Education, Intelligence and Two Other Things

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, education means to educate, while to educate means “giving intellectual, moral and social instruction”. This is usually done in a systematic manner in a controlled environment, with students/pupils, teachers and tutors, curricula and facilities. Intelligence, on the other hand, is defined by the same dictionary as “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.”

However, for me, I have come to view these two terms differently, albeit slightly for intelligence. I choose to define education as “the discovery of self”, and intelligence as “the application of the discovery of self to add value to others and self”, in addition to the dictionary meaning. This is because I have come to observe that it is not in the giving of intellectual instruction and systematic learning that education lies. It is not in the acquiring of degrees and cramming theories and postulates that makes one educated. Rather, it is in the applying of knowledge into concrete results that add value to first, the society, and then to oneself that we can claim to be educated. This can especially be seen in the Nigerian educational context, where over 200 tertiary institutions produce an average of 600,000 graduates yearly. However, we barely create up to 100,000 jobs annually, meaning 500,000 graduates remain in the labour market yearly. This becomes a frustrating situation: we have been told that having an education guarantees us a job. How come we have such astonishingly high numbers of unemployed graduates?

The answer lies in the fact that these graduates had merely been given “intellectual, moral and social instruction”, but without having their intelligence developed. Worse, the environment and nurturing they need to discover themselves has been totally inexistent. Hence, rather than creating job-creators, we are creating job-seekers. Now, what is this ‘discovery of self’ I keep referring to?

The discovery of self refers to the situation when one is able to recognize the innate abilities he has been born with, his talents in no matter how raw a form they are in. but even beyond that, it is about discovering where their passion lies. Having a talent isn’t enough, but having a passion about something. And in most cases, our passion is almost always linked to our talent(s). Additionally, our passion leads us to our purpose: that higher calling we are willing to work for, which God has predestined for us to do. It is that calling which will give us the greatest fulfilment and satisfaction, beyond what money, fame and power can ever do for us. Now this is the tricky part: how do we discover our purpose?

One of my favourite sermons of all times was based on the theme: The Discovery of Purpose. The preacher gave a simple 3-step approach to discovering our purpose:

    What is that thing or those things that comes to us naturally, in no matter how rough and raw a form?
    What is that one thing or things we can do for hours, without promise of pay, and lose ourselves while doing it?
    Whenever we dream about our future (and we all do that), what do we see ourselves doing or being?

If we sit down and reflect on these questions, we begin to come up with rough answers to these questions and we find a connection between the three questions. Truth be told, the answers to these questions might be multiple. Like in my own case, I have always dreamt about being an entrepreneur, public speaker and politician/public office holder. I have dreamt or fantasized about politics since I was 9 years old, about starting a business since I was 10, running for public office and running a government since I was 13 and public speaking since I was 16. I started picking business tips, knowledge and following the stock market from age 12 and started business a year later, and I was pretty good at it from a young age. I was a high school debater and also convincing with words when I wanted to be, either speaking to one person or a group of persons. I started my consulting firm at the age of 22 when I discovered friends were always asking for advice as regards business ideas and strategy. And it goes on and on and on.

These passions of mine were directly linked to my talents, which mean they derive from my purpose. In my own case, it is a set of passions. For someone else, it might just be one. But the main point here is I discovered myself, and that made my education much easier. Some of these things cannot be acquired via a degree, or in a systematic manner in a controlled environment. But it has not stopped me from polishing my rough diamonds by self-education: books, mentoring, and practical activity. For me, when I call myself intelligent, it is not because I can name the capital of every country in the world (well, almost) or that I was a contestant in the Zain Africa Challenge for Universities, but because I am applying myself to give people value and myself fulfilment and satisfaction. And this is what education and intelligence should be about.

Admittedly, not everyone would be able to discover his purpose or self, as I pointed out in my previous post: Why the North has fewer entrepreneurs. But everyone can and should be intelligent: be able to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Let it be that one is not intelligent because he graduated from a university with a First Class degree, but because he is applying the knowledge he has, gained from within and outside a classroom, aided by skills to bring value to society. Now, this is the responsibility of our educational system, especially at the tertiary level.

Now this brings us to the 2 other things: creativity and entrepreneurship. Creativity is defined as “relating to or involving the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”, while entrepreneurship, in my own words, is “the implementation of ideas created, be it in business, film, social change or politics”. From what I have experienced and observed, the discovery of self, which helps us to identify our passions gives us a paradigm shift in the way we view our world. For example, someone passionate about design sees the world through the eyes of design. That said, when that person ventures into design work, his/her work will be something new, from a different perspective. Another person equally passionate about design will also approach design from a new perspective, possibly building upon the work of the previous person. How come two people passionate about design approach it differently? This is because even though their passions are the same, their purpose is not the same.

Every person’s purpose and passion(s) in life are shaped by this acronym: (S)pirit-filing, (H)eart’s Desires, (A)bility, (P)ersonality and (E)xperiences. This shows that no two people can have the same SHAPE, hence their view of the world cannot be the same because what is in them is not the same. This is one of the biggest influencers of creativity: in the sense that discovering oneself helps you see the world differently, and when you venture to apply yourself, you apply it differently. Discovering yourself never makes you a copycat. It makes you more original.

Now since we have already defined entrepreneurship as “the implementation of ideas”, we now come to see why world over, entrepreneurs are regarded as bastions of creativity and innovation; why start-up ventures are envied for the flow of ideas in the workplace. This can be simply explained in the fact that entrepreneurs are people who have discovered themselves (educated), hence are applying themselves (intelligent) in a new, different, improved manner (creative). Whether that entrepreneur is an artiste or a businessman or a scientist, whatever he does is creative, ground-breaking and capable of defining history.

I have tried within the limits of my knowledge and intelligence (pun intended) to be able to bring light to this issue. I also continue searching by asking myself questions and hoping that the Omniscient One reveals to me more, that I may share with the world and also learn from it. In subsequent posts, I shall continue exploring these subjects.

May we all be educated, intelligent, creative and entrepreneurial.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” Albert Einstein

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