I have fancy degrees on my resume — from Cambridge and Harvard — and I failed miserably many times. On the academic side, nothing I ever learned at Cambridge or Harvard was useful. Well, I gained the overall ability to figure things out but no specific knowledge was ever useful.
In fact, my Harvard MBA messed me up somewhat. You get big ideas and ideals, you dream big, and then you crash because your ideas are actually shit, or because dreaming big is not enough for success.
So I’m humble about my education (even though I’ve just bragged about it!)
However, there is one specific, unmistakable trait that I have because of my education.
I don’t trust any authority. In fact, I mistrust anyone who attempts, in the tiniest of ways, to influence me or exercise control over me.
I’m not saying I disagree just for the sake of it. But my first reaction to any situation is what’s my inner conviction?. If I were honest with myself, what’s my opinion?
I apply this rule in business and in my family.
There are people I respect or admire — in business, in sports, and in life more generally. Still, when there is some ambiguous or controversial situation, I ask myself: what’s my inner conviction about this particular situation, regardless of my more generic views and my feelings for a particular person.
Why is education important for this trait? It’s hard to pinpoint a single factor. Because you absorb a lot of information. Because you meet a lot of smart people, your fellow students, and your educators. Because you get exposed to diversity and different views.
I have very strong feelings about disrespecting authority. My parenting philosophy is extreme in that sense and probably unconventional. I’m not saying this approach is right, but it’s consistent with my values. I never exercise authority over my kids. I expect them to confront me. Of course, I often get irritated and raise my voice. Still, if they grow up with the mindset of always questioning any authority — that includes me, their father — I will be happy. You can say (my wife does!) I’m soft with them. Maybe. But I’d rather be soft with them and welcome their rebellious characters — which is often very stupid and disruptive — than exercise toughness. Toughness is not a sustainable means in any relationship, I believe.