The Luxury of Reflection: A Personal Journey of Learning and Transformation.
At the end of my last post, I asked readers to reflect on their best learning experiences and I promised to do the same. Looking back, I can safely say that when I left grammar school (English high school) at 18 there is no possible way I could have imagined the multiple career directions I would take over the next 5 decades. What I imagined when I left school was a lifetime ‘s work in science for which I had specialized for the last two years of my education. That direction lasted barely five years.
Five or six overlapping career paths and 49 years later, the reason I am so committed to new and non-traditional ways of learning is that, for the most part, it’s the path I chose and for me the rewards of alternate forms of broad and primarily informal learning have outweighed the benefits of formal education. I realize it’s not for everyone.
This does not mean that finding the precise career, developing the passion for it, and following it for one’s working life should not be a primary goal. However for many, if not most of us in the 21st Century, the twists and turns of fate, environmental pressure, hard work, and good fortune will probably form a major part of the way our patterns of work unfold.
I also want to add at the start that, while I am frequently critical of the formal education system, many of my rewarding educational experiences (and many dreadful and frustrating ones) have been as a lecturer in formal classrooms. The rewarding ones have been the result of interactive exchanges with the students and the remarkable growth and development that has followed during their careers.
In this century, personal and professional changes are certain to be more frequent and unanticipated. Integrating creative behavior and novel modes of learning appear to have greater and longer lasting benefits than simply taking a traditional, prescribed learning path. I’m not completely negating the validity of the formal education system but I believe, as I have said before, that today it’s largely outmoded and inadequate in the face of today’s exponential rate of change.
So what were my best learning experiences and how did they inform and shape my professional life? In many ways, thinking back, the most positive experiences have typical characteristics of 21st Century learning. There is too much packed into a half century that I can write about in this column so I’ll try to précis the decades with some general observations in the hope you can see connections with the theme of creative transformation.
I have transitioned through six distinct but mostly overlapping career paths, each one characterized by learning patterns that have been based primarily on mentored and self-taught methods - plus a great deal of associated on-the-job experience.