NOTE: an earlier version of this post appeared at michaelgowin.com.
The potential for future strife, in my view, involves maximizing acquisition and application of knowledge. We will see both institutionally (nations, businesses, enterprises) and individually a chasm grow between those who can readily use knowledge and those who cannot. That strife will be both internecine and international. We need to stop teaching people irrelevant content which can be acquired in seconds when needed, and start teaching them how to learn, so that knowledge acquisition is natural and lifelong. — Alan Weiss
On Monday of this week, I met with a prospective student who was considering studying here in the business administration program next year. She wants to earn a degree and plans to start her own business after graduation.
This kind of proactive thinking is rare in young people. Many high school students (or college students or grownups, for that matter) have no idea what they’re good at or what they could do to help others. They’re either 1) not thinking about this at all (or very little) or 2) paralyzed with fear because they “don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives.”
Both responses are traps. Neither is necessary.
If you’re in high school (or beyond), how can you get past this kind of self-defeating thinking?
How about this: keep learning.
Just as consultant Alan Weiss asserts, your ability to constantly learn is a competitive advantage, and one that doesn’t depend on any school or classroom. With that in mind, here are two books you could read over the next few weeks that have the potential to pay dividends throughout your life:
Dan Pink, recently named by Thinkers50 as one of the top 15 business and management thinkers in the world, wrote the first American business book in manga, the Japanese comic book style. An instant bestseller, it offers career advice for young and old alike–and it has a pretty cool trailer (below).
Richard St John’s book offers similar advice but from a different angle. After being asked the seemingly simple question “How do you become successful?” by a young teenager, he set out to find the answer. Ten years, 500 interviews, and reams of data later, 8 to Be Great tells you what successful people do–and you can do what they do. Here’s a summary of the book that Richard St John gave in a TED talk (below).
Both books are fun, easy to read, and undeniably helpful. You can read Dan Pink’s book in 90 minutes–it’s a comic book, for crying out loud. Richard St John’s can be read in a couple of sittings, so you have no excuse to not read them both.
I’m encouraging my children to read them. In fact, my fourteen-year-old daughter has already read Johnny Bunko and we’ve had some good conversation about its lessons. Because she read it, I let her sit in on our Dan Pink “guest lecture” last spring.
I wish these books had been available when I was 18 or 20. If you’re in high school or college now, or just stuck, please do yourself a favor and read them. You’ll get a 25 year head start on me. And probably on most of your peers.
Bonus assignment when you finish these: Seth Godin’s Linchpin.