“Street Smarts” & Working In A Field You Didn’t Study | #KnowledgeIsPotential

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Stetson University – A Place To Acquire Knowledge

The saying is, “Knowledge is power,” but it should really be, “Knowledge is potential,” because what a leader does with what they have learned is far more relevant than the trivial knowledge that they’ve acquired.  Many people make a fuss over what one studies in college, and I would often hear while visiting schools that an increasing number of students are entering college “undecided” than in years past. I’m sure that my sociologist friends would love to dive in to all of those generational questions, but I’d like to focus on why choosing a major has less to do with the jobs one seeks and more to do with the talent and personality one possesses. Work with what you’ve got toward what you expect to have. . . yaknow?

How Did I End Up At A Fraternity? I Was Going To Be A Doctor… A DOCTOR FOR GOSH SAKE!

I first studied Communications with a minor in Journalism at Stetson University in 2007. By the fall of 2008 I had switched to a major in Integrative Health Science with a minor in Journalism, and then swapped my Journalism minor for a German minor in 2009.

Instead of continuing into the world of healthcare (too stationary and too regulated for little old me) I took a job with something I was passionate about – my fraternity. I may not have been the ideal candidate, but I did a wide variety of great work for my fraternity, from recruiting to prospecting to managing to writing. Part of why I approach this world differently has to do with my personality and background, sure, but perhaps there’s more to education than knowledge acquired. In my humble opinion I believe that my health degree has made me a better businessman, fraternity man, and writer.

Education is Literacy

I chose “The School Revolution” by Ron Paul (A Lambda Chi Alpha) as the “Book of the Year” for 2018 in part because I think is a powerful challenge to the perspective of any of us who value education. In the book, Dr. Paul discusses education as it relates to literacy of a subject, and that a goal of K-12 education is/should be to teach children how to learn so that they may then train for a profession.

As I learned more about education in the U.S. I learned to more easily put words to why the knowledge I acquired in college gave me unique advantages in my work despite it being completely different than my chosen career path: I learned to think in terms of health science and language, and I simply applied those thought processes to the wide variety of work I accomplished at the Fraternity.

Here’s what I mean: As an Integrative Health Science student (which means we learned about medicine beyond a traditional pre-med track) I learned to seek out equilibrium and optimum health. When I look at an organization like a fraternity I observe it in the way I was taught to observe – like organ systems in a body. All must to work in harmony for a person to be healthy. Health is a status, changing with the environment, and I look for things which negatively affect health.

“First Do No Harm,” is a common saying when one talks about health and healing. Many of the ideas shared through this website try to target long-term health of the fraternity world and promote ideas which can be effective with minimal opportunity cost. (Some of you are probably like, “Oh, neat, there’s a theme beyond Nik being cynical.”)

As a Communications and German student, I learned to use language and creativity to better convey messages. My work has always centered around recruitment/sales and communication. It also serves my creative interests, as I love writing, drawing, and putting on a show. So even though none of what I studied has to do with my “career path,” what I studied has helped me offer unique value in my career path. Each of us is unique, so the same applies to anyone reading this.

Worry Less About What You Study & Think More About How You Like To Think

I enjoy puzzles and I enjoy visual creativity, and so studying subjects which make great use of imagery and which require one to look at an entire system and target challenges suits the way I think and suits my talents. We are not often encouraged to choose a major based on one’s thought processes rather than one’s career paths, but it may be an effective way to help many people find their calling. It’s the heart and soul of education:

The first public school system was established in colonial Massachusetts, where Protestant Christians believed that individuals should read the Bible and interpret its lessons for themselves. The local governments and churches then established schools for citizens to learn to read and comprehend what they’ve read. But literacy goes beyond learning to read English. Some of us excel at Algebra and others whip out a calculator to add up double digit numbers – that all depends on your literacy of mathematics and whether you can think in the way that mathematics is taught.

You may not be a great writer, but you’ll receive a better writing score on a standardized test if you look through the essay questions first and then start with the topic which most interests you. Learning how to take a standardized test without increasing your trivial knowledge will improve your score, there is a language to standardized testing. It’s how my ACT score jumped from a 28 to a 32 in one month, I simply adjusted how I took the test.

What To Take Away: Education Isn’t Just Factoids & Lectures

We know and acknowledge that people learn in different ways, but we are so focused on formal educations, lectures and degrees that we ignore how relevant and valuable experiential knowledge, “street smarts,” are to one’s success. We might even actively dissuade members from putting their education to use; my run for my fraternity’s Grand Council can serve as a prime example of that.

It’s valuable to learn about leadership and to improve one’s literacy about the subject of leadership, and it’s valuable to learn a fraternity’s risk policies and improve one’s literacy of risk management. But, knowledge is only potential, and once one has received a formal education they must either practice and learn on their own or train under a better educated mentor (better educated = formal ed + experience).

Our organizations are perfectly structured to help students put what they are learning to use. We could unlock so much of the potential of our memberships if we created more opportunities for interactions and worried a little less about who next we can lecture.