Monday, September 29, 2008

Education Continues Beyond Graduation

I was supposed to give an address at the UPNG TSCF Graduands' Night which was held at the CRC Bethel Centre at Waigani on the night of Saturday 20 September. Unfortunately I could not speak due to shortage of time. The following is the speech I prepared.

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Good evening, pastors, parents and friends of TSCF, graduating students, ladies and gentlemen!

It is a real privilege for me to have the honour of giving the Key Note Address at the 2008 TSCF Graduands Night. The last time I attended such a meeting was around this time in 1988 at the UPNG Open Air Theatre – when I was among the graduating group!

I have experienced what it means to live in contemporary Papua New Guinea as a product of TSCF, a Christian and a lay person over the past 20 years, so I could talk about many many things tonight to provide some guidance to this year’s graduating students. But because time will not allow me to do so, I will concentrate on one important topic, and it is this:

EDUCATION DOES NOT STOP AT GRADUATION!

Many people think that education stops when they graduate from college or university. Students breathe a huge sigh of relief after sitting for their final examinations. They think that the days of sitting in the classroom, sticking their noses in books and doing late night studies are over, and they are ready to face what in their view is a free world. They think education stops when they graduate.

But the truth is:

EDUCATION DOES NOT STOP WHEN YOU GRADUATE.

EDUCATION IS A LIFE-LONG PROCESS.

REAL EDUCATION ACTUALLY STARTS AFTER GRADUATION, AND IT STOPS ONLY AT THE DEATH BED!

What you have learnt in school is not enough for you to succeed in life. There is more to learn. You may leave the classroom upon graduation, but the street waits to teach you its lessons.

IN SCHOOL, THE CLASSROOM HAS BEEN YOUR WORLD; AFTER GRADUATION, THE WORLD IS YOUR CLASSROOM.

Life has a lot of lessons to teach you.

LIFE IS IN FACT A SCHOOL FROM WHICH THERE IS NO GRADUATION!

EDUCATE YOURSELF BY READING

People from the developing world have not had a reading culture. Our ancestors passed on information verbally. They were good at remembering events and dates. History was in their minds, not in books.

Coming from this background, most PNG students have had difficulty forming the habit of reading. When they do read, it was due to their fear of failing exams, and not with the intention of acquiring knowledge. Their level of comprehension is therefore poor, and reading becomes a real burden.

Therefore when people graduate and enter the workforce, they abandon their textbooks altogether. They do read comics, novels and newspapers just to be in tune with what is happening, but they avoid heavier materials such as textbooks and journals.

If you want to succeed in life, you need to continue reading after leaving school, not just light material like comics and newspapers, but real books. You need to define an area of interest and study it in detail. It may be what you studied in school, or it may be some other subject.

Nowadays, with the revolution in information and communication technology, the opportunities for self-learning abound. You can become an expert in almost any field by researching and teaching yourself through books, the Internet, CDs, DVDs, etc.

TODAY’S WORLD REVOLVES AROUND INFORMATION. IT IS AN INFORMATION-DRIVEN AND KNOWLEDGE-BASED MARKET PLACE IN WHICH THE BETTER INFORMED YOU ARE, THE MORE RELEVANT AND COMPETITIVE YOU BECOME.

You need to realize that you have not been taught all that you need to know to succeed in your chosen profession. What school has merely done is basically to whet your appetite for knowledge. You have received some instruction on how to acquire and process information. The ball is now in your courts to continue learning, because:

• THE PACE AT WHICH THE WORLD IS MOVING RENDERS MUCH OF WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNT IN SCHOOL OLD AND EVEN OBSOLETE AT GRADUATION.

• WHEN YOU STOP LEARNING, YOU STOP GROWING. YOU BECOME STALE. YOU STAGNATE AND GET LEFT BEHIND!

Apart from raising your curiosity, school also teaches you more and more about less and less. The higher you go, the more and more you learn about your particular area but the less and less you learn about other areas.

That is why if you want to succeed professionally and financially, you need to teach yourself more and more about other areas.

