Explore, Expose, Educate

For most of us, school held our hand through learning. Adults expected us to show up, study and graduate. I cannot speak for you, but the structure of institutional learning failed to inspire me to pursue learning beyond the walls. Some teachers made a difference and instilled within me the value of lifelong learning – but the curriculum never asked for it. For shame. I’ve worked very hard post-college to open books, study new things and apply learning on my own. Many things self-taught have made me considerably more competitive in the job market, comfortable with business and well-rounded as person. Sound good?

The single biggest piece of advice I have for anyone looking to better themselves: expose yourself to activities, culture and people you do not yet know or understand. Do things you’ve never done. Try things without a second thought. No prejudices. No fear. You really did not have a say in what you learned growing up – why be picky now? Wipe away those inhibitions and get back to your education! Mix it up, kick-start the brain. Live, learn and love life.

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Education Is Not Gospel

I took a class in college on motion picture distribution. I learned a lot and revered my teacher. Over the last 6 months, developments in the industry continue to undermine almost everything I learned.

Times change. Popular opinion changes. Our understanding of the world and universe changes. New replaces the old. Technology can flip everything upside down. The game changes all the time.

While education is instrumental in shaping your understanding of the world around you, be wary of taking everything taught as fact. By all means – take to heart advice from teachers who have lived through their industries and subjects. But I encourage you to heed their teachings as advice, not gospel. Fact can become fiction overnight. With the future so uncertain, it’s fair to take everything with a grain of salt.

To make a difference and truly change things, you must be prepared to do things differently than those before you – not listen to your teachers all the time. Let your education provide you with the tools and creative constraints to propel your vision forward. Follow your passion and embrace your rebellious instincts to break the rules and undo what has already been done.

Film School: The Super Degree

When I tell people I might take a break from the film industry to study the web, the first thing I’m asked is, “Didn’t you got to school for that? Why leave the business?”

I learned a hell of a lot more than just camerawork at film school. In what other degree do you learn to actively lead teams, coordinate logistics, start businesses, tell stories, embrace technology, manage budgets, engage in philosophy, write both fiction and non-fiction, design advertising campaigns, engineer software, study history, direct talent, interface with contemporary culture, carpenter sets, raise money, play with toys, draw pictures, play music, review law briefs, curate content, and express yourself? That’s right, I can’t think of another degree either.

Film school is an all-inclusive wrapper for a cumulative degree in storytelling, business, marketing, management, design, communication, technology, law, twentieth-century history, and cultural studies. In even the smallest film trade schools, you must learn to lead teams through creative and technical projects while coordinating schedules and money to do so. Few MBA programs I’ve heard of are half as hands-on.

At the University of Southern California‘s School of Cinematic Arts, I had the pleasure of studying under studio executives, A-list producers, active professionals, and trendsetting innovators; I produced over 280 minutes of content and coordinated more than a cumulative 200 students and professionals to do so; and I interfaced directly with current and impending trends in the film industry. I moved to Hollywood to study from within the belly of the beast and learned more than I could have ever imagined.

Am I bastardizing my cinema degree by jumping industries? Absolutely not. If anything, I am honoring it. And I would recommend it to absolutely anyone looking to master important entrepreneurial skills, engage his or her creative side, solve complicated human puzzles, and have some fun.

School Sucks?

School SucksPayPal co-founder Peter Thiel predicts that the next major bubble following the housing market crash will be not be in tech, but instead in higher education. Like web technology in the dot-com bubble, college education is nearing over-evaluation quelled only by hiking tuition. Despite higher application rates, higher attendance and higher tuition than ever before, colleges are feeling economic pressure and encumbered by spending freezes. More graduates are dropping out, drowning in student loan debt, failing to enter the job market, and moving in with their parents than ever before. The value of university education against the cost of attendance is questionably worth the capital investment risk. College cannot promise you a competitive job anymore.

How can universities prevent an inevitable devaluation and bubble burst of its own?

Change the promise. Or change the program.

“Learning” in and of itself is hardly an incentive for teenagers who just spent thirteen years in school. After taking all of those miserable standardized tests, the last thing they want to do is take more tests. Universities sell education to youngsters as a step toward employment. Changing the promise would mean being realistic about post-college probability, which would invariably scare applicants away. Bad for business. I do not think colleges can afford to revise their promise.

So that leaves only one alternative: change the program.

I am hardly an expert on educational reform, but education is very important to me. I was a professional student from 1992 to 2009 and will continue to be a student of life until the day I die. As I continue with this blog, I will try to propose suggestions to teachers and schools for “changing the program.” Maybe we can discover healthy alternatives together. Stay tuned!