Education – the building block for Success

As I was scanning thru my email today, I came across an email from my Alma mater, Holy Cross. It touted a pretty impressive stat – “The College of the Holy Cross is once again among the colleges producing the highest number of Fulbright students, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which published its annual “Top Producers of Fulbright U.S. Scholars and Students” for the 2018-19 academic year on Feb. 10. “. The Fulbright is one of the most prestigious international exchange programs in the world and is based on academic and professional excellence.

In addition to being extremely proud of being a alum of the school, it got me thinking about the importance of education in my life – both personal and professional. I came out of school with a B.A. in history(and a ton of philosophy courses). Yes the major that is usually the butt of jokes like – what’s the difference between a history degree and large pizza? One can feed a family of four. (not funny by the way)

In general, most liberal art degrees like history, literature, philosophy and political science have gotten a bad rap in the press. In the opinion of this blogger, unlike an MBA, marketing, accounting or other specialized degrees, a B.A. prepares you better for the corporate world and real life. It teaches analytical thinking, superior research skills, multi-tasking and presents solutions to questions from differing perspectives – all of which are correct. The skills I learned in 4 years at Holy Cross, while not geared towards one particular career, prepared for the success I’ve had in life and in my career.

As I worked in the marketing field for the past 20 years, those research skills I learned when writing term papers – became the benchmark for how I did research into potential customers and marketing solutions.

When I first got to the Cross, my research method was messy and scatter brain. One of the history professors insisted that when we turned in our papers, we turn in all our research. He wanted to see the outline, the note cards (yes those 5 x 7 cards) that we used to write down one, just one piece of research.

By the end of the process, you had about a million note cards with one single piece of data – and this was how you put your thoughts together. When the facts (or in the marketing world data points) were all laid out individually, it was easy to organize the note cards into the order you wanted to present them – and build your argument. Just like with a marketing campaign, each media channel, each piece of creative is part of the story – but until you lay them all out and bring them together, the puzzle is incomplete. And I argue that this method can be applied to any field or profession – and work effectively.

When I started Bedford Street Marketing last year, I had a million ideas of how I wanted to present my business approach and pricing model to customers. I leaned heavily on the differing schools of thought I studied in all my philosophy classes. I ended up following a Utilitarian idea – do the most good for the most customers. My actions had to be right in proportion to number of customers/prospects my unique skill set could help.

With pricing structure, I saw many competitors were following the Adam Smith idea of charge what the market bears. This seemed wrong to me, especially when I knew the work that went into some of these functions – it didn’t justify the high pricing. I went with a Kantian approach of the Categorical Imperative. The idea that charging a fair price based upon the work entailed is something I would want to pay. Or as Kant said, “Treat others how you wish to be treated”. Kant’s first formulation of his Categorical Imperative says: “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”

These are just two of many examples of how the education from Holy Cross helped shape my thinking and my business ethics. I could go on for pages, but that would bore you (trust me on this one….. 😉 ). In closing, I wanted to remind us all that no matter what our major – we all learned invaluable skills that have helped us succeed. Sometimes this success isn’t making a lot of money or being material successful. Sometimes it’s knowing that you are doing the right thing and doing what you love – and knowing that your education and intelligence can never be taken from you…. material success can and often is!!!

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