Growing up, almost all children (my four included) will hear their parents preach about the importance of education. However, coming from a position where all of my industry knowledge is based on experience, I’ve come to understand that book smarts are only one part of the equation. The other side – life experience – cannot be taught by any book or by any storytelling. You can share your experiences, but going through situations is how you take that experience, learn from it and turn it into practical information that will help you grow in your career.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Stanford University – yes that Stanford – as a guest lecturer. To be given the opportunity to speak to Ivy League students in post-graduate programs was very humbling and very nerve-wracking to say the least. I haven’t spoken in a classroom setting since my sixth grade speech on sequoias trees, and let me tell you for certain that butterflies do not fade away with age. It did not go without recognition that this was a really big deal for me personally; one I wished my parents could have seen, I brought my wife with me and even flirted with the idea of brining my kids. To me it was that special.
After heading to the gift shop and getting some classic Stanford swag, as the clock ticked towards when I would be doing my lecture, I started going over my notes for the billionth time. The professor said to me that these students came here to learn from a book. The reason I was asked to come was to share practical experience and how to effectively communicate on a personal level. I then put away my notes and relied on my past experiences to lead the way.
I began lecturing these post-grad, Ivy League students on effective communication tools and tactics and then gave them a little exercise. I asked the students to close their eyes and think back to their favourite toy as a child and pretend this toy was no longer on the market. I then asked them, using the tactics we discussed and their personal experience, to pitch me (a toy company) on why this particular toy should come back on the market.
This is a perfect example of why combining both education and experience is so important. Because of the tips and tactics I had taught them and their own experiences, these students were able to pitch me effectively, on a personal level and on a business level.
I find whenever I’m presented with a challenge or question from a client, the number one thing I rely on to help strategize and plan is my practical experience. Of course I’ll go online and research certain topics trends and tactics, but ultimately it’s my experience that guides me through to a solution. The education of experience is something I very much believe in and try to promote within ChizComm. I want to be able to provide opportunity for ChizComm employees so they can gain practical experience to help them learn and grow in their careers.
Nobody will ever hear me say education is not one of the most important things out there, but I will always be an advocate for education to be complimented by experiences. There is only so much that can be taught in a classroom or from a book, and some things are best suited to be experienced – not learned.