OK, I get it. We all need to make money. And yes, technically continuing education is vitally important.
But a scam’s a scam.
And I’d like to speak out about one that I think is really common lately.
I’ll give an example of how things might work.
How to Become a Trainer
Many years ago I became a certified personal trainer. It was a whole lot of studying and ultimately a big fat test and a few other things I needed to complete in order to get my very exciting piece of paper.
Now, I learned a lot of things about the industry from this experience. For one, being a personal trainer is not about your fitness level or knowledge. It’s not about how well you can train another person.
Nope. It’s about learning specific course materials in order to take and pass a test. And someone can absolutely be a phenomenal trainer without taking a test. And another person can be an abysmal trainer, despite acing this test.
But our paper-obsessed world cannot fathom a reality in which someone can do anything without some type of degree or certification “proving” ability.
The Certification Slippery Slope
And that’s where the slippery slope begins.
If our world requires certification, then those who give out these certifications have us trapped. They can charge what they want and do everything in their power to keep those charges coming.
My personal trainer certification came with continuing education requirements. And, of course, these require fees. And they require more coursework, which, of course, is easiest if done through the same body that provided the certification in the first place.
And the endless loop begins. If you want anyone to take you seriously, you need to pay a school or organization money, which you will then be doing regularly for the rest of your life.
What About Professional Development?
Now, I’m not opposed to professional development or continuing education or whatever you wish to call it. In fact, I would hope that any personal trainer worth his weight would constantly be growing and learning. There’s endless knowledge to be gained. You just need to grab an article or watch a video or try something new at the gym. This should be obvious.
But the courses out there aren’t designed to expand our minds and capabilities.
They’re designed to keep the system going. You will learn some inane and/or pointless course material, regurgitate whatever blah blah you “learned” in some multiple-choice exam, pay some exaggerated fee, and this will keep the certification Gods fed for another 2-3 years before they come knocking at your door telling you you need to do it all over again.
And we’ve all come to accept this system as somehow the way things should be done.
How did we get here?
I have so many questions about systems like this.
First and foremost, when did the world become so paper-centric? Expertise means nothing, so long as you don’t have the supposed credentials to back things up. And credentials are treated with a deity-like status. People would rather hire an inexperienced dolt from Harvard than a brilliant thinker who dropped out of high school.
In fact, there’s an entire TV show (Suits) based around this notion. Gosh, someone’s practicing law who knows everything other lawyers do, and practices just as well as they do. What do we call a person like that without the piece of paper on the wall? A fraud. A criminal. God forbid anyone should have abilities without some stodgy professors and an expensive printer telling us their worth!
You’d think a show like that would feel irrelevant in our generation, where all the world’s knowledge is available with just a few keystrokes. I mean, for certain there’s what to learn from doing some personal trainer courses. But any motivated person can learn more with a pair of dumbbells, an active internet connection, and the ability to type “YouTube“.
Continue Shovelling Money
And yet we knowingly continue to shovel money into these companies every day. We’ve attached a certain level of respect and authority to their names and what they represent. All this despite the fact that I think deep down we know it’s all part of some giant game. And as long as we keep playing, they keep making money and holding us all at their mercy.
But I think the time has come to finally let our reason and knowledge stand tall in the face of those who wish to take our hard-earned money without providing true value. Without providing a service we could have received by reading a book and with a little bit of trial and error. Those of us who seek excellence in everything we do deserve better than this. Much better.
But the process of getting there is likely to be long and hard. Why? Because the world loves to hold on to old ideas, to clasp onto them for dear life without any consideration that maybe letting go could be beneficial. It’s why we still think eggs are problematic. It’s why people avoid eating fat. And it’s why folk are still walking around outside with a mask on in locations where just about everyone is vaccinated.
Someone once told us that in order to succeed we needed these pieces of paper. And that the pieces of paper had expiration dates. And letting go of this nonsense is completely against our nature.
However, not abandoning such inane ideas leads to hours upon hours of wasted time. It leads to money tossed at companies that couldn’t care less whether or not we succeed professionally. Or whether or not we grow toward excellence in our fields. And it leads to us being perpetually taken advantage of with no end in sight.
We need a world in which we can constantly get better at what we do, without throwing money at the undeserving. We need systems in which success is not measured by how many trees needed to die so our walls look impressive, but rather success is measured by our drive, knowledge, and empirical evidence that we can do our roles superbly.
Anything less is not the world I want my kids growing up in.
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