I would like to dedicate this post to my good friend Sarah Jones. While we were at ihop, we began talking about this subject, and I just had to write it down. Sarah asked me if I ever wanted to get a .P.H.D. to which I responded that I did not. She look horrified as if I had slayed her cat. As background, Sarah is currently in a .P.H.D. program and intends to be a psychology professor.
I want to explain my reason why I intend to not continue my formal education past a bachelors or masters level. It is a simple case of the forest and trees. I am a forest guy, I see the whole picture and everything in it. I am not passionate about the fine details or the specific mechanisms which compose the forest such as the chlorophyll in the leaves. In contrast the .P.H.D. sees the tree and maybe specializes in a mechanism inside it. Society needs both in order to grow.
Sarah’s goal is to acquire as much information as she can; she thrives on learning. She is a true academic. On the other hand, my goal has always been to innovate or we could say to build really awesome forests usually in a different way. Each order of scale presents its own challenges. As a forest builder, I am looking more at the abstract levels of placement of the forest, but I also need to have some knowledge about the trees. However, I do not need nearly as much as tree knowledge as Sarah. My gift is the new configuration of the forest and how it is beautiful in its integration as a whole. Sarah’s gift might be hearty beautiful trees.
All of this jib jab over forests and trees comes to bear when talking about how information about these things are acquired. As it turns out, trees are very well documented. We know how the leaves, roots, and bark work. There are classes and professions devoted to every part of the tree. Consequently, Sarah will have a very deep understanding about the tree. We need that. However, there is not necessarily a good single way to build to a forest because of the number of variables involved. Each forest is different and it takes a certain amount of judgement and experience in order to build a good forest. The bottom line is that to get good at forest building, you need to have built and observed a lot forests.
To this credit I submerse myself in my mentors. Mentoring can come from anywhere at anytime from the most inopportune people to the very familiar friend. It comes in many forms. This is why listening is so important. Listen to what people say, what they do, what happened, an why they did it as such. Try to understand their forest and maybe part of their trees. My mentors are people such as my boss, my CFO, CTO, CSO, friends and so on. They each have a unique experience from their angle of their part of the forest. My goal as a forester is to take all of these ideas of how parts of a forest should be and make it into a harmonious functioning, and sustainable system. Sarah’s mentors come from her teachers. She specifically finds her mentorship in her teachers.
Then there are the hybrids. My best friend Mike Jones (no relation to Sarah Jones) likes some of the trees, but also likes some of the forest. In the same manor that he deals primarily with trees first and then the forest, I am the inverse. This is what makes us such a powerful team when working on startup ventures. To be a truly effective team, there needs to be an understanding of the system at each scale of the project. While I have my focus, Mike has his, and we leverage this in order to make the best decisions possible.