The Importance of Learning. Learning What Exactly?: Daniels Pavļuts at TEDxRiga

The Importance of Learning. Learning What Exactly?: Daniels Pavļuts at TEDxRiga

November 23, 2019 34 By Stanley Isaacs


Translator: Kristaps Kadiķis
Reviewer: Ilze Garda (Piano music) Okay, enough of that. Hi, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m going to talk about
investment decision. I’m going to talk about the choice. What is the single most important
investment decision in your life? Audience: (Unclear) Daniels Pavļuts: Maybe. My answer – education. An investment in yourself.
Probably the most important, the most useful – or not –
investment decision in your life. Okay, now let’s do a quick poll now. How many of you now are in the profession that you studied for in your
first undergraduate degree, your first bachelor’s? Roughly a half or a bit less, right? More or less. Okay, according to hard data – poll of the last year – 43 percent of people in our country
do not work in their profession, the profession they studied for. Does that make them a failure? Jānis Holšteins – Goran Gora –
spoke today and he said, well, he didn’t get
the musical training properly. He’s a musician. Well, I got a music education –
I’m not a musician. Does that make us both a failure? Probably not. Okay, now the question is – the question we’re going
to explore today is how do make this decision, how do we make the choice,
how should we approach a problem. Okay. Now there’s one option – listen to others. A popular one. You could actually call it differently, I think the typical way of calling this is common sense, right? Common sense a.k.a.
listening to what others say, listening to what their
experience has been, what their information is
about what you should do. Some examples of common sense – you might hear this from your parents,
from teachers, from your peers, from people you study with. Now, learn a good profession
and you’re set for life. Probably still true. I mean, we still need dentists,
we still need lawyers and all sorts of our professional lives
could still be true to that respect. Now, be good at something,
not everything – focus. Yes, but – and we’re going to talk
a bit more about that – if you are very focused, there are certain consequences to that. Now, one lifetime – one career. How real is this? Yesterday as I was coming in at the opera house here,
through the backdoor, I met a lady, and she still remembers me working here 12 years ago. She’s still here – I’ve had
three professions in the meantime. Now, I guess that depends, right? There’s no one answer for everyone. So how could other people’s information
be so much useful to you? Okay, let’s see the data again. Now, this is a comparison
of future occupation preferences among high school students in Latvia. 50 years in between, 1965 – last year. Stare at it for a second. Okay, I’ve done it easier for you. So, doctors and pilots,
and creative professions, like artists and writers, show remarkable resilience. Okay, I understand about
movie stars and doctors. Of course, pilots is cool, it’s,
I mean, all the sexy uniforms, you get to fly big planes. Not that we need many pilots really. But that’s kind of clear. Now, I’m actually a bit worried
about these people here. We badly need them these days. They were popular in 1965. They’re firmly gone – engineers and scientists are firmly gone
from the top choices in 2011. That’s a problem. Another interesting thing is that these days we have still popularity
for lawyers, financiers, PR people. Nothing wrong with that, but I guess we have produced far too many
of these in the last 20 years anyway. And still young people’s choices now
reflect that old information. This is not very useful going forward. What else could you do? Instead of replicating other
people’s choices, of course. You could try and predict the future. With the information you’ve got,
you could try to look ahead. You could try to extrapolate
the past, past experience, and predict what’s going to happen. And you could.
I’ve already said – engineers. If you want to become an engineer and it’s good for you, and you like it, you are probably going to be set for life. It’s a good one. But should you become an engineer, because it is expected
that we’ll need engineers? Let’s see! Now, if you try and predict
the main sectors of an economy, and make it out where should
you invest in your education, well, it’s hardly very easy to do. Now, see what has happened to agriculture. It’s gone down.
It’s not such a long period of time. It’s gone down dramatically.
Where is it going to go? Not much further. Manufacturing.
Well, decreased substantially. Given what I know as a minister of economy about economic policy of our country,
where we’re going, we’re probably going to see more
employment in manufacturing in the future, but not dramatically more. Certainly not as much as in 1985. Now, what really worries me
in this slide is the “Other”. What is the “Other”? That’s everything else, that’s where the growth is,
where the creativity is, that’s all the services sectors,
that’s where the ICTs are. Cleantech, greentech, whatever tech. All of these things
are in this one aggregate “other”. And this would be
so complicated now to tell what is going to happen, what specific skillsets you might need, what profession you might be in. So, not such an easy task
to look at the past data and predict with what you know today,
what is going to happen. Some things you can predict,
but certainly not everything. What else can you do? You can listen to yourself,
talk to yourself. Now, should you meditate
on your future profession? Not necessarily,
but not that it’s a bad idea. I mean I encourage you to do so, but the important thing is to find out what is it that you really want, what is it you think you could be good at, what do you enjoy doing. I’m sure everybody has read or heard Steve Jobs’ famous
Stanford graduation speech. Right? So, basically, what he did
