Category Archives: Education

The PRACTICE of EDUCATION

Consider that education is not something you have or attain, but rather a practice that you are or are not. Coasting on an education you got a decade or more ago is the surest route to stagnation and irrelevance in a world where your company or skill can become obsolete overnight. The posts and articles here are meant to help you develop practices of learning, coaching and teaching that are essential to prosper in a rapidly changing world. Yep. You’ll always be going back to school.

The problem with credentials

The problem with credentials

Most of us learned that degrees are good things; that having a degree was the key to a good job, security and a high salary.

Older generations came to believe this because they looked around and noticed that the people above them—the managers, the politicians, and professionals — all had an “education.”

Therefore the path to a better life was through education.  Duuhh.

But credentials, the degrees and experience, may be a poor proxy for what we want to assess—whether a candidate is a good fit and can flourish in a new role.  Here are four reasons why:

1) Everybody and their sister has a degree

Degrees were a rare thing.  Very few could get one and like all rare things, they were worth more in the marketplace because a degree demonstrated intelligence and a capacity to work hard.  For decades the magic formula worked: degree equal good job, good career and higher pay.

But now a university education is available to most, and degrees by themselves no longer signify any exceptional intelligence, diligence or potential in a candidate.  Undergraduate degrees are fast becoming the new high school diploma; you’re expected to have one.

2) People will do anything to get a degree.

Many degree holders weren’t pursuing the education so much as the degree and simply crammed their way through college.  Their degrees don’t tell you that they forgot 90% of what was on their exams within three months after taking them.

But at least they didn’t cheat.  Many others become members of the credentialed class by buying papers and even entire degrees.

There is a huge industry on plagiarism and cheating in North America, and possibly all over the world. Just Google “essay” and see how many services exist to write essays and papers that students hand in as their original work.

And many higher education institutions are happy to co-operate, even participate in the cheating so they can continue to sell their product—degrees.

3) We produce credentialed graduates that can’t do anything

As a consequence, every year we produce thousands of credentialed managers and place them into highly compensated positions to discover they are unable to cope with the expectations of their employers, and employees.

Lucky for them, the corporate structure is already highly dysfunctional (yet strangely profitable), and many keep their jobs by keeping their heads down and by following the rules.  Many hide behind titles, wielding their positions of authority like children with toy clubs doing irreparable damage to the human beings in their employ while holding their organizations back.

In the 20th century, they could do this for their entire careers, but not so much any more.

Fierce competition weeds out most of the credentialed low-contributors, except in those marketplaces shielded from competition like the public service where the credentialed incompetent still thrive.

4) We make life a Groundhog day for the “educated” unemployed

Question: What’s the easiest way for an unemployed person to regain their past income, status and job security?

Answer: By applying for the same type of job, position and salary that they had before.

By focussing us on credentials, our teachers unwittingly set us up for this.

Employers look for experience doing whatever you’re applying for. Resumes highlight what you’ve done, not  what you can do.   Changing jobs and careers is not considered a good thing.

We want long periods doing the same thing, we want predictability; we don’t want movers and shakers.

Not really.

And so our teachers have set us up to live our own version of Groundhog day, reliving the same or slight variations of our past job experiences, either in a different company with different Dilbert characters, or worse, in the same company for our entire working life.

The credentials antidote

The solution to the “credentials” problem is to start looking beyond them, for different and perhaps more subtle credentials.  Look for changing careers, volunteerism, adventurism, and signs of practicing education i.e. frequent updates to their knowledge.

Don’t be too impressed by PhDs, MBAs etc., even if they are from ivy league schools.  Look for signs of willingness; willingness to learn, grow, adapt to change and most of all, look for willingness to help.

Here’s how one smart HR professional is not being fooled by the best credentials.

Do you have integrity?

Do you have integrity?

The term integrity is commonly used as a standard of moral uprightness. But whose morality: Taliban, Catholic, Jewish morality etc.,? Morality is society’s distinction between good and bad, right and wrong behaviour and these are not universally agreed. The right to murder, take more than one wife, or educate are all culturally defined, and whatContinue Reading

Why grown ups behave like kids

Why grown ups behave like kids

At a friend’s place not too long ago a father told his young son “Be quiet! Big people are speaking.”  The boy dutifully shut up. I felt sorry for the eight-year old as he wasn’t being rude; he had in fact interjected just at a pause in our conversation the way a polite adult wouldContinue Reading

Controlling your Blame Reflex

Controlling your Blame Reflex

Most of us are quick to assign blame.  It’s like a reflex. At an instinctive level it seems right, even normal.   The murderer, burglar, rapist, swindler is a bad and evil person and should be punished. And the behaviour need not be criminal. The same phenomenon is in play in our everyday lives.  WeContinue Reading

Be like water: Learn the soft skills

Be like water: Learn the soft skills

Employers today sift for soft-skilled employees like prospectors of old sifting for gold. They prospect because, like gold, self-motivated, empathic and responsible (soft-skilled) workers are rare and valuable to an organisation. What makes Soft Skills so valuable? Soft skills make salespeople effective, employees self-starters, give a doctor or nurse their bedside manner or make aContinue Reading

What to do when you lack credibility

What to do when you lack credibility

The other day I gave a talk about something that my particular audience knew that I was bad at. Most teachers and coaches are not nobel prize winners in their fields, but to be effective they must have some authority, and with this particular audience I had as much credibility as Toronto Mayor Rob FordContinue Reading

What would you tell young you?

