Where highly prestigious MBA diploma gets you precisely… nowhere, yet you are stuck with a huge debt for a piece of a paper that, no doubt about it, is proudly exposed on the most prominent wall in your house resembling an art. Perhaps it is one, in one form or another… A very vivid picture of pain, distress and disappointment. After all this effort and borrowed money just to get a one-shot at, what Josh Kaufman called in his book ‘The Personal MBA – master the art of business’, $150,000 interview which you have bought but didn’t get through.

Having a diploma, professional qualifications or a PhD is a great thing if you can afford it and where odds are actually in your favour that you will get a pay rise or at least, a job. Elon Musk doesn’t give a damn about your degree nor do most of the fast-growing companies. They are more interested in what you know and how you can bring that skill set to the team within the business, and how you are going to use it. It is not something you will learn about doing a course. Even though you paid for it $150,000.

Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t complete formal education and could not read Latin. He was calling himself illiterate, perhaps with a hint of sarcasm on his part. At least this is what Walter Isaacson thinks. Nobody would dare to call Leonardo illiterate, but it’s not because a shiny diploma says otherwise but because his notes and works scream otherwise vividly. Yet, he wasn’t doing it for anyone except for himself, to feed his insatiable curiosity.

To be successful in business you must be a polymath, there is no question about it. Back in Victorian time you could learn a trade and provide good product and that would be good enough for the business to be relatively prosperous and there was even a good chance your children would continue this ‘family business’ to prosper into the future. Nowadays, you need to be always at least a step ahead of the competition or they will be ahead of you. In the global international market trade where we fight for customer recognition and often low-profit margins, personal development is the key. Whether you are a business owner, manager, consultant or just an employee you need to upgrade or become irrelevant on the market place within a decade or less. No pressure! No university of the world offers syllabus ahead of our times, providing theoretical physics is not the subject you have enrolled to. Try to ask a financial markets trader to make all the investment decisions based on historic data without paying much attention to the future. So whether you chose to commit to formal education or not, rest assured it won’t be enough to meet the market needs and expectations of the business you work for.

Josh Kaufman recommends a reading list of 99 business books of which each book was selected for a single purpose only: ‘to maximize your educational return on invested time’. So give it a go if you are serious about gaining, what I would call, the practical MBA. The one you gain for purely pragmatic reasons, to use it rather than to talk about it.

Is the university era gone? Not at all. Formal education is still very important. You will learn about critical thinking and how to formulate your ideas and theories. That’s most of it, but it can also act as a form of motivation. It can also be that you are genuinely interested in a subject and wish to deepen your understanding of it and generally widen your horizons. Of course, you don’t have to go to academia to do it yet, if you would like to be part of the academia and teach others, there is no way around it.

So signing up to a university or college will be your first business decision you have to make. What are the pros and cons, how will the studying and qualification impact my professional career and whether is it worth it? In any circumstances, if the answer to any of these questions is ‘I don’t know’ it would be prudent not to jump the gun and sign up to the course. Read three books on the subject you are considering to study and see where this takes you.

Knowledge is the key! But only if you know how to utilise it. In times where we suffer from information overload, picking up the right books and information is the key. Find out where you want to be and whether you have time for a university.

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