Education, or Qualification
Can you help me pass grade 5 please?
The day I started my business nearly 20 years ago, I had some really interesting opportunities come my way that I was able to enjoy. One of the first was from someone who wanted me to take their place for a few months.
I was to teach violin, piano and keyboard lessons to high school students while my friend and colleague was on maternity leave to have her second child. This seemed like a splendid opportunity in many ways, and one, in particular, was quite unexpected. While most of the day was spent with a relentless progression of students, with a new one every 20 minutes, the occasional breaks between students soon became occupied in practicing some of the performance pieces that I used to play in recitals some years earlier, and I loved it!
During that period I was also playing electric violin in a band and my standard of playing returned to somewhere near my best ever, and I still recall today the awesome feeling of playing improv with that band. It was just magical for me, and if anyone talks about “being in the zone” that’s the experience that comes to mind most readily. I absolutely loved every minute of it!
“Improv”: Musical improvisation (also known as musical extemporisation) is the creative activity of immediate (“in the moment”) musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other musicians.~ Wikipedia
Although I never attained a standard to make a living out of playing, I wasn’t a stranger to playing the violin in public. I had started taking lessons while in junior school aged about 8 years old and I had played solo and in orchestral concerts from quite an early age. I had even had the offer of a scholarship in my late teens, however, I knew I wasn’t going to make it as a professional musician and I had other interests I wanted to pursue.
Musically though, I had received an education. I had been taught to play scales, arpeggios, exercises and studies, and occasionally I took time out to pass an exam that brought some recognition to the standard I had attained.
“Personal qualities are much more important than qualifications.”~ P.K. Shaw
The difference with the teaching I was asked to deliver more recently as I started my new solo career was that I felt that although I was helping students to achieve a qualification (working though grade 1, grade 2 … grade 5 etc) I wasn’t very effective in helping them to gain an education. There seemed to be a difference between playing a grade 5 piece along with the scales required to pass that grade, and playing at a grade 5 standard.
As I get older I notice a similar phenomenon on the roads. As a young driver, I was always eager to get to my destination. For the most part, I would stay within the speed limit (or “the speed limit +10%”), but I would be greatly irritated by those drivers who seemed to insist on driving more slowly than the speed limit. Looking back it was probably the correct speed for the road conditions and I was “that idiot” driving too fast!
It seems that we can go through our career like that in some ways. Always eager to get to the next level, to climb the career ladder as fast as we can, hopefully faster than our peers and colleagues, and irritated by those content for us to move through our career more slowly than we want to progress. Eager to move up the corporate ladder project by project, each level being simply a stepping stone to the next. Eager to attain the next promotion (or qualification), and not willing to stick around a little longer to become fully proficient, to gain an education along the way.
“Qualifications do not always define a true education. Qualifications are like obtaining a valuable candle while a true education is the essence of light that the candle will reflect. The ultimate purpose of qualifications is to find a great job, and the ultimate purpose of education is to create a great life.”~ Debasish Mridha
I started to notice that difference increasingly as I looked back on my corporate business career. Somehow there seemed to be a difference in the level of “education” that some of my colleagues had attained in business. There seemed to be some that were considered to be experienced and knowledgeable, and others, the pushy ones, that seemed to know “just enough” to convince someone they knew that they were the one that needed to be promoted. It seems that oftentimes there is a correlation here with those who would say that: “it’s lonely at the top”.
Stephen Covey talks about this as “The Law of the Farm”. He says: “… did you ever “cram” in school – goof off during the semester, then spend all night before the big test trying to cram a semester’s worth of learning into your head? Can you imagine “cramming” on the farm? Can you imagine forgetting to plant in the spring, flaking out all summer, and hitting it hard in the fall -ripping the soil up, throwing in the seeds, watering, cultivating – and expecting to get a bountiful harvest overnight?”
John Maxwell talks about this too in “Leadership Gold”. Here he distinguishes between those leaders who want to get to the top as quickly as possible, and those who want to build a foundation of relationships along the way; between those who thought that climbing the personal ladder of promotion was what leadership was all about, and those who thought that investing in the lives of others was more important; between those who were after building themselves or the organisation they led, between climbers and connectors. I would draw a similar distinction between those who want a qualification, and those who want an education.
John refers to the hallmarks of climbers, and of connectors, and he asks “which kind of leader are you?” and observes that:
- Climbers think vertical – connectors think horizontal
- Climbers focus on position – connectors focus on relationships
- Climbers value competition – connectors value cooperation
- Climbers seek power – connectors seek partnerships
- Climbers build their image – connectors build consensus
- Climbers want to stand apart – connectors want to stand together
Am I a climber or a connector?
Do I want a qualification, or an education?
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.