Five Keys to Professional and Personal Development
[This talk was delivered on Friday, September 2, 2022, to a student workshop at the Ron Paul Institute conference in northern Virginia.]
The remarks I’ve prepared today relate to your personal and professional development, which are of course closely interrelated. This is not to be confused with “self-help,” a somewhat disreputable genre whose practitioners often want to sell you shortcuts. Development means just that: developing your skills, knowledge, and interests to advance toward goals which hopefully become more clear as you go through your twenties and thirties. Remember, you may well have a longer work life than your parents and grandparents, so you have more time and more choices perhaps than they did. But it is important not to waste your best years for learning, when your brain’s neurons fire at their best! Even at your age, still in college, it is not too early to view yourselves as professionals and to take your work seriously.
Here are five suggestions you can implement immediately to stand apart from your peers.
Access to information is virtually costless today. You job is to sift through all of the white noise and recognize what is important.
The supply of information in a digital age outpaces demand, and makes information very, very cheap. In a digital world, information is instantaneous and often free of any financial cost. This is especially true of social media, where information and opinion are readily available but knowledge and discernment are in short supply. When something is cheap and easy, we naturally tend to discount its importance.
This was not always true. In fact, previous generations had to work hard for access to information, which was largely contained in physical books which may not have been easily available or affordable. My great-grandfather, who lived with us very briefly, was born in the late 1800s. Like many of his generation, he did not finish high school and thus was only “qualified” for manual labor. So he took it upon himself to enroll in a correspondence course, the kind of thing literally advertised in the back of magazines. He probably mailed physical cash to an address listed, then waited some time for the materials. He read each course, took tests at home, and sent the tests by mail for grading. All of this took a couple of years, but at the end he had enough knowledge and some kind of credential to become an electrician for a large company. This job paid enough to afford a middle-class home, which he largely built and wired himself. The information needed to become an electrician was quite valuable to him—it was not cheap and instantly available.
But even in the 1980s and ’90s things were much different relative to today. Your average chain bookstore at the mall may
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