No, seriously… Is it worth going to university? And, while we’re at it, is it worth going to school? The answer is obviously “yes”. Without school, without university, we would have less knowledge of the world and, therefore, a more limited ability to perform. “Knowledge is power”, as they tend to say.
However, here is a somewhat more complicated question, but crucial in the world in which we live: if it is so useful to study… why do we stop doing it when we leave university? Didn’t we agree that it was something tremendously advantageous? The answer can be found in the utilitarianism of the modern world. We do not study everything that we would like to: we study the minimum necessary to be useful.
As soon as we are useful, as soon as we have the “stamp” saying that we are now engineers, architects or doctors, we stop studying. This is what is called a satisfying strategy, as opposed to maximising strategies. By satisfying I mean that when we reach a sufficient, satisfactory, level, for a certain job, we stop training and start working. If we acted in a maximising manner, we would not stop studying when we have studied sufficiently, we would stop when we have reached our maximum capacity.
Utilitarianism, as we are seeing bitterly, is a strategy which is only valid in the short term. If we only concentrate on meeting minimum standards, we will not go very far. In the long term, it is a better idea to be a maximiser.
To understand this better, let us think of a company. Let us suppose that this company devotes the first three years of its life to doing a great amount of research. Logically, it is very successful creating innovative products but, after three years, it decides that that is enough, that it can stop doing research. And it devotes itself to designing variations on its successful products. Soon it will be less competitive. Shortly afterwards, the company will probably close. This has happened numerous times. It is like a group which releases a good song and can never repeat its success. Who now remembers King Africa and his “Bomba”? Without investment in R&D, without education, we lose our verve and, at the same time, we are condemned to disappear. To be a flash in the pan. Let us now look at some success stories: Apple, Nike, U2. Every year they propose innovations, improvements, new products. Their attraction remains unchanged.
Even so, we think it is a good idea to go to university, obtain a qualification and then off we go to work. As if knowledge did not age. Continuing education is the brain’s R&D. It is what keeps us young and agile. It exercises our capacity to adapt to change. It makes us better people.
There are many ways to educate yourself. University is one of them. Obviously, master’s degree programmes are another. But it is not good to stop there. However many master’s degrees and qualifications we have, life’s journey is long, and our need to refresh our knowledge even greater. There will always be someone who can do it better. The trick is for that someone to be us.
Attend lectures. Read books. Travel to discover new trends. Make smarter friends, with fields of experience which complement yours. If you do this, you will be up to date. Your company will be successful.
Some people, on reading these words, will think that I am defending an obsessive life, completely focused on study and research, as if we were a modern Leonardo da Vinci. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I am suggesting is fully compatible with a full personal life and with a reasonable leisure time. Because holidays oxygenate the brain as well.
The only thing that I defend is not abandoning our brain when it is half developed, not thinking that we have peaked because we now have a qualification. Between Leonardo da Vinci and not doing anything to avoid the logical ageing of our knowledge there is a vast spectrum, and this is where we should find our path. Because, when it comes down to it, we are all companies. Companies whose turnover comes from the attraction of its product. This product is our grey matter. Keep it young.