Matt Burman

@mattburman

On Value, and why my degree isn’t valuable

June 5th 2017

There are things that others value highly, which I do not value at all.
There are things that others value highly, which I never valued at all.
There are things that I value highly, which others do not value at all.
There are things that I once valued highly, which I no longer value.

I once valued a good degree classification. I no longer value this so highly…

I once valued a degree. I was getting a degree to find my place in the world. It was going to give me value. It was hence going to make me valuable. A degree was a catalyst to a base value level.

I then started my degree. I saw other students from other universities gaining skills & value from Hackathon events. They were gaining useful, practical, valuable skills. This felt highly valuable to me – the skills which were value creators. I started attending them and learnt a lot.

I then applied my skills, my value, in work in a research group in my university. I was valued by them. My skills felt valued. I was further valued by external companies that I was working with.

I then was approached for contract work. Value, in terms of hourly rate, had gone up by a factor of 5. This is all from the skills I have developed by myself, in my own time. I felt valued. I was providing services that others could not for less. I felt I could charge more. I was understanding the potential of the skills I have developed.

I started the 2016–17 academic year, and I was learning. Yet, what I was learning didn’t feel valuable. It seemed that learning theory was not increasing my value. The once-valued degree felt much less valuable than it once did. My skills have been applied in wide-ranging contexts, yet they were mainly built outside of my degree. My degree merely supplemented them.

Only now do I realise where my motivation levels for actions come from. My motivation for action comes from my perceived level of value potential from that action. I have had next-to-zero motivation to learn theoretical modules. In contrast, more practical modules have plenty of handles for my motivation to latch onto.

Skill-building and value-creating potential attracts my motivation. Having felt such value from my skills has led me to heavily devalue theory, creating extreme motivation polarity. The most theoretical, I will fail. The most practical, I expect to have done very well in. I have provided value to a real client in the process of the most practical module. I have learnt skills I can use to generate further value.

This leads me to conclude: I don’t care about how well I do in my degree. The outcome of one’s degree is not proportional to the value potential they obtain in the time to get it throughout the university experience. Many people drop out of their degree due to huge value potential from other places (e.g. Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs).

I’ll still continue my degree. It has been a great experience, but not because of the modules of my degree. It’s been great because it has provided good environments to develop my skills and value potential. I have been surrounded by people who share the same ideas of what is valuable. A degree is simply one product of going to University. Going to university has many products of varying value, like a company with many products of varying value. My degree is the Microsoft Zune, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, or the Google Plus of my University experience. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Samsung Electronics (KRX: 005930), and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG/GOOGL) still have massive value. They gained much value from elsewhere.

Samsung stock lost value in Q3 2016 due to the Note 7 recall, but it didn’t affect their value trajectory — it went straight back up and continued pace.

I have also built a network of people through HackSheffield. It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t attend university.

How much value can I create when I am not sitting in lecture theatres every day listening to things that I can’t use straight away to generate value?

How much value can I create when I can use the energy I have to learn on that which I perceive to be valuable?

How much value can I create when I am not using my energy to learn, and am just converting my skills into value?

How much value can I create when I am doing the things I want to do, doing that which is naturally driven by my intrinsic motivation?

These questions I want to answer. My degree is getting in the way of that.

However, I have started a degree, and I want to finish it. It’s just another unfinished project.

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