When David Blake asks people about their education, 99 times out of 100 they tell him where they went to college. Culturally, this is what is expected—an “education” is a formal event, typified by attending a college or university where a degree is then bestowed upon the earner. But this entire concept is ludicrous to David.

“[I]f I were to ask you, “Tell me about your health,” and you said, “Oh, Dave, you know I ran a marathon 20 years ago,” with a smile, that’s an absurd answer to that question…your health today is not a function of the marathon you ran 20 years ago, and you know your skills, your education, in this moment is not anymore a function of the university experience you had 20 years ago, it’s just not.”

David is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Degreed, and coauthor of the new book The Expertise Economy: How the Smartest Companies use Learning to Engage, Compete, and Succeed. His company focuses on “Jailbreaking the Degree” by giving employees credit for their lifelong learning, including formal certification as well as a “transcript” for skills learned on the job. Additionally, Degreed gives them a platform to find the best resources for learning new concepts and skills across a variety of platforms.

David is not someone you would pick out of a line-up for disrupting formal education. Throughout his life he was a model student, happy to attend classes, take tests, complete projects, and jump through hoops for the chance at a college degree. However, when it came time to sit for the ACT, David began to question everything about the system that had trained him to take tests and regurgitate information. Even though he scored well and ultimately completed his university degree, David still felt that something was missing from the experience.

“While I had been a great student, I was a terrible learner, and when that hit me I aspired to more than anything else to become a great learner in life…[P]eople are learning all the time, across a diversity of sources, and now our formal education reflects a minority of what we will learn.”

Becoming an entrepreneur was not an easy step for David, who admits that going from the perfect collegiate applicant to a member of a start-up is in many ways antithetical. The path was difficult, almost cinematic at parts, but David still feels the same passion for education—true, lifelong learning—that he did as a 17 year old boy.

Join us as we discuss his hero’s journey into entrepreneurship by listening on iTunes or in the player above. If you like what you hear, leave us a comment, and maybe it will be featured on a future show!

Takeaways from this episode:

  • As a child, David Blake wanted to be a filmmaker, and later, a politician. Through his choices his life has developed in a cinematic way, much as the hero’s journey in a movie. As an entrepreneur, David also has to generate buy-in to his ideas, much like a politician. Often our youthful aspirations manifest themselves in our adult life—it just doesn’t look the way we expected.
  • Children are paying attention to what we do and what we are passionate about. We dream so they can dream.
  • Entrepreneurship is a choice, and it does have ramifications in our personal relationships. If you feel this is your calling, be prepared for how it will affect those around you.

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