What would you tell young you?

The other day my girlfriend asked me what advice would I give young Peter if I could go back in time. Surprisingly, it was a hard question to answer. There is just so much advice I wish I had gotten or listened to.   Looking back, what would have made the most difference for me?Continue Reading

Hacking your education

Hacking your education

Interesting word ‘hack.’  Being ‘hacked’ usually means someone broke into your computer. Being called a ‘hack’ means you’re a fraud or at least unsophisticated, yet many (computer) ‘hackers’ are respected because they are often just brilliant nerds intent on challenge; not on theft and destruction. Sometimes the word means the use of brute or blunt force whereContinue Reading

Everybody wants to feel like they matter

Everybody wants to feel like they matter

Everybody wants to feel like they matter, that they are valued by other people.  Probably no other need is so overlooked as this. Hunger, shelter and sex call for attention in ways that are much easier to address.  These are probably the most instinctive human needs and knowing how to solve them seem also instinctive.Continue Reading

What can you do?

What can you do?

What a confronting question. “How can you help other people?” is perhaps a more polite variation of this question, or “What skills do you have?” but for impact I like “What can you do?” It forces you to think in terms of your responsibility to produce an outcome. If we begin telling hight school/secondary schoolContinue Reading

Productivity tips right under your nose

Productivity tips right under your nose

I often help my mother navigate and use very basic (to me) computer technology. As great as the technology for cutting and pasting is, it’s a pain to highlight, right-click, select ‘cut’, then place the cursor where you want, right-click and then select ‘paste’. Thank God for the keyboard shortcuts ctrl-C/ctrl-V (command-C/command-V on the Mac); savesContinue Reading

What is it all about?

Got this in my inbox the other day: Peter, if it was just about surviving, getting by, and keeping things the way they are, then how would you explain imagination? If it was just about sacrifice, selflessness, and altruism, then how would you explain desire? And if it was just about thinking, reflection, and spiritualContinue Reading

A lesson in reality from “The Newsroom”

There’s a great new television show called the Newsroom. I started watching it because of the clip below which gives a vivid demonstration that Reality isn’t real At least if by real you mean something tangible, observable, measureable that we can all agree on.   If there was such a ‘reality’ we should be ableContinue Reading

A Four Year Degree in One?

Getting a degree is still the primary way of becoming “credentialed” in today’s society and universities have responded by designing not only new credentials i.e. degrees that never existed before, but also fast track programs to get you that credential e.g. the one year MBA. Setting aside the worth of such fast track degrees, aContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Stop praising kids for being smart

Stop praising kids for being smart

Sometimes doing what seems right is counterproductive. When your car skids it seems right to hit the brakes. When you’re on a plane in distress and the oxygen masks drop for everyone to put on, it seems right to place them on your kids first. Both are natural instincts that work completely counter to whatContinue Reading

Bye Bye Encyclopaedia Britanica

Bye Bye Encyclopaedia Britanica

The New York Times today ran an article about the famous Encyclopaedia Britanica (EB) going out of print after 244 years. The realities of 21st century information production and consumption made the offline multi-volume editions quaint and immediately out of date. Also, Wikipedia, the eleven year old upstart in the encyclopaedia business made it necessaryContinue Reading

Bring on the learning revolution

Bring on the learning revolution

How many people do you know that are truly passionate about what they do? Probably not many. I know I hadn’t met anyone truly passionate about their work until I was an adult, and when I did I remember being completely blown away by the very concept of being passionate about your work. So what’sContinue Reading

Why not teach listening in school?

