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Knowledge as a Financial Asset - Dilbert Blog

Knowledge as a Financial Asset

If someone offered you $100,000 to take a class for a few weeks, would you do it? I believe most of you would, assuming there is nothing terrible about the class itself.

But if I change the offer to say you have a 30% chance of making $100,000, would you take the class then? You should, if you need the money and you are rational. But ideally you would find a bunch of classes you could take that all have the same odds. If you take every one of the classes that have a 30% chance of giving you $100,000, one class at a time, your odds of eventually getting the $100,000 are good.

Investors know that diversifying a portfolio is the smart way to go. But does diversification have the same benefits when applied to learning? I think it does, because knowledge acts like a financial asset.

I have always looked at learning as money. I evaluate a topic for its economic potential, now and in the future. I have never taken a calligraphy class, for example, because in my case I don’t see how it would ever provide an economic return.

But years ago I did take the Dale Carnegie course to learn now to become a better public speaker. When combined with my other skill sets it probably gave me a 30% chance of earning an extra $100,000 over my career no matter what path I took. Within any group, the best public speaker often bubbles up to a leadership position.

I also took classes in my twenties to learn hypnosis. Trust me when I say that understanding hypnosis (and better understanding human minds) is worth more than $100,000 over your lifetime. 

During my corporate career I signed up for a two-day class on business writing. I didn’t know it at the time, but business writing is almost the same as humor writing. In both cases you leave out the useless words and get to the point. That class was easily worth $100,000 to me because I would have used that skill no matter my career path. And it makes a BIG difference in how people view you.

My point is that some types of learning are so valuable that they should be ranked by their economic potential. In California, for example, being fluent in Spanish and English is probably worth more than $100,00 over a career, on average.

Knowing how to do A-B testing on a website is probably worth $100,000 a year.

Learning how to eat right and exercise right is probably worth more than $100,000 because we know that a person’s appearance influences opportunities. As a bonus, you will be healthier, more energetic, and smarter if you are healthier. That stuff can translate into economic value over time.

I could go on, but you get the point: Knowledge can be ranked by economic potential. And doing so would change how people approach the “extra” learning after formal schooling is done. 

It seems to me that one could create a software service that would evaluate what skills you already have, along with your location, age, and other relevant economic factors, and create a learning plan that would give you the greatest odds of higher income later.

[Side note: This is a system, as opposed to a goal, because you are improving your odds without knowing where it leads.]

This way of thinking is why I almost never read fiction. One could make an argument that all reading is good for you, and any sort of mental stimulation can translate into economic potential. But I can’t justify reading something with low economic potential when I could be reading something that has greater odds of being useful with my skill set.

My hypothesis is that successful people see knowledge as a financial asset and manage it that way. They create portfolios of knowledge that make sense as a whole. You could call that a systems-view. 

People who are struggling (per this hypothesis) are more likely to see the world in terms of goals. A goal-oriented person would not take a class that has unpredictable future benefits when that time could be used instead to focus on a specific goal.

So I put the question to you. Do you see learning as a system in which you create a diversified portfolio of knowledge that makes sense in your situation?

Or do you learn what you need when you need it? Let’s call that a goal-oriented approach.

In Top Tech Blog

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If you want to learn more about systems versus goals, and find out why reviewers are saying it has changed their lives, find it here.