How to study in the age of technological disruption

Things I wish somebody told me when I was in school.

All my life I was studying the wrong way.

I never had a mentor or an older brother, or a thoughtful teacher who would lead me, guide me, shine away the darkness of ignorance and spill the sobering truth explaining to me how fucked up the world around me is, and most importantly what do I have to do when life is a mess and everything seems absurd.

I want to share with you the knowledge that would have saved me precious time back in the school days. The things that I learned the hard way, you don’t have to.

If you are a striving student who is questioning the status quo, or maybe you are a parent who can’t find the proper words for his child and is trying to give some motivation for study here is my list of absolute must-know things in education as a concept.

The first thing that you have to understand:

The education system is obsolete.

The education system was designed in the era of industrialism when a person acquired the skills that would help him to secure a job which he would carry on throughout his life gaining experience and professionalism.

Here is the bitter truth. Things changed. We live in the computer era when technology and innovation will disrupt the shit out of us if we don’t prepare ourselves.

60% of students in Australia are studying for the jobs that will not exist in 10 years.

Automated cars will leave millions of people jobless in the same upcoming decade.

Past week a robot did a backflip. Think about it. A robot. Did. A backflip. Can you backflip? I can’t. The time of clumsy “Wall-Es” has passed. Robots now can learn how to walk from scratch within hours faster than any human being.

The future is here. It is official.

These robots and overall industrial automation will massively substitute manual workers leaving people behind.

The starting point in the understanding of your place in this world is to accept the fact that world is changing at an incomprehensible pace and we will perish if we fail to clearly visualize the future that is coming.

The choice of a future-proof occupation is a top priority.

The education system is broken.

I recommend you to start by watching the TED talk by Sal Khan and another famous TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

Their message is clear.

We need to rethink what we teach and the way we teach young people.

The conventional education system is designed like so: students study for several weeks and then take a test. Someone passes with 95%, someone with 60%. It doesn’t matter. After the test is done, everyone moves on and starts to learn more complex material on top of the not-digested previous one.

Building up knowledge is like constructing a building. What would happen if you use only 60% of the material to build the first floor, having 40% of gaps and holes and keeping building things on top? At some point, your building will collapse, and that is exactly what happens when the student who was taught that way is facing the real world.

The education should be highly personalized to the needs and capabilities of an individual student. You can’t teach everyone at the same pace. And that is why the projects like Khan AcademyLyndaUdemyUdacity, and the concept of nanodegrees proliferate. We have all the tools that have disrupted conventional education, made it personalized and are constantly improving. We just need to start using them.

Schools are still good.

No system is perfect, so we do what we have to do with what we have. In particular, schools are still beneficial in 4 aspects:

  • Training memory
  • Training to process a lot of information
  • Teaching basic research skills
  • Teaching social skills and human interaction.

We live in the system which is ruled by paperwork. You can’t quit the school unless you are a level of genius of Mr. Gates or Mr. Zuckerberg. If you plan to build your career within the framework of employer-employee relationship (which is perfectly fine, not everyone is designed by nature to become an entrepreneur or freelancer) you will have to study hard and collect your diplomas, certifications, and other portfolios as you will have to present your credentials anytime you apply for a job.

You can’t drop out, but what you can do is

Hack schooling

Make a school your personal quest.

  1. Study well.
    It is really not that hard to keep up the good grades, but it will make your parents proud and calm, and your family relationships peaceful. Study well at least for the sake of it.
  2. Identify where you are going.
    Identify your values, your academic interests, and a potential vision of the way you will deliver your value to the world and make you rich along the way.
    Life is too short, it only makes sense to do the things that truly ignite you. Choose wisely.
  3. Read a lot. Get skills.
    If you still don’t learn anything useful in the class find a way to sneaky read the books, or study coding on your laptop.
  4. Reframe the concept of school.
    At the end of the day, if the school still feels like a torture, think of it as a training program to build your resilience.
    Grit is a quality that will define the course of your life.

Must-know list.

In the world that is coming, you will need

  1. Fundamental knowledge.
    Basic science: math, physics, chemistry, biology.
    Remember the analogy with the building? Good fundamental knowledge is your foundation, your basis, your pied-a-terre. Master the basics, and other complex material will be naturally learned on top. This is the most important part one should focus on.
  2. Problem-solving skill
    The real world doesn’t consist of lectures. It consists of problems. Keep it in mind during your studies.
    In the real world no one cares how many classes you have taken and lectures you have passed.
    It only matters what is the level of problems that you are able to solve.
  3. Critical thinking.
    Don’t take anything for granted. Use the first principles of thinking. Doubt everything that is served to you as a final truth. Come back to the references. Double check. Triple check. Think yourself.
  4. Creativity.
    Everything is a remix. The ability to create things on the intersection of seemingly unrelated areas is a skill that can be applied everywhere from design to prototyping. Foster it.
  5. Teamwork.
    Here is another lie. In school, they call it cheating. In real life, we call it collaboration. 

    Learn how to work with other people, and not just work, but solve problems together.
    Don’t think of the things that you can gain from people, but how can you be of service to them.
  6. Hard skills.
    Hard science. Research. Coding. Editing videos, audios. Marketing. Writing. Reading. Engineering. Building things. Working with data and programs.
    Those are the things that are life-changing. Hard skills are what will keep you a relevant worker anytime, anywhere.
  7. Soft skills.
    Public speaking. Self-esteem. Emotional intelligence. Practical intelligence. Personal philosophy. Psychology.
    These things are hard to learn, but make life way easier upon application.
  8. Deep work.
    Get a skill of deep intense work without disturbance. This skill is a real life-changer, as everything profound that you will learn in your life you will learn through deep work.
  9. Languages.
    A multilingual brain works significantly different from a monolingual. Speaking second or multiple languages allows you to be open-minded, flexible and increases your IQ and the ability to grasp complex concepts. And, of course, amazing perks as communicating with foreigners and making new friends make learning new languages enjoyable.

To-do list

So let’s start.

  1. Change your mindset
    Education starts when you leave school. This should become your mindset. Consider that after-school time is when the official training is done and now you enter the time when you can truly invest in yourself. This is the most important part of your day.
  2. Design your study.
    Start with making a system. Identify your goals, make a spreadsheet, make it measurable. Don’t try to tackle many things or many subjects at once. One of the best systems is to constantly challenge yourself. For example, a 30-day challenge of math or how much German I can learn in 1 week of superintense study. Make your education systematic, chaotic study and lack of organization will tremendously slow down your progress.
  3. Seek for a mentor.
    Find a person who is older than you, more experienced and possesses the expertise you are willing to acquire. Beg and ask to teach you, as what you can learn from the mentor is a condensed wisdom. Your mentor will challenge you and eventually change you. Be proactive. Seek guidance. Stay hungry. Ask stupid questions. Give stupid answers. Practice. Make mistakes. Learn. Fix. Repeat.
  4. Study, study, study!
    Take action. Motivation is what makes you get started, discipline is what keeps you going.
    Work extremely hard. Learn as if it was your last day on Earth.
    Don’t care about the final goal. The journey is the reward.
    Don’t hope. Don’t doubt.
    Know it.
    You will transform, and the results will exceed your highest expectations.

Finally,

Keep the balance

Don’t burn out with your study.

  • Reconnect with nature.
  • Meditate.
  • Eat good food.
  • Travel on weekends.
  • Do new things.
  • Meet new people.
  • Sleep.
  • Relax.
  • Go to sauna or massage.
  • Spend time with those who you hold dear.

Stay on the Mission of becoming the best version of yourself.

Good luck!

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