One of the most fundamental human needs is to be heard; to have the feeling that the person looking right at us is also getting what we’re saying. That s/he is really listening to us. Buy why is that experience so rare? Look at talk shows, the American Congress, or just witness people in socialContinue Reading

A Teacher’s Ultimate Responsibility

A Teacher’s Ultimate Responsibility

As a child I liked many of my teachers. There were those that were funny, autocratic, confused, empathetic etc. I remember them primarily for the funny stories that happened in their classrooms, and whether or not we thought they were cool. As I think back on them I realize that every one of them wasContinue Reading

How movies & TV can help your children learn

If you have kids, one easy way to prepare them for life is to always ask one simple question: What have you learned? Learning isn’t limited to classrooms. If we’re open to learning, we have opportunities to learn all around us, but our kids have to be taught to look for learning everywhere. They won’tContinue Reading

Learning Good, University Bad

That’s an almost quote from Peter Thiel, the Stanford University educated billionaire who started Paypal and went on to invest in other internet successes like YouTube and Facebook. I jazzed it up a little; the actual quote is “Learning is good, credentialing and debt is very bad.”  (Click here for the actual ABC interview withContinue Reading

Redesigning Education with Oprah in mind

One explanation for Oprah’s success is that she provides a missing fundamental to our basic education; she teaches us how to relate to others and ourselves in ways that have us experience more power, joy and love in our lives. Unnecessary suffering Watching Oprah is like being witness to testimony of ruined lives, pain andContinue Reading

Do you practice (at) your relationships?

It might seem odd to associate the word practice with relationships, yet I think it’s appropriate.  You need to practice at whatever you want to be great at, and the fact is most people suck at relationships. Relationships (not just the romantic ones) end, sometimes bitterly, remain stagnant, or distant—without any passion, joy or excitement—andContinue Reading

Thoughts on my dad’s passing

I haven’t posted for a while. My dad—stepdad actually—Geddes Phillips died. Pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in mid-December and he took his last breath at 8:30 on April 8th, 2011. He was a great guy and I loved him dearly.  He fought valiantly right up to the end, but it was too much for him.Continue Reading

Call your shots—and make them!

Three ball in the side pocket.”  She leans over and stares intently along the imaginary line extending from her cue towards the white ball and on towards a tiny spot on the intermediary ball that she must hit with precision accuracy. Slowly, and deliberately, the cue slides back and forth along the bridge made byContinue Reading

“Money is the root of all evil” explained

Everybody loves money. So what’s up with the biblical admonition that money is the root of all evil? Turns out, the actual quote is “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (Timothy 6:10) Is it because of this biblical admonition, or is it because of some inherent dark sideContinue Reading

“The Practice of Acknowledgments“ Available on Amazon

My first book “The Practice of Acknowledgments – How to Experience More Caring and Rewarding Relationships in Your Personal and Professional Life,” is now available on Amazon. I wrote this book to help make people aware of a very simple yet powerful practice that literally can transform relationships in an instant, as well as haveContinue Reading

What does “respect” mean?

Sing R-E-S-P—E-C-T and millions of people all around the world can hear the voice of Aretha Franklin.  Seems the song or the word resonates for everyone.  But why? Is it because all human beings need/want to be respected? Is it because respect, like love, is lacking in the world? The answer is yes, and yes.Continue Reading

And the young shall lead the old

And the young shall lead the old

It used to be that seniority was the basis for advancement; ostensibly because age is expected to confer experience and wisdom. Unfortunately, an honest and sober reality check will reveal that there’s no guarantee that age and seniority equate to greater competence, knowledge or wisdom. Seniority cannot be the basis for advancement Promotion and advancementContinue Reading

“Shit Happens” as a course in high school

The earlier we learn to identify and deal with the non-organic poo in our lives the better off we will be. So perhaps we should offer a course in high school (secondary school) that gives kids an opportunity to observe this naturally occurring phenomenon, and to ponder the impact on their lives of not learningContinue Reading

Learn to identify the shit in your life

Learn to identify the shit in your life

The other day I was cleaning up after a dog and it occurred to me that this disgusting, foul smelling sh!t is a brilliant analogy for life. In life, we produce our own non-organic sh!t and we either develop practices to clean it up or it stays around and produces it’s non-organic equivalent of foulContinue Reading

How is purpose related to performance?

What explains the energy and enthusiasm that is either present or absent when people take action? I’m sure you’ve noticed it. Some teams or individuals bring determination, creativity, responsibility and joy to their work and others bring resistance, avoidance, resignation, disdain and fear. The first group take effective action and the second group move things and themselves aroundContinue Reading

“That’s not what I asked you to do.”

Have you ever been on the receiving end of that one? No? How about “That’s not what we agreed.” Well it’s no fun to be the one transmitting the same message either, especially to your web designer, mechanic, or plastic surgeon. There’s no simple or single answer to why these breakdowns in people’s promises andContinue Reading

If you want something done properly, do you have to do it yourself?

Have you heard anyone express this?  Perhaps you say it about yourself. “If I want anything done properly around here, I have to do it myself.” Most often this is a passive aggressive complaint about how incompetent, stupid or lazy everyone else is.  A complaint that suggests how competent, intelligent and industrious the complainer is. Continue Reading

What does it mean to do your best?

What does it mean to do your best?

