We know a lot about trucking, logistics and supply chains. We don’t know these things because we ever took classes in them, or even because we decided one day we wanted to learn more about the topic. We know these things because, 16 years ago, a trucking magazine gave us an assignment, and it led to more, and then more, we so we kept asking questions and we kept learning and suddenly one day we realized we knew this stuff.

Let’s talk about learning, and why you can’t beat writing as a platform for it.

One of us (Dan) remembers being told that he needed to go to school to learn things. The premise, it would seem, was that young children don’t really know much because they showed up fairly recently and none of the vast information out there in the world has yet entered their brain.

OK, fine, there’s much to find out and we’re at Ground Zero. Fine. So he showed up for first grade thinking, “All right. I’m here. Fill me in.”

But it didn’t work like that. Instead, the “teachers” handed out “seatwork” and “homework,” leaving a mystified six-year-old to wonder when they were going to start telling him what he needed to know, and what these fill-in-the-blank pieces of paper were supposed to accomplish. (And so began a lifelong struggle with understanding instructions, but we don’t need to get into that here.)

The world of 2022 seems to have figured out what the world of 1972 had not: Grades do not measure intelligence, and individual learning styles cannot always be made to square with the everyone-do-it-this-way approach of the education establishment. Having a 2.33 grade point average does not make you dumb, and it doesn’t mean you “didn’t apply yourself.” It probably just means this wasn’t the right learning structure for you.

All of us at North Star are far removed from our school years, so we’re not really sure if they still call kids smart or dumb based on their grades. We hope not, because that’s a travesty.

So remember that six-year-old’s naive notion that learning could simply consist of people telling you stuff while you write it down – quite apart from seatwork, exercisese, quizzes and tests? That kid was onto something.

Here at North Star, our clients include journalistic media, marketing agencies and corporations. So we work as traditional reporters in addition to our work helping businesses communicate. That requires us to ask a lot of questions. And once we get the answers, we ask a lot of followup questions to be sure we understand. You can’ty write on behalf of a client if you don’t understand what the client understands. And you can’t report a story if you haven’t mastered the essence of the topic.

Just in the past three years, in addition to the topic we mentioned up top, we have delved deeply into the areas of:

  • Financial technology
  • User research
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Investment banking
  • Boxing
  • Commercial development
  • Business management
  • European perspectives on U.S. politics
  • The human pursuit of joy
  • Broadcasting
  • Health care
  • Warehousing
  • Insurance
  • Wealth management
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Cooking
  • Veterinary science
  • Urban development
  • Facility management
  • Architecture

We do not claim to be experts on these topics, but we know a fair amount about them and we’ve quite conversant about them. We got that way just by talking to people and finding stuff out, then writing about what we’d learned. Just like that. No “seatwork”. No homework. No quizzes. No tests. No grades. Just asking questions, taking notes and writing about what we’d learned.

(A few years ago we learned what potash is, but we’re having a hard time remembering. Some stuff you get from mines. It has nothing to do with hash browns.)

The motto of the iconic Faber College was, “Knowledge is Good.” We’re glad they saw it that way. We’re also glad we weren’t part of the scene where Dean Wormer informs the Deltas of their grades. But we hardly think it matters. Learning is an absolute joy, and most of the time we get paid to do it.

If you like traditional school, we are thrilled beyond all measure for you. It’s one way to learn. But if you find that it didn’t (or doesn’t) work for you, do not despair. There are so many ways to learn, and the best way is just to ask the people who know.

Remember, Bluto Blutarsky became a United States senator, in spite of a grade point average that would suggest the man had no future. But Bluto wasn’t dumb. He just needed to find his own way to knowledge. Too bad Dean Wormer couldn’t see that:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKMuVFz3MOQ&w=828&h=465]