It was written one time in an article about me that my formal education spanned just eight years, all of it in a little three-room schoolhouse in Morell, PEI, ending on June 30, 1953, when I finished grade ten at the age of fourteen.
My formal schooling ended then, but my education certainly did not. Through correspondence and part-time attendance at various institutions and universities, I took the following courses: traffic management; basic bookkeeping; radio and television arts; English; public speaking; business valuations; the CICA tax course; and non-fiction writing. I also took two years of management accounting and spent four years obtaining my Chartered Accountant designation.
I’ve read at least 5,000 books and heaven only knows how many newspaper and magazine articles since that last day of June, 1953. My career was such that it was a rare day during which I didn’t learn something. So, I think I’m actually pretty well educated.
Acquiring knowledge is mostly a matter of desire. Very early in my working life I learned that knowledge which I didn’t have, someone else was getting paid for having; and in most cases getting paid a lot more than I was. So, there were two catalysts driving my thirst for knowledge: a natural curiosity (which I always had) and a desire to have a rewarding career.
Something else I learned very early on was that the next best thing to knowing an answer is knowing where to find it. The realization that I didn’t have to remember every detail about a subject, but rather just where they could be found, allowed me to broaden my range of interests and, accordingly, my knowledge. I was quite happy to be, as the adage says, “a jack of all trades and a master of none.” I also noticed early on that, although the person who knows how will always have a job, the person who knows why will always be the boss.
There are only three ways to learn anything: reading, experience, and being around people who know more than you do.
As important as the courses I took were, the five thousand or so books and countless articles that I read were equally important. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body, and reading takes us places we couldn’t otherwise go. People who don’t read are no better off than people who can’t read. I’ve always believed that at least one-quarter of what people read should be outside their field of work; and I always made sure that I exceeded that threshold.
I tried to learn something from every experience. I always kept an eye open for better ways to do things and always tried to figure out why particular results, either good or bad, occurred. I kept copious notes under about a hundred headings, which I regularly reviewed. (Incidentally, these notes are the source of my Thought for the Day series at www.lymanmacinnis.com)
When I was around people who knew more about something than I did, I always listened and observed carefully, was never afraid to ask questions, and, again, as soon as I had a chance, made notes of what I had learned.
Here are some more observations about knowledge in its broadest sense:
When we stop learning, we start to die.
Not knowing is bad; but not wanting to know is terrible.
A single talent will only take a person so far.
If a day goes by when I don’t learn something, then I wasn’t paying attention.
If I know more on Saturday than I did on Monday, it was a good week.
When starting to learn about something new, the first thing I want to find out is how much I have to learn.
No, I didn’t have much schooling; but I had a lot of education..