Education is more than just training

A father said to his son, “I’m afraid you’re at the bottom of the class.

The son replied, “Don’t worry, Dad, they teach the same at both ends.”

A wise sage once told me, “Education is what you have left after you have forgotten everything you have learned.

My good friend Nido Qubein, a member of the National Speakers Association and president of High Point University, explained the difference between education and training as he sees it: “Training is imitative; education is creative. The difference between a trained person and an educated person is the difference between a parrot and a speaker.”

His point was that once you learn a training procedure, you keep repeating it for as long as the task is useful. Training has a beginning and an end. Education, on the other hand, teaches you to develop your own procedures, solve your own problems, and move on to other challenges. Education is a process that has a beginning, but no end.

Nido added, “In today’s business world, a well-educated person is much more valuable than a well-educated person. Employees who are well-trained but not well-educated can perform their tasks competently, but they are not motivated to look beyond the specific task.”

Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trust found that a four-year university degree helped protect young people from low-skilled jobs with lower wages and unemployment. The US Census Bureau estimates that a college graduate earns nearly $1 million more over a career than a high school graduate.

Nido insists that education is more than a salary. He said, “When you are educated, you can become your best self in every way possible. Educated employees become partners. They see themselves as part of the organization. They share its goals, adhere to his vision and rejoice in his success.”

I will go further than Nido Qubein: school ends, but not education. You are not educated once in your life. You should be educated all your life. Education is the passage from darkness to light. The person who can read, but does not read, is no different from the person who cannot read.

As you can see, I’m a big believer in lifelong learning.

There is a famous story about Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., one of the most distinguished justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Holmes was in the hospital when he was over 90 and President Theodore Roosevelt came to visit him. As the President was ushered into the hospital room, Holmes was reading a Greek grammar book.

President Roosevelt asked, “Why do you read about Greek grammar, Mr. Holmes?”

And Holmes replied, “To improve my mind, Mr. President.” Ninety…and still trying to learn something new!

Why not make continuing education a new priority?

Education is an investment and never an expense. Think of education as a capital improvement. Do not be ashamed to borrow, especially to replenish your professional inventory. In fact, self-improvement is the one area where you really should be increasing your spending, not decreasing it.

Please do not interpret these words as referring only to academic training. All training – in the trades, self-guided or purely for a change of pace – is an essential part of our ongoing development. Studies have shown that we use a very small part of our brain, so there is plenty of room for more learning. Do not deprive yourself of any opportunity.

Take courses, in class or online. Go to seminars. Listen to educational and self-improvement podcasts. Network at trade group meetings. Improve your skills. You can never afford to rely on what you learned in high school or college. Improve what you already know and pick up new material. Computers. Language. Public speaking. Writing. Continue your studies.

Think about it: once you learn something, you can keep it forever and use it however you see fit. You have the ability to adapt knowledge to various situations, apply what you have learned and improve a result. Your education can pay for itself over and over again.

It truly is a gift – possibly one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Be generous with yourself!

An anxious mother was asking Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson, who later became President of the United States, about what Princeton could do for her son.

“Ma’am,” Wilson replied exasperated, “we guarantee satisfaction, or you will get your child back.”

Mackay’s moral: Education is the gift that keeps on giving.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Swim With Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”. He can be reached through his website,, by emailing [email protected] or by writing to him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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