The End of The School-Work-Retire Paradigm (Thank God)

Learning is a Life-long Pursuit

I was, what you might call, a difficult child. While my sister floated, fairly unscathed through the school system from kindergarten to her bachelors degree, I never got consistently good grades, was in detention daily, in the principal’s office weekly.   I was suspended at least once a semester until, finally, I was expelled from my third primary school.

“Expelled,” what a beautiful term. Like food your  body can't tolerate or exhaust that is so powerful the engine might explode, they “expelled” me from their system to protect their sacred norms.

For my parents, however, the problem didn’t end there. I continued to struggle to fit within the system. Two high schools, military school, and three colleges later, I was finally ready to flip my proverbial middle finger to the education system and strike out on my own.

Can’t help but wonder if my parents wished they’d lost me somewhere on that trip to Canada when I was seven.

The funny thing is, when I left the system of “learning” to start my own businesses, I discovered how critical learning really is. Now, this is no “my teachers were right all along” story. They weren’t right. They were decidedly wrong. It wasn’t really their fault, though. It’s just the system that they were part of. As a college drop-out and entrepreneur, I realized something - not only do you need to learn to do - you need to do to learn.

Teaching our children that they must “learn” until they are old enough to “do” has cost humanity some of its greatest discoveries.

Bombarded with education, children grow up delaying the works they could accomplish during the most imaginative time of their life. Conversely, when they leave school, most young adults stop learning as they become bombarded with work, inhibiting themselves from growing. This makes their work, their discoveries, and their lives far less than they could have been.

People talk about a life-work balance. I’d like to talk about a learn-work balance. If balance is the key to happiness, so, too, is it the key to success. If our children had a better balance of creating while learning and were not taught the school-work-retire paradigm, they could live happier lives. They could do, share, create, give, and be more throughout their entire life.

Most people are taught this paradigm of going to school for 12 - 16 years, then working for the next 50 until they can hopefully save enough to retire and enjoy the last 20.

The education system, the 40 hour work week, and the retirement age is robbing our species of the advancement and the fulfillment we so desperately crave.

People say that “youth is wasted on the young” in some deterministic belief that this is an unalterable truth. While billions are being spent to keep us young during our productive years, little is being done at all to help us be more productive while we are young.

So let’s stop asking our children, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” and start asking them, “what do you want to do?”. Why does a career have to start after college? Why does learning have to stop when you begin your career?

I have a ravenous appetite for knowledge, rivaled only by my appetite for achievement. During the first twenty years of my life, I was forced to delay achievement and focus on knowledge. In revolt, I refused to learn, and fought the whole way, until dropping out of college, to finally focus on achievement. Ironically, that's when I began to really learn... a lot.

These last ten years I’ve spent rejecting career norms, while I’ve almost completely focused all of my energy on learning (seminars, books, conferences, ad-hoc philosophical debates) while experimenting with different businesses, trades, and investments. This has led to a very fulfilling life, I only wonder where I would be today, had I started when I was 10, instead of crashing, head-first into the social walls that make up the prison of the school-work-retire paradigm.