“In youth we learn; in age we understand”, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Last week I received a shiny new digital badge that confirmed I had successfully passed the Certificate in ESG investing.  I proudly posted the digital badge and, to be honest, have been amazed at the response on LinkedIn – over 4,000 views and plenty of ‘likes’; it certainly got more attention than my weekly blogs!  I was a little reticent to post the digital certificate – on one hand there is an element of bravado in highlighting the achievement, but on the other I am firmly of the view that present-day society needs to change if we are to leave behind an inhabitable planet for future generations and anything that highlights awareness is, in my view, positive.

I also needed to post the certificate to justify this blog, which I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now.  I wanted to discuss the process of going back to education; of taking that step in moving away from the day-to-day familiar and venturing into something new – one that ultimately had a challenge at the end, where the result would be known and would be expressed in terms of ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

As someone just heading over the brow of the mid-point of the road that is ‘middle aged’, the stress of study and exams is something I can only just about visualise if I squint hard enough and look into my rear-view mirror.  The prospect of it being something I might have to navigate along the road ahead was certainly not in my expectations. 

Whilst stretching the driving analogy to the point of absurdity, in the context of my revisiting study it is quite apt.  Earlier this year my family presented me with a shiny new 125cc scooter, but before I could ride it on the roads, I had to pass a Compulsory Bike Test which involved swatting up on the highway code.  The CBT hurdle passed, I decided I would like to lose the ‘L’ plates and embarked on getting my bike licence – which meant passing the theory and practical driving tests.  This was a completely different ballgame!  Sitting in front of a screen in an examination centre, surrounded by 17- and 18-year-olds filled me with dread.  I fast-forwarded to the image of me having to admit to failure of the theory test having driven for over 35 years!  Fortunately, that image did not put me off, I put in the work and passed the test and in a way, it emboldened me to take a look at different forms of study, in particular the ESG certificate.

The reality of what I had let myself in for materialised when the tome that is the CFA ESG manual arrived.  This was when I realised that although studying for a driving test involved exercising my memory banks, academic study involved much more and really did bring me back to my university days.  It reminded me that it is not just about memorising facts but is principally the interpretation of information and distilling what is important and what is not. 

I very much enjoyed the process of immersing myself into something completely different and learning for the sake of knowledge and understanding this complex topic.  Hopefully I’m able to retain and build on that experience.  It also reminded me that there is an element of gaming to the process – knowing the likely topics that will come up and the phraseology that is often applied to the questions.  It reminded me of the skill of doing exams, above and beyond knowing the subject.  This I found a little frustrating and is probably a function of wanting to focus on the knowledge rather than achieving a pass for the sake of it!

Anyway, something interesting and different to do and reminded me that there is always something new to learn.  Who knows perhaps the Certificate in Climate and Investing is calling?

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