YOU CAN BE A SPECIALIST, BUT SURVIVAL IN THE MARKET PLACE DICTATES THAT YOU BECOME A GENERALIST AS WELL.

What am I saying? Today’s market place is so inter-related that accountants, for example, must know some economics, politics, geography, history, chemistry, medicine, engineering, marketing and even psychology and philosophy!

You can do that only if you keep learning after graduating.

HOW I HAVE TAUGHT MYSELF

When I encourage you to read and study, I am writing from personal experience. I am somebody who has developed the habit of reading right from community school. Today, 20 years after leaving school, I literally sleep with books. Not one day goes by without me reading something. You will find books in our living room, the bed room, under my pillow, in the vehicle, and in my briefcase. While my wife goes to the shop or the market, I sit in the vehicle and read. If I am traveling, I carry several books to read on the plane and in the hotel room. If I do not carry hard copies, I have many electronic books (e-books) in my laptop computer which I read during breaks at work and while traveling.

I have invested a lot of money in books on areas of particular interest to me. These include international commodity trading, export marketing, sales, marketing and advertising, business, stock market investing, real estate, finance, risk management, book publishing, public speaking, leadership, etc. I am so avid a reader that one of my former bosses used to call me a ‘sponge’. I soak information.

I have had the privilege of traveling to many parts of the world (over 20 countries) in the course of my career. I have used the opportunity to buy a lot of books with my traveling allowances which are not available in bookshops within the country. Many people come home from such trips with presents for their families and friends, but I have returned with suitcases full of books. The combined value of the knowledge contained in these books probably runs into the hundreds of thousands, even millions.

My studies of international commodity trading, and coffee trading in particular, has resulted in landing consultancy jobs with the Government and the Coffee Industry Corporation. I am recognized as a national expert on international coffee marketing. I have used the knowledge to train other people, and in the process recouped all the money I invested in the books, and more.

Benjamin Franklin once said:

“IF AN INDIVIDUAL EMPTIES HIS PURSE INTO HIS HEAD, NO ONE CAN TAKE IT FROM HIM.”

This is true. You can lose all your money and your educational records and references, but what is retained in your mind is always yours to keep. Read as much as you can. Invest in books and utilize the knowledge you gain from them, and you will be on your way to success.

INVEST IN YOURSELF

Take advantage of opportunities for further studies, especially those through which you can gain some skills. Many scholarships are available from donor agencies. Check with your employer or directly with foreign embassies for information on how you can benefit from these scholarships. At least somebody else is paying for it.

Invest in yourself continuously. Apart from going for further studies and reading, purchase and listen to audiotapes, videotapes and compact disks on your areas of interest. Instead of playing music on your stereo or watching TV all night, listen to these tapes. Play tapes in your car while traveling. MAKE YOUR CAR YOUR UNIVERSITY ON WHEELS.

Attend seminars and workshops. Take short courses or attend evening classes. Further your education through distance learning. Increasing your knowledge is by far the best investment you can make.

GET CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET

Another investment you should make is to buy a computer and get yourself connected to the Internet. It can be a laptop or a desktop, and it does not have to be brand new. There are cheap second hand computers around which work as well as new ones. Do not rely on your office computer. Buy your own, and get yourself connected to the Internet.

In today’s information age, you cannot afford not to get online. Invest time in searching the World Wide Web for information on subjects of interest. Although some information is for sale, there is a lot of free information. There are also e-books that you can download free of charge from the Internet.

Subscribe to discussion groups, forums and newsgroups. Join a few online communities and enter into dialogue with members of those communities from all over the world. The Internet has brought people from all countries of the world closer to each other at the click of the mouse. Get online and know as many people of the digital community as you can, and learn from them.

Once again, I am writing from personal experience. I have learnt a lot from books, but I have also learnt from the Internet. I have spent long hours on the Internet, as a result of which I have a lot of information on my areas of interest. I also download the information, package it appropriately and present it at workshops and seminars for a fee. And the more I teach, the more I learn and the more I understand. As the saying goes, teaching teaches the teacher.

