Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 5: Education – Example 2


After high-school, I spent five years earning my Bachelor of Science in Building Construction from the Georgia Institute of Technology. That was 1994. In 2015, I earned a Master of Science in Organization Development from American University. During those 21 years, I have obtained a myriad of professional certifications relevant to my career as a professional skydiver.



I grew up in the Riverdale, Ga., in the 1970s and ‘80s, a suburb about 30-min south of Atlanta. Nobody in my family before me had earned a college degree. All were career-employees for various private corporations, 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 most everyone in my circles was of a lower-middle class socio-economic bracket, 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, yet even more ascribed. Now, at 47-years-on-planet, I am learning to use my experiences to help a wider array of people.



I naturally pursued a college degree because I believed that it was the one true path to success. Of course, my knowledge and experience grew, and I gained wisdom. But it was only years later, in retrospect, that I slowly began to see holes in that westernized recipe for success. The one 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. One full of purpose and meaning. It was this fulfillment that eventually lead me to graduate school, not to find my true calling, but rather, to dig deeper into myself, and in so doing, 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 his/her heart, to find her purpose and to 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, by being fully present and engaged. That is how I now strive to move forward: By practicing being fully present, every single day. However indirect these lessons have been bestowed upon me, I attribute much of it to the formal education that I have received.