Today was the last day of school here in Finland. Again thousands of young people graduated from their schools. Most notable of these graduations is the high school (lukio) graduation.
Graduating high school means a big party.
I was invited to one of these parties held by my wife’s relative. More interesting than the party itself was the atmosphere of success. The 19-year old girl who graduated was a straight-A student. She was obviously up for a scholarship for her success. Here’s basically what happened:
- She worked her ass off for 13 years in school to get to this point.
- She still doesn’t know why she’s doing it.
- But luckily the school does, they awarded her with a scholarship worth 85 € for a job well done.
Apart from Harry Potter, who has ever been sorry that the school term ends?
In Finland we have the compulsory education (oppivelvollisuus) sometimes called “koulupakko” as in “forced school”. Learning new things, basically the most fascinating thing out there, is turned it to a compulsory duty.
On top of that the school system has crappy incentives. It’s not like 85 € was in any balance with the amount of work and dedication a person puts into their studying in order to get there. The only real incentive for doing well in school is that you on average get a better job.
I will argue that such a distant incentive is not motivating for almost anyone. In order for people to do well in school they must adopt a personal incentive on the meta-level. You have to learn to like what you’ve been told – not to learn more about whatever you like.
I was recently interviewed about education and need for professional courses in my business activities. I think I gave all the wrong answers.
In a short period of time my respect for extensive education has collapsed.
I used to believe that education and especially university-level education are the solution to success in our society. Most people still believe that the education you get will predestinate the success for the rest of your life. On average this is true.
But is the success actually caused by the education or could it be that the people who complete their education had been successful regardless of their education?
I will argue that people will learn anyway what they consider inspiring. School works for people who don’t have the passion and motivation to learn stuff themselves.
So, when I was asked what kind of professional courses I would like to have to help my business, I couldn’t think of anything. Even the best people giving courses are seldom passionate about what their students do. In contrast, if there was a person who was both knowledgeable and passionate about their subject and could provide their skills for the students to use, that would be a completely different thing.
The importance of learning cannot be denied.
But everyone should stop and ask why they are learning stuff the way they’re doing it. Are they learning for themselves or for the system? And if the answer is for themselves then why do it as inefficiently as the school system tends to do it. Ask why and try to understand the answer. For example:
Ask your mother why she made you do your homework.
Now that I’m leaving for my military refresher, it’s a good time to recall the lessons learned from the military.
Much of the military training is – or feels – irrelevant. It feels like that when you’re the one learning the lessons. If you put your mind to it you might notice that some things still make sense. Here are some common doctrines in military training:
- Things are best learned with repetition.
- Take a small pain now save a huge pain in the future.
- Start with the very basics.
- Encourage simplicity.
But not all military leadership is useless.
When I joined the military in 1999, they had just adopted a new leadership discipline called the deep lead (in Finnish syväjohtaminen). At that time it felt like a mantra that was blindly taught to everyone without anyone understanding what it was about. Now in retrospect, the four cornerstones of deep leadership actually make sense:
- Building trust. Obviously trust is very important in any relationship. Whether it’s in the military where you have to trust people with your life or in the business world where you trust people with your career and even your money. Being open and showing integrity will make you trustworthy within the group you’re working with.
- Inspiring way to motivate. Some leaders are innately motivating. Others can lead with their own example. Being inspired is actually close to the passion that I consider the starting point for anything remarkable. Using your passion to motivate others is the next logical step after that.
- Intellectual stimulus. People like challenges. A good leader will challenge both himself and the people in the team. But a good challenge isn’t something that the people will stress out the people. A good challenge is inspiring and challenging enough from every individual’s own perspective.
- Individual confrontation. A good leader will know what motivates each person that he’s working with. When trying to achieve something remarkable all people have to be able to give their 100 %. This isn’t possible unless they have been given the space to do that.
The funny thing is that although this doctrine originated in the military, it seems to be more applicable to business life. Even Taneli Tikka shares these ideas in one of his presentations.
The more time I spend developing my own business the more similarities I see in it to my personal life.
Romantic relationships and business life have a lot in common.
I want to present here five lessons that I’ve learned both from love and from my career in entrepreneurship:
- Passion. I consider passion to be the number one success factor for both business and love. Some philosopher might say love is what is left when the passion drains from a relationship. I will argue that passion is a crucial component of love. Nobody can be passionate about everything but everybody can find their passion both in love and in business life.
- Purpose. In business we call the purpose a goal, a vision, a mission or a strategy. In a relationship you and your partner are the “business”. You have to have the same goals in life. When you can trust that the other person is pursuing the same goals and backs you up in your personal decisions, there is a huge potential for success.
- Openness. Both the passion and the purpose come through open discussion. There is no other way. Verbal communication has a very similar role also in business life. A functioning professional organization is based on openness. Companies don’t achieve anything by themselves, it’s the people who make the success through communication.
- Constant learning. Without learning there is only one way and that way is failure. In a healthy relationship you can learn new things about your partner after 50 years of marriage. The same goes for companies. A professional organization should keep learning faster than its competitors to succeed. Again it’s the people who learn, organization only facilitates their learning.
- Conflict resolution. No relationship or business is made without conflict. Conflict is inevitable but can be avoided through the process of learning and through openness. Bad handling of conflicts can deteriorate even a successful company or a relationship. The best way to handle a conflict is to do it firmly, friendly and immediately.
So whether you want to success in business or in love, keep these factors in mind. And let me know if there is something you’d like to add to the list.