I hated school. I really did. Ask my parents, and they’ll tell you how much I resisted getting up in the morning, I resisted getting dressed. I resisted homework. In fact I was pretty good at finding a number of reasons why I should not have to go to school. I didn’t think that school was important, or that I was learning anything useful and I believed that the subjects were completely irrelevant to my life.
And the end result: I failed miserably at my ‘A’ Levels. A year later, with some theatrical experience under my belt, I scraped into a college of Higher Education to do a Drama degree.
What astonished me immediately, was how much I enjoyed it. I bounced out of bed in the morning. I rushed to my lectures to be there on time (gasp!). I spent time in the library, reading and applying myself. Even when I was struggling, I somehow found the focus to keep going. I ended up getting a BA (Hons) 2:1 in Creative Arts. When I phoned my parents to tell them, I think my mum nearly fainted with amazement.
What I realised was this: to learn at your best and your highest level you need to find out what intrinsically motivates you and then spend time learning this on your own terms. I chose the college I attended, I chose the course, and I chose the time commitment. Somehow these three factors had a massive impact on me, to the extent that on the day of graduation, I said “I could do that degree all over again. I LOVED it”.
Fast forward many years later and I felt as equally trapped as I had done at school. Only ironically I was now the teacher, and had a teaching role in Higher Education! In truth, I loved teaching and sparking the process of an amazing lightbulb moment where a student grasped a new concept or understood a theory for the first time. Working directly with students was what I loved best. There were much wider political and structural forces at work, though, that meant I was often drawn into debates and challenges that had really nothing to do with teaching. I began to feel that there were no other options but to pursue this career to the exclusion of all else. Forever, until I retired. And that I resented.
Now, at the age of nearly forty, I could feel that same resistance I felt when I was a teenager. “I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to get dressed and go to work. I want a hot dinner not a packed lunch”!
I took a long hard look at my life and realised that I had stopped learning. I had cornered myself into a small place and it was time to expand my mind and my reality. As a side-line and a future legacy for my children, I had been developing another small income stream from a few single buy-to-let properties. But I had ignored it, and become rather blase about this small portfolio. This moment of emptiness with my job made me realise that the time to make a change was now. If I didn’t take the leap now (even with a job and four children to manage) I would never do it.
So I started to educate myself. I attended loads of webinars and networking meetings. I read books and subscribed to relevant magazines. I asked lots of questions and attended courses. And more courses!
And I started to buy bigger houses to convert into Houses of Multiple Occupation.
I began to apply what I was learning, and this made me hungry for more. My resistance lowered. I WANTED to learn, I wanted to read and know and I wanted to be AN EXPERT at what I did. I recognised that I was intrinsically motivated to learn how to create HMOs, how to create passive income and how to become financially free…
It’s true that for me, traditional education felt like a waste of time. Only learning what I was self-motivated to learn has ever inspired me enough to maintain my interest. Staying the course depends on you having the interest and aspiration that you feel for the subject matter.
Since that time, I recognise that I love entrepreneurship, business, communications, and people. These are the areas of life that I could study all day long.
It makes it even more fun when I apply it too.
You have to take risks when you are learning something you’re motivated to learn that’s not a school subject. People will think you’re a bit crazy, stupid or mad. No worries. Let ‘em think it.
- Stay centred on your passion.
- Make time for learning – theory and practice
- Keep applying what you’ve learned to make it fresh and real (practice)
- Take a break when you need some space to cogitate
- Invest wisely – books, courses, materials.
And above all, find something you are intrinsically motivated to learn. Whether it’s crochet, cookery or computing. Patchwork, pottery or property. As Ray Croc, the McDonald’s owner once said ‘When you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe you rot’!