In part two of this series (read Part 1 and Part 2 here), I stated that I realized that I had made a huge mistake not only in pursuing an Ivy League education, but also in achieving two graduate-level degrees, only after I entered the real world, and discovered, much to my chagrin, that everything I had studied during my 20-years in academia had little or no utility in the real world. Furthermore, even worse, I discovered that much of the theoretical information I had learned in my MBA program was pure nonsense, as the real world of finance and money was the antithesis of what I had studied in school, and was actually harmful to my ability to understand the real world. At that point, I realized that not only had I been taught an improper way to think about life during my whole academic life, but that I had also been taught an improper dream – to get as much money as I can for myself with no regard for the social consequences of my actions. Upon this realization, I knew I had to reconstruct my life if I wanted to be happy.
I literally made the decision to resign from my job at a Wall Street firm and a top American bank one morning during my drive to work, well before I had made any real money at these firms, though I was well on my way to making some serious money at these firms when I quit. Some say never to make snap, whimsical decisions like that regarding such a critical matter as one’s career, but in all honesty, I’m glad I did. Had I become too comfortable with the routine of my life and the perks of corporate banking, such as free box seats to Los Angeles Lakers NBA finals games, I may have made a different decision. Had I spent weeks contemplating the future material things I would be giving up, I may have decided to follow society’s definition of material wealth as the sole determinant of success and not quit that day. In retrospect, however, I am very happy I had the courage to walk away from corporate banking that day, as had I not rashly quit that morning, there’s a chance I might still be stuck in that miserable, corporate life. In reality, it wasn’t even a hard decision at the time, not because of how rashly I made the decision, but because of the fact that when a choice is clearly right, then even a difficult decision becomes easy to make. When a decision is right, the uncertainty created by that decision no longer remains frightening or daunting. I am not the only one to state this, as many others that have made decisions they knew would curb their future monetary earnings have stated similar sentiments about the ease of decisions others viewed as difficult, due to the clear-cut delineation of the settled-upon choice as “the right thing to do.”
After leaving the corporate world, I chose to personalize my definition of “wealth and success” that vastly differed from the traditional, narcissistic, narrowly-focused definition that revolves solely around material and monetary gain. Instead, I decided to throw my money-based definition of wealth in the rubbish bin and pursue a much more expansive and holistic definition of success that incorporated high levels of compassion, friendship, health and happiness in my definition of wealth. Today, we have perpetual war, massive amounts of drug addiction (both illegal and legal prescription), and banking-spread financial misery around the world simply because the majority of those engaged in these industries pursue profits over all other considerations with little to no concern for the suffering and misery created by their pursuits. For example, I have urged some of my former colleagues for well over a decade now to leave HSBC, as HSBC has engaged in numerous criminal activities for over a century, including its origins as the bank for drug-laundering China opium trade profits. Even today, more than 150 years, HSBC remains known to murderous drug lords, in their own words, as “the place to launder money”. Despite my appeals to integrity, I have never convinced one former colleague to leave HSBC, continuously rebuffed with callous replies of “I’m not the one laundering their drug money!” (Source: Mollenkamp, Carrick. “HSBC became bank to drug cartels, pays big for lapses.” Reuters. 11 December 2012. www.reuters.com/article/us-hsbc-probe-idUSBRE8BA05M20121212 ).
I remain disappointed, to say the least, in my failures to convince others that all life is connected on our planet, and that any work we engage in to hurt others hurts all of humanity, including ourselves. In fact, when I urged many of my friends to close their Facebook accounts (as Facebook remains wildly popular in Asia, even though its popularity has vastly decreased in the United States in recent years) due to Facebook’s very close ties to alphabet agencies and their morally questionable activities, all except one refused, with the most common reason being that they did not care if alphabet agencies spied on them through Facebook because they “had nothing to hide.” In turn, I replied that privacy is a matter intertwined with freedom, and that if they don’t care about privacy, then they don’t truly care about their freedom either. Except for the one friend who closed her Facebook account after hearing my reasons to do so, all the others said, “Until it affects me personally, I don’t care”, to which I replied, “It will affect you much sooner than you think it will, and at that point, you will realize that you should have cared about this issue even though you didn’t think it had any personal impact upon you.” Less than one year after I had this conversation with a friend, this friend had her computer bricked by the wanna cry ransomware virus in May 2017. Consequently, in response to the apathy I have witnessed around issues of vital importance simply due to the selfish “it doesn’t affect me, so why should I care” argument, I decided to create SKWealthAcademy as a positive endeavor that could bring light to important issues that many still find inconsequential (so stay tuned for its launch later in 2017).
Pedigree or High GPAs Do NOT Make You Smart
The other facet of the traditional education system that I realized had near zero utility to improving my life was its reliance on an exam system to measure progress and intelligence. Despite attending some of the most “prestigious” universities in the world, I reached the conclusion that these “top-tier” universities miserably failed to teach me how to apply any of the knowledge I gained to improve my life in the real world. Instead, the academic system I attended my entire life focused on testing my ability to memorize and solve complex formulas and regurgitate complex formulas, all of which taught me nothing about how to apply this knowledge in the real world to improve my life or the lives of anyone around me.
