“I refuse to let a college education get in the way of my learning.” – LX Van Drie
So I’ve been blogging for three months now. I’ve frequently intended to in the past, but this is the longest I’ve stuck with it. And I’ll continue with it this time. So what made the difference? It was this post titled 8 Steps to Getting What You Want …. Without Formal Credentials from FourHourWorkWeek.com. It’s a quick extraction of the basics from The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsburg. Sometimes you read something and it’s just the slap in the face and kick in the ass you need.
In this case, the article was about something I’ve intuitively felt for a long time, but needed some guidance to really take advantage of it. Learning is not the same thing as the educational system or getting credentialed. Why do people like Bill Gates excel even after having dropped out of the formal educational system? Because they never stop learning, and just as importantly, they never stop reaching out to people they can connect with.
(As an amusing, to me, aside, I was looking at degrees at a university a few days ago. They had a business management degree with a focus on entrepreneurship. It seems to me like the best way to get an education in being an entrepreneur is to take the tuition money and actually, y’know, go be an entrepreneur.)
There are two kinds of hacks when you encounter and obstacle, hard hacks and soft hacks. A hard hack is using tools to break through a security system. A soft hack uses a social approach, wherein the hacker talks to people and applies a little psychological know how to create a work around. Learning, using tools like books, blogs, forums, and such things, is a hard hack. Networking is the soft hack. Both are needed to help you get around the obstacle of not having the formal credentials. I absolutely love Tim Ferris and his books because they are all about finding the best way, the best hacks, to optimally get to your goal. (Here’s a hint, it’s usually not the traditional approach).
So how have I done against the how-to guide? Not too bad. I’ll admit to subverting it and hacking it a bit myself. Yes, I’m going to use this to break into the gaming industry, but also I’m doing it so that I can get my formal credentials. There is a rather incredible Master’s program I want to get into. When it comes to the gaming world, there’s nothing that beats hands-on experience, and this would be quite the hands on experience. Am I doing this because I have to? No. Am I doing this because I fell I absolutely have to in order to get a good job? No. Sure it may help, but learning is fun. Some people want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a fancy imported car, I want to spend it on one hell of a fun learning experience. ( It’s probably a better return of investment than a fancy imported car too. ) It’s no coincidence that the best games mimic the best learning experiences after all.
So let’s see how I’m doing so far in the steps set forward by Ellsburg? Well, let’s hold my feet to the fire and find out.
Step 1: Choose Your New Field of Learning
Check. There are a million game review and game fan sites out there. I knew my blog needed to be different and I knew it needed to be a bit granular to find a niche. I’ve opted for how games intersect with culture, how they are changing our society and expectations of reality. This is something that I’ve come to see over the past three months may not actually be down in the weeds enough. But it will do for now. I picked this because 1) it combines a few subjects I have a natural interest in and 2) any time there is a shift in cultural norms it leads to conflicts in the workplace and in education. I see a lot of potential business here.
Step 2: Showcase Your Learning
Check, or at least half a check. I should be reading more and posting more frequently. This falls in with some New Year’s resolutions I’m making for my blog (to read more and post more frequently.) I’ve got an enormous shelf of books to get through with a critical eye for sharing.
Step 3: Learn the Basics of Good Networking
Getting there. Networking is actually something I’m really good at naturally, I just didn’t know it was networking. Effective networking is not glad handing and sussing out what use someone can be of to you. It’s finding out how you can help people, how you know a good book or a good person that can help with someone’s challenge. The tough part for me is actually finding the people I “need.” But it turns out I know a few friends of friends I can reach out to for “informational interviews” and I’ve found some forums where I can talk to people who are already doing something close to what I want to do.
Step 4: Within Your Budding Social Economy, Start Working for Free
Starting this. Since what I want to do is game design, I’m starting to play games of a type that I’ve never played before (European board games, FPS, and sometime soon collectible card games). I’ve picked up some good resources for learning to put together games so I’ll be exploring some Interactive Fiction and game module designing starting in very early 2012.
As far as doing free work within my new network, well, I’m still working on the network so it will get there.
Step 5: Develop Case Studies of Your Work
Not here yet.
Step 6: Develop Relationships With Mentors
Kind of here. Well, I’ve got one mentor at least. Bill LeRoy has been an invaluable help to me in helping me figure out WordPress as well as some SEO basics. He also has shared with me his secret ingredient to make truly epic homemade marshmallows.
Step 7: Learn Sales
I’m jumping ahead to this one. I need it for my “day job” too.
Step 8: Sell and Deliver Your Services Within Your Social Economy
Well here’s where you start hitting the big time isn’t it?
I have learned a lot. I’ve learned some HTML tricks, I’ve become an Amazon affiliate, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in the skills I already have. I’ve got at least a few people besides my mom and my husband reading this on a semi-regular basis. Between the skills outlined here (many of which I’m currently using to find a non-dream, but immediately paying job) and what I’ve learned through the self-driven learning I’m doing on this blog, I can’t believe how much difference three months have made. I’m looking forward to the difference another 12 will make.
Tune back in on the first of January to see what Painted Dog has resolved to do this year. Let’s see what awesome things 2012 will hold.