at a certain point in his education, had no hope of practical use
at the time he did it, he just felt like doing it. Well, my Jobs’ moment came
6 years ago at Harvard when I decided to take an energy class, energy policy class with John Holdren, who is now chief scientific advisor
to Barrack Obama. Now, there was no way
of knowing for me at that time that today it will be
half of my job content – energy. Back then, with all the public
administration, leadership, all sorts of other classes that I took –
all the economic classes – energy wasn’t really an obvious one. So you never know. If you feel like it, chances are it’s going to be useful. Skill versus competence. An old story, isn’t it? Skills are, have been
and will be certainly useful. Now, but which should you invest in? Skills or a broader competence? We’ve heard about importance
of philosophy, importance of humanities. Now, could it be that broader competences
could actually be the way forward in an environment which
we do not really predict? Okay, skills are going to be important, skills like analytical skills, like math – might be useful to everyone
to a certain degree. But at the same time we clearly see that even in the professions
which are a lifetime careers, increasingly broad competences
are very important. This is how you actually prepare
yourself for various changes. Now, this is blah blah blah,
but let’s look at the data. This graph, this analysis, has been put together
by a very interesting man – Professor Hanushek
from Stanford University. I had a privilege of meeting him this year
at the Munich Economic Conference, and he was talking about the different employment expectations
which you might have, given the general education or vocational
education in your background. So, basically, broader
competence versus skill – specific labour market-related skill. So, apparently –
shouldn’t come as a big suprise – if you learn a trade, you learn skillset
which is specific enough, you easily get –
you have 80 percent chance of getting quickly employed
as you go out of school. With general education, it’s much lower, comes up gradually. But look what happens
towards the end of your career. With a specific skillset, it declines dramatically
towards the end of your life. Towards the retirement period, you are actually much more
likely not to have a job. And it’s the vice versa
for a broader skillset. Well, I clearly agree – I mean, of course
we need people in the professions, but I guess the challenge
here is for people who get the skillsets early on, to also learn to learn, to get a competence of learning
in mid-life, to reorient themselves. So, that’s part of what policy makers
really have to struggle with. There’s a lot of uncertainty. There are various studies that indicate that about 40 percent
of the jobs of tomorrow are as of yet unknown. We don’t know what
they are going to be like. So there’s massive uncertainty
about what you should do today to become the next Steve Jobs. Impossible to tell that. So, is that a problem? Well, probably not! A famous professor Richard Zethhauser
from Harvard University has famously stated that unknowable situations
have been and will be associated with remarkably powerful
investment returns. Do you think that the gentleman
who lent money to Mark Zuckerberg – I think about 20,000, was it? – and ended up with a couple of billion. Did you think he expected it to happen? Maybe, probably not. Would you do it if you were
asked by Mark Zuckerberg, would you give him 20,000 dollars? You wouldn’t? Okay. Probably I wouldn’t either. Anyway, so this is the power of unknown. And that is also true about
skills, about competences, about choosing your education choices. So what is the point of reference here? We come back to the fact that the only
point of reference is really yourself. Chances are if you invest
in yourself, invest wisely, you might be faced with massive returns. So, obviously, as you see I’m indicating, that first choice wasn’t really a choice –
listening to others. The more you listen to others, the more difficult it is
to decide for yourself. So, there are really two choices. Investing into the known
or investing into the unknown. One is related with probably lower risk, probably also low yield. Well, of course, you might
strike gold and predict everything, and do something
that will probably happen, such as technological
breakthroughs et cetera. But in general,
if you invest into the known, you have low-risk, low-yield strategy. If you invest into the unknown,
if do it wisely – you don’t have to be blind,
you have to listen to yourself – that’s probably a high-risk
and a very high-yield strategy. So, what is my recommendation?
Get to know yourself. You have to know how much
risk you’re willing to take. You have to know how much
peer group pressure you can take. People are going to talk to you and say that this
is a foolish thing to do. In fact, Richard Zethhauser said, “If you haven’t ever made
an investment decision that looks like a foolish thing to do, you probably haven’t really
utilized your potential.” Identify and develop your skill –
with that I agree. What could that skill be? Well, I think my skill is,
probably, whatever I do – NGO management, whatever it is,
whatever I’ve done in my past, it’s communication. Actually, I acquired a skill
early in life – playing piano. Not very practical being a minister,
not very practical in economic policy, but it has taught me certain competences. A sense of form, spacing, rhythm, maybe patience and certainly
ability to communicate, reach out to people,
get my message across in various ways. Another thing, get diverse experiences. You never know which
experience is going to be useful. With hindsight, they all are. Whatever you’ve done, it has probably
made you what you are today. So, you’ll need courage, but if you want to do something
that’s never been done before, there’s only one way – you’ll have to do something
that’s been never done before. Thank you very much. (Applause)