In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, education— particularly higher education—was an opportunity not as available to the general public as it is today. My great-grandfather placed an incredibly high value on the pursuit of knowledge, from formal education to life lessons and practical, hands-on experiences earned with your own blood, sweat, and tears. This was the basis for what my father taught us—he saw education as an opportunity to increase wealth and status, and he embraced formal and experience-based education as tools required to succeed in life.
Because of the importance placed on education in my family, I knew getting a formal education would be expected of me – and because of that core family value instilled within me, I wanted it for myself as well. What to get formally educated in can be overwhelming for most of us – study after study confirms this with statistics of students changing their majors multiple times before completion of the study.
It was no different for me when I started my career. Initially, I thought I might follow in my father’s and my maternal uncle’s (business partner) footsteps to become an engineer. However, my father gave me advice that I will never forget and that is so important when it comes to making a career choice; he encouraged me to not just choose something because it was beneficial to our family business, he said, “do what you love.”
It Takes More than Just a Degree
The education you receive and seek after must be more than just a formal degree – and that formal degree is best achieved when there is passion driving it. Beyond this formal education is the information that can only be learned by doing. I ultimately chose business which I was able to expand on by working directly in the business. That time taught me that education isn’t just about your college degree. In fact, no education is entirely formal—you have to learn by doing. Learning in a classroom is only half of the experience, if that.
When I came back and chose the family business, I wasn’t given a position of authority. I had to earn it, just like everyone else, and that learning started from the ground up. It was a far cry from the high-status job title with the sophisticated office that I had imagined, but I was learning. During my time in the company trenches, I learned an incredible amount from people who may have been less formally educated than me but who had far more real-world experience and wisdom.
When it comes to successful family businesses, there is value in allowing the next generation to choose their own path and, if they show interest in the family business, teaching them about it from the ground up. Learn more about how to successfully transition your family business from one generation to another by reading my book, https://amzn.to/2NsaOst