Seems like an odd question to ask. The answer is, well … do your best; give it everything you’ve got. What does that mean, everything you’ve got? I hear people say they gave it 100%, and others say that they gave 200%. Hmmm. Makes me wonder if they have any idea what percentages mean. AllContinue Reading

Opinion disclaimers

Opinion disclaimers

Have you ever listened to the pharmaceutical adverts on TV?  As the soothing voice says “Absolv, when taken immediately after upsetting your partner can bring on expressions of contriteness that a puppy would envy.  Clinical studies have shown that 77% of users of Absolv are forgiven for extreme transgressions including not sharing with housework, comingContinue Reading

A Better Alternative to Assuming and Opining

Knowing the danger of opinions and having a practical alternative to them is essential to making good business and political decisions and for the proper care of your relationships. In my last post I gave a very vivid example of the negative consequences of making assumptions. Don Miguel Ruiz in the Four Agreement was rightContinue Reading

“Look at him, he’s laughing at you!”

Many years ago my girlfriend and I were walking through an open field at the Toronto zoo.  It was late afternoon on a perfect day; blue sky, warm weather, sounds of birds and people in the distance.  We had already been there for a few hours, and we were having a great time. As weContinue Reading

How to NOT be a cry-baby

My last post dealt with the very real consequences to you of the bad habit – and it is a bad habit – of taking things personally. If you tend to take things personally, others around you will notice and will take care to either avoid sensitive topics or avoid you all together.  Either wayContinue Reading

The thing about taking things personally

The thing about taking things personally

Have you heard the old joke about the guy who walks into the doctors office and says, “Doc, it hurts everytime I do this,” as he demonstrates bending his arm at the elbow; to which the doctor replies “Well stop doing that.” Taking things personally is just like that. It hurts when we do itContinue Reading

What does it mean to be impeccable with your word?

Recently I was reminded about the profound simplicity of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, and it’s applicability to the practice of your life became very clear to me.  Here’s my take on  his first agreement: Be Impeccable with your word Ruiz explains that the latin root of the word means ‘without sin’ andContinue Reading

“Can’t you see I’m eating?”

Here’s a reportedly true story that both asserts the state of the work ethic in Trinidad and demonstrates the deft use of a sense of humor in a maddening situation. A woman – let’s call her Rachel – went into a public service office on her lunch hour to take care of a pressing matter.Continue Reading

Nothing is ever 100% anybody’s fault

Nothing is ever 100% anybody’s fault

If you find yourself blaming someone for some unwelcome outcome or a broken relationship, you might want to consider that nothing is ever 100% anybody’s fault. Accepting this requires an ability to expand your perspective on any situation. For example, in criminal justice it may be relatively easy to prove who robbed the convenience storeContinue Reading

Why Self-Help courses often fail to produce lasting results

If you’re a regular consumer of self-help books and courses, here are eight questions for you to answer.   Honestly now. Despite all those courses and books you’ve consumed on making your life better: Are you still stuck in the same circumstances of your life? Do you still do work that you have no passionContinue Reading

We All Need Help – Yes That Includes You

Today’s equivalent of “The World is Flat” (not the book, but the common belief of pre-Columbus Europe) is that “I Don’t Need Help,” and the implications are just as profound. I see signs of this paradigm every day. People suffer silently for much or all of their lives because they think that they don’t needContinue Reading

Launch of Morevidareviews.com

Now on to some good news (my last post was not so cheerful).  I’ve been working with a company called LightThread to develop a review site for the courses and coaches in personal growth and development.  I launched a beta version of the site yesterday and you can read the press release by clicking on theContinue Reading

In defense of Gossiping

In my last post I wrote about the Consequences of Gossiping and like most things in life there are many shades of grey.  Below there is an amusing story about gossiping that suggests that while you are well advised to remove yourself from gossip it is not wise to be completely oblivious to it. Here’sContinue Reading

Five consequences of gossiping you shouldn’t ignore

Five consequences of gossiping you shouldn’t ignore

The essence of practice is the consciousness or intention you bring to the practice – something that you willingly choose to participate in every day.  Long held practices take on a life of their own and if there is no clear purpose to the practice we call them habits. For some gossiping is a habit,Continue Reading

What’s the proof of your education?

Just listened to Diane Ravitch, the Research Prof. at New York University, talk about the perils of the current focus of test scores as the measure of how well America’s children are being educated. Apart from the apparent shennanigans going on around manipulating test scores to meet Government standards, her assessment that the focus onContinue Reading

Are you Cancerous?

Are you Cancerous?

If you take a telescope and look upwards and outwards, you’ll soon gain a healthy perspective on how small, how insignificant we and our planet are in the grand scale of our galaxy and the universe. You’ll be similarly amazed if you take a microscope and look inwards; there’s an entire universe of cells, atomicContinue Reading