On August 18, 2019, I gave a talk in Minna during FOMWAN’s North Central Youth Forum.
I shared with the young ladies and their parents one key ingredient guaranteed to make them successful in this world: Knowledge.
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“Get a lot of it. There is nothing that transforms someone faster than knowledge. Don’t stop going to school until you get a PhD.,” I told them.
“It is a meal ticket. Once you have a GOOD PhD, you can do what you want and tell the truth to anyone – of course within reason – without being afraid of losing your job; because you will get a better job.”
If you cannot go for PhD or you are unwilling to do so, at least be the best in your field. That way, even if you’re a jerk, the world can’t ignore you – not when you are the best in your field. I added. But you shouldn’t be a jerk. That is not nice. Therefore, nobody likes one.
But if you are an excellent software engineer, even Google would not care whether you have a degree or not.
I gave them examples of knowledgeable people who were not nice people and the world still dined with them: Thomas Edison (shamelessly stole from Tesla), Albert Einstein (he said something about his wife that I can’t even repeat here), Elon Musk (he fired his dependable secretary for asking for vacation – when he saw that he could do without the secretary, he told her not to come back!), etc.
Indeed a recent survey of famously successful people – especially tech billionaires including Bill Gates – found that they all scored low on one variable: “care for others.”
And in this age, there’s no excuse why you should not attempt to be the best – at least in the room. We have YouTube. You can learn whatever you want there.
And how can the students be successful in the hereafter? “Simply apply that knowledge in doing good with pure intentions firmly rooted in faith,” I concluded.
It was an Islamic gathering, therefore, I told them that by knowledge, I don’t differentiate between religious knowledge and the so-called Western education – after all, what we currently recognise as modern science was developed to a large extent and generally improved upon by Muslims. Accordingly, I urged the students to also learn how to worship their God.
After sharing this talk on social media, it received a great deal of engagement and many people said they took inspiration from it.
However, there were those who asked some important questions. The one I found most instructive is this one: “Isn’t starting a business better than going for a PhD?”
For example, my friend, Abdullahi El Amin said:
“In my own world I tell people to start and nurture a business to be self reliant and financially independent. It’s more important to me than a PhD.”
This is an important question. And the answer depends on the individual, the context and the field of study.
But let’s say that if you have the two options and want to decide on the basis of statistics alone, you may want to consider the following:
The attrition rate of PhD students is 50%. That is, those who started a PhD and later opt out is fifty percent. But once you have a PhD, you are a doctor for life.
Again here we must stress that the PhD depends on the field. For example, those who have postgraduate degrees in software engineering, statistics, mathematics, mechatronics, etc. will have a job for the foreseeable future.
What are the equivalent numbers if you decide to go the enterpreneur route?
“It’s often said that more than half of new businesses fail during the first year. According to the Small BusinessAssociation (SBA), this isn’t necessarily true. The SBA states that only 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.”
In other words, only 33% of businesses survive the first 10 years. Therefore, the choice is yours. As for me, I argue that since enterpreneurship and knowledge are not mutually exclusive, I chose both. You can be the best in your field (the point I stressed to the young ladies) and start a business in that area.
Some social media commenters also said a degree (any degree let alone a PhD) may not be necessary. To that, I completely disagree.
I concede that companies like Google and a few others, no longer require a degree to recruit employees, but every statistics is favourable to a degree holder and against someone without a degree. Let me give a few examples:
Passport to happiness and health
“College degree is necessary in today’s world. Happiness, wealth, good health, and job security are all items that many people in the United States desire. … Today, nearly 60 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy require higher education,” said Emily Hanford (2013).
Achieving your dream
“And despite some skepticism about the value of higher education on the part of pundits and politicians, it is well-documented that there is no better way for young people to achieve the “American Dream” than by getting a college degree.” Micheal Schill, President of the University of Oregon.
“College graduates are more likely to be employed and more likely to earn more than those without degrees. Studies also indicate that people with college degrees have higher levels of happiness and engagement, better health and longer lives. Wow. If living a longer, healthier and happier life is a good thing, then, yes, college is worth it. In fact, one study suggests that those who attend college live, on average, seven years longer.” Micheal Drake, president of Ohio State University
“College graduates enjoy higher salaries, qualify for further levels of education and are at a lower risk of ending up in jobs that become obsolete. Moreover, they lead richer and fuller lives – happier, healthier, wealthier and longer. Each of these outcomes is a component of the value of a college education, yet none of them alone fairly captures its full value. In considering these metrics together, in the context of our question, I believe that one very important concept emerges. That concept is freedom.
Education takes freedom beyond its status as a legal right and elevates it into a lifetime of choices. It’s the trajectory of those lives, changed by the opportunities available through a college education, that I am most interested in measuring.” Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan
A time will come when a degree is not necessary. But that time is not yet here. And if I you are going to get a degree at all, why don’t you get them all (and include a PhD?) or at least, learn so much, so that you become the best in the room.