The road to El Dorado; the mountains and disposition

When asked why they are studying for a degree, most students answer that they want a good job, lots of money, financial security or something similar. When questioned further students usually have a deeper purpose, usually around making the world a better place through a job that reflects their interests; solving climate change, curing cancer, making people happy through music, looking after animals etc. Quite often, deciding what and where to study comes down to a mixture of these two things.

There are two ways to think about studying, the first is learning to do, and the second is learning to learn. Learning to do, commonly called ‘training’ provides skills to use the current technologies to complete set tasks. These skills are essential in getting a job and adding value quickly to the employer. However, learning to learn is the ability to think critically and adapt to new technologies and emerging problems. These skills are much more critical longer-term and in adding value to society over a career.

The mountains and disposition

My Introduction to Economics Professor at university, Amos Witztum, told a story on my first day of class. He compared the journey we were starting on, studying for a degree, to the search for El Dorado, the fabled city of gold. He said that you needed to learn how to walk and then train to walk long distances to prepare yourself. 

This training will help you be strong enough for the journey, but if you start climbing and all you know is to walk, you will not get very far. You need to raise your head and look around, and you need to learn how to navigate and route find. When you get to the top of the first mountain and see the next, much bigger, mountain, you need the strength to keep going. Learning to learn will help you find the city of gold at the end of the adventure. 

Discipline and motivation are dependent on your own expectations.

Amos Witztum

He ended with some advice. He said that you might be standing atop a mountain, scanning the horizon, along the way in your search for gold and see some new and undiscovered treasure. In your search for an assumed goal, you may find something more extraordinary and change your path. Keep your head up and don’t get too focused on the destination that you miss out on the treasure along the journey.

Have a big audacious goal but if on the journey you discover some other riches, seize the day. More importantly, in the absence of your own dream, don’t be worried about picking one that others see as worthy, and work on improving your ability to think and learn, and be ready to pivot when you discover your own path to greatness.

You can watch a version of the speech given by Professor Witztum on Youtube. It is a later year, so it is not exactly the talk that inspired me but worth fifty-three minutes and twenty-six minutes for the knowledge and wisdom. 

Economics is not a science, it is a language, and without it, you can’t be a part of the conversation.

Amos Witztum

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