT taking action.

A world-famous motivational speaker once said “set the type of goals that excite you to get out of the bed in the morning”.  Of course, you could scrap those goals all together, and simply BECOME the person you want to be. That’s right, simply take on the disciplines and behaviors of the top sales rep in your company, act as if you were already regional manager, or someone who has already lost 50 pounds. We can incorporate the aspects of a positive personality TODAY, and that will get us to where we want to be a whole lot faster than a slip of paper. In order for us to redesign our lives, it’s going to take… wait for it… CHANGE. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the average human, not coming out of some sort of traumatic experience, simply does not want to change. There’s too much work involved, and we have to look at the not so positive habits currently in our lives. I think we avoid change not only out of complacency, but more the fact that change today is to admit we were WRONG yesterday.

Thomas Edison didn’t create hundreds of inventions because he ran on a treadmill, made solid hedge fund investments, nor because he got out of bed any earlier. In fact, he was well known for taking naps. He made the world a brighter place simply because he was, well, Thomas Edison. He accomplished all he wanted not by wishing on a star, or waiting for his ship to come in, or win it big in the lottery. He just did what the inventor of the light bulb WOULD do to achieve success. He failed hundreds of times just on this one endeavor, but he continued to change, alter, and modify the process. He was flexible, and not afraid to admit he failed along the way. There was a passion inside who he was that he would never find on a sticky note.

Where are your new years resolutions? If they are nowhere in sight, don’t worry, you can essentially achieve them today. You just have to become a little better version of yourself and do things outside of your comfort zone, that includes admitting failures along the way.  If you’re in the magic 8%, far be it from me to pour cold water on your endeavors. Go get ’em!  But you better hurry, it will soon be October, and I will ask you the same question again.

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