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Master the Basics First

There has been a tremendous amount of noise in the media lately about the future of education and what it is going to take for the next generation to thrive economically.  Within the noise nearly every prognosticator speaks about the urgency of teaching advanced technology and how that is the driver of success. 

Granted, technology will be the main drive of the future, but it always has been.  Today’s technology is just different from that of 100 years ago and we are rapidly adapting to that fact  Depending on what movie you watched last week – Mad Max or Star Trek – what the future will look like is anyone’s guess.  Whichever holds true, however, my belief is that excellence in the “advanced” for both business and education requires mastery of the BASICS.  And, perhaps that is where the focus needs to be.

In 1903 the Wright Brothers, for instance, discovered and engineered the basic stages of aerodynamics and flight.  For decades after that thousands of aircraft were designed / engineered on paper with slide rules and #2 pencils and the engineers behind them had an overwhelming command of the basic principles.  Today, all of our airplanes are designed on computers, with CATIA and Computational Fluid Dynamics taking place of the #2 pencil.  No matter how advanced the systems or process, however, one cannot ignore the BASIC principles of aerodynamics and flight that airplanes still adhere to. 

In similar fashion the basics are the foundations from which the minds of our youth will grow and some of the basic premises in life include: 

  • The ability to proficiently read, write, do arithmetic and command one’s native language is more important that mastery of “Grand Theft Auto” and Java Script.
  • The Art of War, written centuries ago, is still relevant in the 21st century and taught at every military academy in the world.
  • To pilot a commercial airplane one needs to have mastered basic piloting skills, despite what Airbus engineers want folks to believe. Otherwise, the uncoupled approach into San Francisco will be challenging.
  • Career mastery starts early. If you can’t learn to do your first job well, the one you got in high school, what makes you think you will be successful at the second, third or fourth?
  • Cash is king. Credit is dangerous.
  • You can’t change physics.
  • No matter what the CFO, accountant or investment advisor says, if 2+2 doesn’t equal 4, then there is a problem.
  • A sales executive who has never made a cold call is an “Account Manager.” Know the difference…
  • Diversity is a good thing. A world filled only with engineers will be boring.  A world with no engineers will be REALLY boring.  The greatness of the world comes via diversity of thought. 
  • Research, discovery, and cognitive thought lie deeper than a simple inquiry to your buddy Google.
  • The best meal ever is a medium rare burger and fries.
  • A ball, a field and friends beats texting and iPhones for building long-term social skills and relationships. A face to face meeting with a customer beats an email or videochat.
  • To be a country music star, one must be have mastered the basics of playing guitar, shotgunning a beer, saluting the troops and singing about pick-up trucks in front of 20,000 semi-sober fans. There is no EDM in Nashville.

In life and business I think we try to over complicate things.  Granted, we all work on complicated stuff and the technology is changing quickly.  But when all goes to hell, the basics will always apply.