Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 5: Educational – Including degrees, certifications and other training


A contributor’s example of Layer 5:

After high school, I spent five years earning my bachelor’s of science in building construction, graduating in 1994. In 2015, I earned a master’s of science. During those 21 years, I obtained myriad professional certifications relevant to my career as a professional skydiver.



I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in the Riverdale, Georgia, area, a suburb about 30 minutes south of Atlanta. Nobody in my family before me had earned a college degree. All were career employees for various organizations, including my father who delivered the mail for his entire adult career while painting houses for extra income. This is relevant because his inability to effectively guide me beyond high school was, unconsciously, a large part of my drive to excel. Because almost everyone in my circles was lower-middle class and uneducated, I did not know what success looks like in terms of living and working in a fulfilled manner.

Today, after jumping career tracks to pragmatically pursue a parallel path, I have gained much acclaim, some earned, even more ascribed. With 47 years on the planet, I am learning to use my experiences to help a wider array of people.



I automatically pursued a college degree because I believed that was the one true path to success. Of course, my knowledge and experience grew, and I gained wisdom. It was only years later, in retrospect, that I slowly began to see holes in that Westernized recipe for success that urges us to “go to college, get good grades, pursue a career, fall in love, buy a house, have children, live happily ever after.” Several key events and choices in my early adult life altered my life trajectory, setting me on a completely different course from this fabled road to success, which lacked full purpose and meaning. It was this fulfillment that eventually led me to graduate school and to dig deeper into myself to become more fully capable of helping others find passion, purpose and perspective.



Experience and observations have taught me that education is, first and foremost, for learning, not for climbing the career ladder. I have come to believe that being careful is dangerous and often does not lead to fulfillment. In other words, I will encourage anyone and everyone to follow their heart, to find their purpose and be open to an ever-growing, ever-changing perspective. In practical terms, pick a path and be nimble, ready to change course if another promising opportunity arises. It is by stubbornly staying the course that we often miss the chance to learn and grow. We can optimize our growth, in any endeavor, by systematically debriefing our past performance, strategically anticipating our future course of action and, once we have accounted for the past and future, being fully present and engaged. That is how I now strive to move forward: practicing being fully present, every single day. However indirectly these lessons may have been bestowed upon me, I attribute much of it to the formal education I have received.