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Why School is not enough: Experience based learning

Experience based learning in Yosemite

I wasn’t always great in school. I didn’t always make the best grades. I was never really involved in a lot of organizations. They just didn’t interest me. The few times where I felt my best and grew the most, are the few times that I spent my time learning from experiences, not a teacher or professor.

I was raised in a large suburb on the north side of Dallas called Flower Mound, Texas. Yes, it is as much of a bubble as you’d think. I always felt trapped, forced to adhere to standards that I didn’t agree with, just to fall in line with what was expected of me from my parents, teachers, and coaches. Camp was the first opportunity for me to break free from the grasps of the classrooms. I was allowed to be free, be whoever I wanted to be. Acting outlandish and weird was the norm there. This was where I learned most of how to communicate effectively. If I wanted to make sure that my voice was heard in a cabin of 12 other boys my age, I needed to be heard and understood.

Over my four years of being a regular camper, on to my three years completing the Senior Camper Program (camp’s leadership development/counselor in training program), I learned more about myself, and how to respect and treat others with kindness, than I ever had before. It’s at camp that I had my first love, my first heartbreak. Camp is the place that helped me through losses of loved ones, both from family and friends. This place, allowing for experience based learning, is where I learned the skills to navigate my first corporate job, not a school math class.

I graduated high school and graduated the senior camper program. Enjoying the ceremony for graduating the senior camper program much more, as we got to jump in the lake during the closing day ceremony. It was time for college. My next big experience.

I was finally on my own. I knew quite a few people attending the same college as me, but I decided to try and branch out from my friend group, meet new people, and have new experiences.

I found that in this more open environment the learning came more easily to me. We were able to break up classes throughout the day more, allowing for more leisure and enjoyment that drastically improved my desire and willingness to work hard towards my studies. I made a perfect 4.0 GPA that semester, eventually graduating with a 3.79 aggregate GPA. Still, the classroom isn’t what taught me how to be successful in college. It was the environment that forced me to be willing to walk up to a complete stranger and engage in a conversation. College taught me that the unknown isn’t always bad, that sometimes expanding our comfort zones can lead to huge rewards.

I was willing to ask more questions in classrooms where I didn’t know a lot of the other students because I was more accustomed to speaking to, and in front of, people that I did not know well. This made my first big presentation in my corporate job a breeze. I didn’t ever freeze up, I felt confident through the entire presentation, all because of my practice communicating with people I didn’t know well.

I could go on and tell you about my time spent living in New Zealand, or traveling by bus across Morocco to Spain, surfing in Nicaragua, playing basketball in Fiji, hearing a lion roar in Africa, or any of the countless other experiences that have crafted me to the person that I am today. But instead, my message is simple.

A classroom cannot adequately prepare a student, or a child to be successful in a world that is as adaptive as the one we live in today. The skills in communication, problem solving, grit, tenacity, passion, work ethic, all of these skills are taught by engaging in a variety of experiences. I’ve learned more from my travels, than the aggregate of my educational career, ending with receiving my MBA.

P.s. This is a picture from where I wrote this blog… The journey for knowledge through experience will never end. I’m currently driving up the Pacific coast of California heading for Alaska living in a large Van,

learning as much as I can!

Experiential Education in Big Sur

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