Lifelong journey

Many people mistake commencement for an ending. And it’s really no surprise why. When 18-year-olds are rejoicing that they no longer have to go to high school, they are set free by a commencement. When college or technical school students are preparing for “the real world,” they are set forth into the educational afterlife via another commencement.

I attended my niece’s high school commencement back in June. Leading up to her day of freedom, we also spent a few days of her senior year visiting and evaluating the colleges she thought she might like to attend.

That experience made me wish that I was back in the college atmosphere. Not for the parties, or the sleeping in, or the lack of responsibility (although a healthy dose of those things might be welcome), but for the access to knowledge-expanding opportunities.

During our 70-or-so years on this earth, we never stop learning. Our knowledge base continually develops until our work here is done. And no matter how much we learn along the way, our brains always have room for more.
So what better venue is there for adding to the base than a secondary education? It’s relaxed. There are few external pressures. Questions are encouraged. And the teachers are always available to explain or provide more.

What I wouldn’t give for that kind of atmosphere today.

And while I was thinking about this, and soaking up the concept of my niece’s commencement, I started thinking: Like high school sent us on to the next level of education, maybe commencement at that next level was designed to send us on to another level, as well. Maybe, instead of sitting before and relying on an education major or a professor to teach us what they thought we needed to know, we’re now at the mercy of a new teacher: ourselves.

In our quest to satisfy any desire for lifelong learning, we have choices to make. We can either sit back and do our jobs as well as we always have. Or we can figure out how to improve ourselves and improve what we do each and every day.

Unfortunately, the environments we work in aren’t always conducive to those pursuits. We oftentimes have to run approval for furthering
education up the chain of command. If we ask questions, we’re viewed as someone who doesn’t know the answers as opposed to someone who is continually learning. If we read the latest and greatest business books, there often aren’t structured avenues to go about exploring the ideas or implementing the strategies we walked away with. And worse, more often than not, we don’t have mentors or managers who take the time to teach us the things we need — let alone those we want — to know.

Educational commencement, at any level, doesn’t signify an ending. It’s a beginning — a beginning to the next phase of learning. Where are you on the journey?

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