A few years ago I attended York University. I majored in Business Administration. I loved it! Rarely missed classes and was doing fairly well. But in my 2nd year at York I encountered a dilemma in which the outcome would have changed my perspective on why I was in school completely. As a part of my program, I was required to take a course called “Managerial Accounting”. *Side note: I’m not the strongest in math, but I really like the subject.*So a few weeks into the course I began to really struggle. I began failing quizzes and failing tests. But what was so weird was that though I was failing, I really loved the course. I loved the challenge. I loved what I was learning. At the time I was working at Sears Liquidation Centre in the receiving area, and I’d have my textbook inside the trailers with me and I’d be studying as I was unloading the trailers. Or I would be writing equations on the walls of the trailers and trying to work them out. (I know, it was vandalism :S )
Here was the dilemma: all my other subjects I was taking at the time, I was doing well in. Above 80s. But they were easy. There was no challenge. I didn’t feel I had to go to class because I was doing well even when I didn’t attend as much as I should have There was just no stimulation. But when it came to Managerial Accounting, I couldn’t miss a class. I clung to every word that came out of the professors mouth. (even though his English was horrible). I loved what I was learning. However, my GPA slowly began to drop from it’s 3.8 pedestal :(. So I began to ask around for some advice, because though my grades didn’t reflect it, I felt I was learning more in my Managerial Accounting course than any other course I was taking. So the challenge became, am I in school for good grades to meet the requirements for a degree, or am I here to learn, be challenged and be engaged? Everyone advised me to drop the class and take an easier course. To them, it was better for me to take easier courses to get good grades than difficult courses to challenge myself. I stayed in the course. I ended the year with a 38% in that class, but I felt as though I walked away with so much. After that year, I took the course again and I came out with a 70 something. After that course everything changed.
School to me wasn’t just about a degree. Nor was it just about grades. It was a learning experience. I used it as an opportunity to challenge myself, to grow. If I had switched to easier courses, I would have never seen the side of myself that could be so focused. School should be a place to learn, but ask many students why they’re in school and they’ll tell you ‘to get a degree’. School becomes a necessary evil. I hear students say all the time “I just want to get my degree and get out of here’. But after my Managerial Accounting course, my eyes opened up. I switched from chasing the degree to chasing the knowledge. Initially, the degree extrinsically motivated me, meaning I was driven by something external, like a reward or an incentive. Much like people in their jobs who are extrinsically motivated by a paycheque versus the person who is intrinsically motivated by the job itself. But I later became intrinsically motivated by the knowledge and by what I was learning. I don’t believe I could have ever accessed that level of focus, engagement and motivation if I wasn’t hungry for what I was learning. You can ask my girlfriend at the time. I would be studying Managerial Accounting until early in the morning with absolutely no complaint, and even when I didn’t have an exam.
Chase the knowledge, and the degree will be a byproduct of that pursuit. If you can take a program that you enjoy, do that. Your attendance will increase, your focus will increase and your engagement will increase. The courses may not be easier, but you will have a surge of motivation, because you love what you’re learning. What’s weird is that it’s like we’re trained to use the degree as our incentive to ‘survive’ school, but what I’m proposing is this; what if there was another alternative to getting your degree? What if I didn’t just have to survive the necessary evil of school to obtain my degree? What if I was intrinsically motivated by the courses I was taking? What if my pursuit of knowledge got me my degree, rather than the pursuit of the degree itself? How much more would I enjoy school? How much more would I get out of my school experience? 3-4 years later I still have my Managerial Accounting textbook and I will never get rid of it, because it was one of the most pivotal moments in my life.
I’ll close with a funny story. You remember those accounting principles that I thought I didn’t learn in the class, because I left with a 38? Well it turns out I must have learned something, because when I was hired for a management position all the accounting I was being trained in was a breeze. 🙂