“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?” – Steve Jobs
In early August, I walked across the stage on the campus of Purdue University to achieve a life and career goal: A Master’s Degree. When I got my undergraduate degree in 1997, the thought of going back for a higher degree was not even on my radar.
A few things changed over time, though. I was inspired by watching my wife getting her Master’s and Doctoral degrees. Her thirst for greater knowledge -to be a student of life- got me thinking about my own journey. Where was my life and career going? How could I truly challenge myself?
When my wife addressed nursing students at D’Youville College a few years ago, she told them to never stop learning. “I hope that we, as your faculty, have shown you that you will never know everything about everything,” she said. “You will become experts in your field, but the education never stops. You should always strive to learn more and continue to grow.”
My colleague, Stephanie Florence, used the term “Student Always” quite often. I’ve mailed, tweeted, and video posted that this term is transformational. I view being a student always as a challenge to learn more and to never accept what is in front of you. It doesn’t matter if it’s your life or your career.
Purdue’s program challenged me to broaden my horizons. It drove me to learn more and continuously grow, as a professional and a human begin. My internal debate about grad school actually started with a simple question: “Do I WANT to go or do I NEED to go?” And that is the question you should ask yourself if you are considering the same. I WANTED to go to graduate school.
Bonnie Hines, my son’s teacher at Fallsmead Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland, recently told me that she has always been motivated to learn because she loves school. “I think it entirely depends on your personal and professional goals,” she said. “I will be the first person in my family to earn a Master’s degree, but the rest of my family is very happy and successful without one.” Mrs. Hines was someone who dreamed of getting a Master’s degree and relished the challenge.
But, do you need a higher degree to feel complete? No, you don’t. However, you shouldn’t ever settle on just being along for the ride. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’ve achieved something you didn’t think you could. Maybe it’s getting certified in CPR or becoming an expert in Google Analytics. Even more, it’s about pushing your mind and body beyond what you think you are capable of in life. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. They are, most likely, the ones that can’t.
As Steve Jobs said, we’re here to put a dent in the universe. Might as well leave your own mark on it.