The Importance of Life-long Learning

James Ryan

As a teacher and counsellor, one of my main responsibilities is to always offer whatever level of service and guidance that I can to young adults who constantly struggle to choose the right career path that best suits their personal life goals and interests (and in some cases, their dreams).

Of course, it always helps that I went through a very similar process myself.

Like many before me and many since, I too went through my own personal version of a mid-twenties crisis, where I strenuously deliberated on the next major step in my pursuit of a career worthy of a modern-day adult.

As a proud member of ‘Generation X’ (a book written by Douglas Copeland that I regularly read through when I was in my early twenties), I wrestled with what few career options were actually available (and of interest) to me at that time.

In retrospect, I definitely took the ‘hard road’ by choosing to by-pass College and University and venture straight out of high school and into the workforce. Due to unexpected events in my life (read my bio at and poor planning throughout my high school years, I continuously felt the pressure of being an academic under-achiever.

The difficulties that I experienced in securing a career began to compound as each year passed. On so many occasions, I had applied for jobs that I knew that I would be very well suited for, but like so many times before, I lacked the minimum academic requirements to apply.

Sometimes however, I would apply anyway, hoping to at least get an interview which would most certainly provide me with the opportunity to demonstrate my interpersonal and communication skills, but alas, the interviews never came.

It wasn’t until many years later that I finally conceded and went back to a local community College where I attended classes on a part-time basis while working a full-time job throughout the day (and raising two kids at night). After two years, I finally graduated and secured the ever-elusive college diploma.

Admittedly, when I started my re-education process, I was a bit cynical about what good achieving and obtaining that “little piece of paper to hang on my wall” could do for me. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would fall in love with learning for the very first time.

College allowed me the opportunity to grow in ways that high school never provided. In high school, I lacked maturity and I failed to recognize the benefits or see the value in what I was supposed to be learning (to be honest, I’m still not a big fan of Shakespeare).

If I had one recommendation to make to “Generation Y’ (the Media term for people born between the years 1980 and 1995), it would be this: do not stay in school for the sake of staying in school, but rather, make the most of your time while you are there. Pick something of interest and dedicate yourself to being the best that you can be.

Not sure what you want to do with your life? That’s okay. Constructively spend your time figuring it out.


Try volunteering (and not just the short amount of time mandated by high schools). It’s an excellent way to explore and gain new experiences in your life. It’s also a great way to give back to your community. A ‘win-win’ in the eyes of any potential employer.

You say you have a desire to get into radio broadcasting? Great! Volunteer your time at a local radio station reading news to the blind ( When you finally register at a College, you will have the experience and know-how to be successful.

You desperately want to become a physical education teacher? Great! Volunteer as a physical activity advisor within your local municipality (example: Far better to find out now if it’s something that you’re going to enjoy before spending several years of your life and thousands of dollars at a University.

Opportunities to learn are everywhere. All you need to do is give a little bit of your time and effort. A pretty good trade if you ask me.

Good luck.

James Ryan
James Ryan

jake and dad


  1. James

    Would you agree or disagree that a college or university education makes a significant difference to a person's success, given the current state of our economy?

    How do you feel about the current job opportunities that are available to you in your area?

    What are your short-term and long-term plans to change your life for the better?

  2. Mark

    That was great James

  3. Peter

    that is very inspiring and a very good insight i like it

  4. William

    that's pretty awesome buddy i read it all it took awhile but i read it and it was really good by the way work placement is awesome my boss really likes me

  5. dougwillick

    Type your comment here.Good read Jamie..I was very similar where I bypassed and went later on…it was far more beneficial as I was more mature at that point.

  6. Q

    inspiring. Good job :)

  7. Dan Andrews

    I've heard that one is expected to have at least three major careers in their lifetime now. The world environment is changing in so many ways; climate, economical and social; so are our needs and wants. What we think we want today may change as we mature and what the world needs changes as the world stage revolves and evolves.

    Personally I don't buy the “fish” strategy. I think the purpose of a job is to maintain an individuals or family units way of life. It used to make ends meet but today “currently” we maintain a standard of living rather than survive. One who hates their job should find another one with a better atmosphere if it presents itself.

    I chose my current career path (welder/fitter) for two reasons.
    1: Because it was the first available option to present itself and I don't like to be idle or dependent on a social safety net.
    2: Because it is a universal career path that will always be in demand. I chose it for security.

    I once viewed a commercial for an investment firm where they were playing hakisac and someone threw them a baseball. They immediately dropped the hakisac and started tossing the ball. Then in bounced a basket ball. They shrugged their shoulders, dropped the baseball and started dribbling. This is what I think the world needs to be prepared to do. If no one wants to buy cars because the price of gas becomes unaffordable, get out of the auto industry and learn how to repair or build bicycles.

    I may never be back to the college for another career path though. Here's something to ponder for a career choice. There is no end to directions a welder can go and it's an ever evolving industry. I'm 41 in 4 weeks so it would now be impossible for me to learn it all. Learning it and then perfecting it is my goal no matter what category my career choice falls into.

    Dan Andrews

  8. James

    Dan, I can't thank you enough for your excellent insight. Well observed.

  9. Cam

    College is important, but you need to find your forte. I agree. College for the sake of college is a huge mistake. Going into a field for the money is also a big mistake. You have to do what you love.

    Good article.


  10. tradespeople


    One question…How have you perfected, what have you perfected, in terms of education, learning skills and abilities..

  11. Jane

    Hi James:
    What an great article! I met you about 3 years ago and have watched you change your life focus and grow towards this new direction. I am so impressed by this; by watching you with your son and by seeing all the pictures of the happy faces of your football team after some amazing upsets. Great work, James!
    Isn't it wonderful how many people believe in you when you focus on them, which in turn gives you the confidence to move forward to a more positive personal and professional life!
    You get back what you give!
    Well done!

  12. Nancy

    I thought it was very well written.

  13. Q

    it was good- inspiring. Good job :)

  14. Christine

    I thought it was well written also. I believe that people, even if they are in their chosen field should go back to college every once in awhile. Whether it be to learn more things in their field, or to take a different course that simply interests them, it enriches your soul and it's nice to challenge yourself and keep yourself on your toes, open minded to learning, and open to the possibilities that may lay ahead for yourself.

  15. Debbie S.

    Wow James, I love it and agree totally, after going back to school myself, I do love the learning part, once you get over the I can do it part. Great writing!!

  16. andre321

    well said is good to see that someone is looking out for our youth

  17. nadew

    A very profound article!!!!!
    When I read your biography in ( I was very inspired by your achievement in life.
    James.., This article is an eye opener, especially for those who want to see what is out there.
    Fantastic job!

  18. James

    Thank you Nadew. That means a lot coming from you. I really appreciate it.

  19. Denise

    heh, what a great/inspiring article…you surprise me all the time, geez

    I found it very well written and again…you've inspired me as well!

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