WORK TO LEARN, NOT MERELY TO EARN

If you get a job, learn as much as you can about that job. Many people stick to their little corners, do their bit and get paid. Do not be like them. Do what you are supposed to do, but also find out what everyone else is doing in the organisation.

Ask questions, and establish how what you are doing fits into the overall organizational activities and goals. Find out about the industry your employer is in. Investigate what the market trends and possibilities are in that industry. Find out what the Government’s policies are with respect to your industry.

When I joined the Coffee Industry Corporation in 1993 as a cadet economist, I realized that the coffee industry was huge, bringing in hundreds of millions of kina annually in export revenue. I realized that if I was to perform well in the job, I needed to know about this industry. So I spent the first 2 weeks at work reading most of the books, journals, periodicals, and special reports in the library. I am probably the only person that read all the books and reports in the library at the time. (I could tell this from the amount of dust I had to brush off the covers before reading the books.)

I read about everything from coffee production to processing and quality control, to exporting and international trading, insurance, shipping, trade documentation, payment and bank procedures. I read about Government policies, industry standards, standing rules and guidelines, and the history of the industry from inception to the present.

After 2 weeks of intensive reading and note-taking, I had a sound understanding of the industry. With that knowledge, and further knowledge I gained from continued reading, I performed so well that I was promoted every year, and within 5 years I was appointed a Divisional General Manager. I was the youngest among the top executives of the Corporation, and I exercised a lot of influence on decisions. The older men listened to me and respected what I had to say because I knew more about the industry than they did.

It is from this experience that I say, work to learn more than to earn. If you learn about your job and really understand it, earning will just follow.

READ BIOGRAPHIES OF SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE

One of the things about humans is that we get motivated and inspired by real-life stories more than theories and principles. Hearing stories of people becoming successful after tragedy inspires people and makes them think, “If they can do it, so can I.” That is why I have shared about my own experiences with the hope of inspiring you.

If you want to succeed, you need to read biographies and autobiographies of successful people. Read about people who have faced various kinds of difficulties but came out winners. Read about people who failed and made mistakes on the road to success and prosperity. Read about people who went from rags to riches, or who were nobodies but became leaders.

I have read many such stories, and one thing that stands out is that the people who accomplished great things in life have been ordinary people. Many had humble beginnings and faced many disadvantages. Many had never been to school, or dropped out of college and university. They went through many hardships and trials in the process of becoming successful. Such stories have inspired me. They will inspire you too.

STUDY MONEY AND FINANCE

One of the topics I encourage you to educate yourself on is money and personal finance. This, as you know, is not a subject taught in school, even though it is the most important area of interest for everyone regardless of which specialty people study about in school or profession they choose after graduation.

School teaches people to work for money. People go to school, study hard, get good grades, get jobs, and receive pay from their employers. But they do not receive any education at all about how money works, and how to harness money for their benefit.

The result is that only a few know how to make money work for them, while the majority works for money all their lives. Those who make money work for them become employers, while those who work for money become employees. Those who know how to make money work for them get ahead in life, while those who work for money get left behind.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE AND PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS DOES NOT GUARANTEE FINANCIAL SUCCESS. TO BE FINANCIALLY INTELLIGENT, YOU MUST STUDY HOW TO MAKE THIS WILD THING CALLED “MONEY” WORK FOR YOU.

I have come to the end of my address.

I wish every graduating student the best life has to offer you as a child of God. Let me end with Hebrews 13:5, one of my favourite scriptures. It says:

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” The Amplified Version says, “I will not, I will not, I will not leave you nor forsake you nor relax my hold on you.”

That’s how committed God is to you as His children. His name is Emmanuel. His name is Jehovah Shammah. God is with you, and He is for you. And as Romans 8:31 says, “If Almighty God be for you, who can be against you?”

REMEMBER: EDUCATION CONTINUES BEYOND GRADUATION. WHEN YOU STOP LEARNING, YOU STOP GROWING. LIFE IS A SCHOOL FROM WHICH THERE IS NO GRADUATION. AND EDUCATION STOPS WHEN YOU STOP BREATING.

God bless you all!

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