We must “do”, or engage in activities that help us understand how to apply the knowledge we learn, in order to trigger life-changing transformations, not only in life skills, but also in mental acuity. Testing retention of knowledge through exams, as is the centuries-old tradition of brick and mortar “educational” institutions, results in no deep fundamental changes in the way we think and behave, and only results in elevating our ego about our false and unproven mental superiority to others. The reason why we often feel great and “buzzed” for a week after attending an inspirational life seminar, but then subsequently fail to transform this “high” into any significant improvements in our lives, is because many motivational seminars focus on creating an emotional “high”, with little direction on how to engage in the meaningful activities that are necessary to improve one’s life. Consequently, because many attendees of inspirational seminars are asked to rate the seminar’s quality right after the seminar leader has whipped attendees into an emotional “feel-good” frenzy, many seminars receive awesome testimonials, continue to attract attendees by the thousands, but ultimately fail to transform anyone’s life for the better. In this sense, exams accomplish the same hollow result, delivering an endorphin high in the recipient of a high exam score and producing a false sense of accomplishment, but ultimately failing to deliver any real improvement in that person’s life.
In other words, many students, when they receive that “A” or 98 out of 100 exam score, are imbued with a false self-assessment of mentally superiority to their peers, when the reality is that exams rarely test any knowledge indicative of well-rounded intelligence. Throughout my life, having graduated from the Ivy League university system, I have known many other Ivy League graduates who graduated with sizzling GPAs yet lack the most basic understanding of logic and critical thinking constructs. Without the provision of specific exercises designed to enhance understanding of the knowledge disseminated, and universities and inspirational seminars almost always fail or fall short in this regard, it is impossible for us to make significant life-changing alterations to our everyday thinking and behavior. We may indeed be intelligent if we scored spectacularly high on an exam, but this is an example of correlation, not causation. Our intelligence is achieved despite this exam score, not due to it.
I once foolishly believed that achieving high test scores was essential for “success” in life, and as such, I actually, at one point, developed exams for my soon to be launched SKWealthAcademy. During my academic life, I too had been fooled about the utility of high exam scores, and I mistakenly focused energy and time to achieve a 1480 SAT score that placed my score above 98.5% of all test takers in the US. Likewise, I also achieved exam scores for my graduate school entrance exams that placed my scores above 93%, 95% and 97% of all test takers in America as well. In retrospect, my pride in these accomplishments, given what I now understand about the utility of high test scores, bordered on absurd insanity. While these high exam scores may have enabled me to gain entrance into some of the “best” schools in America, I pondered the question of whether these high exam scores really had helped me build happiness, success, and comprehensive life wealth. If you are wondering why my realization of the low utility of the exam system came so late, years after I realized that my institutional education was of low utility, it was only because my development of a platform to test achievement for SKWealthAcademy happened only about mid-way through the development timeline.
At this point, I concluded that an exam process to test knowledge retention was necessary simply because nearly every school in the entire world tested knowledge in this manner. It was only after spending hours of hours developing exams for each course and still feeling as the exam, weeks of contemplating whether exams would achieve the transformational process I wished to bestow upon every person that signed up for my SKWealthAcademy, and realizing that the answer was a resounding “no”, did I make the painful decision to scrap hundreds of hours of work and start from ground zero again. I arrived at the honest conclusion that high exam scores literally would contribute little to nothing to the goals I have set for every future member of SKWealthAcademy, and just because nearly every other school in the world uses exams to test knowledge retention, that knowledge retention was not what I wanted SKWealthAcademy to achieve. At this point, I developed the 9 Pillars of SKWealthAcademy that you can read about in our fact sheet, and realized that were I to achieve every goal outlined by those 9 pillars, that I would have to provide specific exercises that illustrated how the knowledge granted in every course could be applied to improve one’s life and the lives of others. At that point, I started working on developing a series of exercises and activities for multiple lessons of every course that would accomplish this goal, and for the first time, felt a real sense of accomplishment that my academy was shaping up to provide the significant life transformation that I wanted to deliver.
Have you ever thought about the reasons why the saying, “Ignorance is bliss” is known by nearly every single person in the world, regardless of culture, religion and race? Those that set economic and political agendas in every nation know the answer to this question – that a behaviorally-conditioned, unthinking world produces an easy population to control. However, more importantly than simply understanding the reasons behind this well-known saying, I spent years researching and understanding the platforms that encourage the global population to embrace and accept the “ignorance is bliss” narrative, and I sadly discovered that certain tools imbedded into the institutional education system are complicit in infusing us with a subconscious desire to remain ignorant and “blissful”. I don’t know if the launch of my SKWealthAcademy can change the future of academics, but I do hope that it at can, at a minimum, plant the seed from which real change will grow. I hope that even this article series, and future ones that I will release, can redirect the attention of academics away from behavioral conditioning, theoretical information that is of low utility in the real word (in regard to business degrees) and rote memorization tasks (in the sciences) and towards the distribution of knowledge that is truly applicable to the real world, with a focus on application of this knowledge to improve not only our own lives, but also the lives of all others, regardless of race, age, socio-economic status, and creed.
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