Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. All three men were titans of America’s Industrial revolution. Today, they still rank among the richest humans to have ever walked the planet.
But what I find interesting is that none of them started their corporate lives after leaving college with formal qualifications. They all worked their way up from the bottom.
Steel tycoon Carnegie got his first job, aged 12, changing the spools of thread at a cotton mill, while oil magnate Rockefeller started off as a clerk at a commodities merchants when he was just 16. Ford began his career at the same age as an apprentice machinist before founding the Ford Motor Company and the world’s first manufacturing assembly line.
Ford famously summed up their collective attitude to education when he said that, “a man’s college or university degree means nothing to me until I see what he is able to do with them.”
None of the three thought that going to university was a waste of time. Far from it: Carnegie gave away huge chunks of his fortune to set up public libraries all across the United States.
Rather they advocated the real-world application of education and the power of self-learning, whatever the age or circumstances. As I write these words, I’m conscious that the world stands mid-way towards the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Goal four concerns education: advocating access to an inclusive and equitable quality education for all. We all know that it still remains a goal rather than a reality in certain places of the world where children are blocked from getting any form of education.
But for those of us who were lucky enough to have education throughout our childhood, it’s the second part of goal four that especially resonates with me: the promotion of lifelong opportunities for all. This is what we offer at THP.
We believe that education does not stop when someone leaves secondary or tertiary education. What they represent are springboards for lifelong learning.
My father is a huge believer in this, seeking any and every possibility to continue educating himself. He devours books, but he takes his biggest inspiration from those around him and he always advocates that they should too.
THP training sessions are, therefore, a two-way process. Our tutors are generally THP employees who are there as much to learn from those they are teaching, as the participants are there to learn from them.
This is how great entrepreneurs flourish. They watch, they listen and they absorb as much as they ever inform. They know how to use other people in the best possible sense by borrowing their time and soaking up their skills like a sponge.
It is this skill, which enables them to become versed across many different functions: a key attribute for anyone hoping to branch outwards from a departmental specialism.
As my father always says, life is a learning process. And as another famous quote so neatly puts it he believes that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong one.”