Learn, Return, Earn

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Learn, earn, return - wise words spoken at a talk. But is it really that easy? And what is giving back really about? Read on to find out!

Some time ago I attended a talk where someone said something that made me think for a while. She said the following three words:

“Learn, earn, return.”

In itself it’s a really great concept. But what if the things you learn don’t allow you to earn enough to give back? What if you struggle all of your life? What if you never get the chance to give anything back?

This might sound absurd, right?

Why would anyone not be able to earn enough (money, time, experience, etc) with the stuff they learned? Why wouldn’t they be able to give back? And the answer is quite simple. Just look around.

How Will They Give Back?

Many folks in countries such as China that graduated can’t find a University level job. Because there simply are too many graduates for too few positions. So they have to work in factories. That’s the only choice they have. Or they live in housing projects in the underground of cities, such as Beijing. How will they ever be able to give anything back? No one ever really gave them anything.

Or people working in Germany that earn less than the average unemployment benefit rate. Even though they work, they earn less than what they would get if they didn’t work. Absurd, right? How will they ever be able to give anything back?

Or students that attended an expensive college in the US and struggle finding a job back home. How will they ever be able to give anything back?

And the list goes on.

What About The Future?

Sure, this doesn’t concern most of us. Will it concern any of us in the future? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know. But what has become clear to me though is that the old way of doing things is somehow broken. The traditional learn, earn, return model doesn’t seem to work any longer. At least not for many of us.

Jobs disappear all of a sudden. Graduates struggle finding jobs. Costs increase, whereas the salary of the middle class is shrinking. Others never really get the chance to turn the things they learned into anything. They will never be able to give anything back.

Being able to give back is at the core of everything we do. It’s a core human need and desire. Giving back can come in all sorts of shapes and colors. But it’s not just about money. Actually money is bad in many cases. It’s about sharing your experiences. Your lessons learned. Your passion. Your gift to this world. It’s about inspiring and motivating people.

Unfortunately, many of us struggle to give back because we’re just too busy earning and living our own lives. Lives lived in a world that increases in complexity and stressful situations every single day.

What Giving Back Is About

Giving back is about time. About experiences. And about sacrificing time to share this things with the rest of us. Time is one of our most precious resources. But we have no time to give back. No time to share our lessons. Our experiences. Our gift. Our passion. Nothing.

We prefer to stare at screens instead.

The approach learn, earn, return is broken. We need a new way. And to me, a possible approach is to change the order. To change the order into learn, return and then earn. That’s what I’m doing right now. It works for me. Or I hope it works for me. I don’t know.

What I know though, is that sharing my experiences with others (just like this article) helps some people out there. And that’s a great feeling. A feeling that pushes me to continue doing what I’m doing. And it will push other people to do the same. It’s sort of a positive cycle. Will it make me rich? Probably not. Will it make me happy in the long run? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know. But it sparked something deep inside of me that I didn’t even know existed.

And now I try to turn that spark into a wildfire. And you should do so to. Instead of waiting until you’ve got enough time. Enough money. Or enough whatever. Because you will never have enough..



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