Learning Knowledge Has Become Useless – Learn This Instead
Tl;dr: in an economy where information is free, one should focus on learning a skill instead of studying knowledge.
When I was 20, I made one of the worst decisions of my life.
I went to study communication at university.
At the time, I valued much more the voice of other people than my own.
School had taught me that whatever I thought about myself was wrong and that I should follow other people’s advice instead of my own.
And so I did.
The mainstream advice back then was “go study” (which in itself, is not especially good advice), and more specifically, it was “go study something you like”.
As I quickly discovered once I entered the job market, that was terrible advice.
By the time I had understood it, it was too late.
Making a Living Is Hard
Making a living is hard.
The period of steady economic growth is over and AI will soon make many people redundant.
As such, getting a job is not about doing “what you like.”
It is about solving a problem for someone else.
Founders build companies to fix problems and hire employees that spend their days solving their companies’ problems and receive a salary in exchange.
To make a living in this world, you need to be able to solve problems.
The bigger the problem, the more value you’ll deliver, the more money you will make.
As such, the biggest misconception that students (and sadly, their parents) have about the job market is that people are hired for what they know.
But this isn’t true at all.
They are hired for what they can do.
In an information-based society where any type of expertise about anything is virtually free, knowledge is simply not that valuable.
It’s not about what you know anymore.
Rather, it’s about what you can do with what you know.
As such, the number of people earning a salary based on what they know is actually very small.
They usually work in research and manage to make a living off their knowledge because it is new, innovative, or very complicated to grasp.
Knowledge matters less and less.
Some months ago, Google declared that it would no longer treat university graduates and other candidates differently when applying for jobs.
It’s because Google knows that whatever you know does not nearly compare with what you can do practically.
And you don’t need university to learn how to do.
Forget About Knowledge – Learn a Skill Instead
When you’re choosing a knowledge-based study, you’re doomed to fail at job searching.
Communication, history, art history, philosophy, political science, sociology, psychology, international relations, and law are studies that do not lead anywhere because they don’t teach you how to do anything.
They teach you knowledge, something you get for free off the internet.
On the contrary, careers such as computer science, engineering, health-related degrees, all manual studies (construction worker, barista, carpenter, plumber, electrician, technician, butcher, baker, fisherman, farmer, bus driver…) are in high demand because people occupying them are producing something concrete.
If you don’t believe me, round up a sociology graduate and an electrician.
Ask them to create something of value that they learned during their studies.
And then watch.
The 2 Questions Anyone Should Ask Themselves Before Learning Anything
There are two questions you should ask yourself before learning something. The answer to these questions will help you decide whether you should study it or not.
First question: can I practice whatever I am about to learn?
Example: can you practice SEO? Sure, you can.
Can you practice communication? No, you cannot.
Not the way they teach you to at university, at least.
If you can’t practice it, don’t learn it.
Second question: are people with the skill I would like to learn currently highly valued in the economy?
To verify that, all you need to do is a quick job search. Often, unemployment offices publish critical skill sets that lack in the economy so that you can have an idea of what to study next.
Anything that is neither a skill nor highly sought-after should be ignored, and not learned.
Waiting tables is a skill, but it is not highly sought-after. As such, you don’t want to study to become a waiter.
“BuT wHaT iF tHiS iS mY pAsSiOn?”
Passions are passions because you treat them as such.
Let’s say your passion is driving and you elect to become a cab driver.
After 2 years or so, you’ll hate driving and will have lost your passion.
Making a job out of a passion is a guaranteed way to lose that passion. Indeed, passion is an activity you practice when you want to.
A job needs to be practiced, whether you want it or not. Furthermore, all jobs come off with negative aspects that you’ll have to deal with anyway.
You don’t want to pollute your passion with these types of obligations.
While it would be better if you had a slight interest in what you ultimately elect to study, it definitely should not be the main aspect to consider.
“Do what you love is a lie”, nobody actually does what they love.
What you should seek to learn instead is a skill that will teach you to deliver high value to people and companies.
As Jordan Peterson once said, “a job is something you get paid for because you wouldn’t do it voluntarily”.
A job is not nice. A job is not fun. It’s something that needs to get done and for which one needs a special skill set.
So next time you’re thinking about learning something new to make money with, do me a favor.
Don’t learn knowledge. Learn a skill instead.