My guess is many of you earned your higher education a lot sooner and more easily than I did. I’d love to hear how.

My own learning is still out there, a bit beyond my reach. Originally, I thought I had achieved my most advanced education when I graduated from Lyons Township High School, with no honors. Then I discovered my parents, Vern and Irene, expected me to go even higher. The University of Illinois took me in, but then asked me to leave at the end of my sophomore year. I had temporarily “flunked” in my learning. Vern was angry. Irene lied and told neighbors I was on a special academic assignment in a remote area.

She turned out to be right. I found that the Hiram Scott College, one of those for-profit colleges of the 1960s, was looking for any type of student. So I hitchhiked to Western Nebraska—certainly a remote area—and became one of them. There, I really fell in love with learning, so much so that I graduated first in my class. There were three of us. Don’t laugh. It was a big deal for me.

Smitten by my success, I went to Iowa State University and earned a Master’s Degree in none other than Higher Education Administration. However, after a decade at several institutions, I never really got the hang of being an administrator (though I loved college students and Madison, Wisconsin, is a cool place to live).

I knew academia’s higher education was not the answer for my own higher education. So I published sports magazines. I managed motel properties. I worked in business development for hospitals. I became a consultant without anything of substance to consult about. Although I hung my Master’s Degree on various walls, I knew I was a master of nothing. I felt a bit empty inside. I drank more than I should. I was honest most of the time, but not rigorously so. I should have been a better husband, a better father, a better student.

Then, in 1989, my ever-changing edification found its home. I started Serenity Support Services, which later became The Change Companies®. I read and read about the teachings of Carl Jung, Ira Progoff, Carl Rogers, Bill Wilson, Aaron Beck and other enlightened thinkers. I sought out the creative minds of William Miller, Jim Prochaska, Claudia Black, Scott Miller, James Pennebaker, Stephanie Covington, David Mee-Lee and many other professionals doing excellent work in behavior change. I worked tirelessly with gifted counselors, nurses, judges, physicians and justice service officers. My highest education was generously provided by patients in hospitals, inmates in prisons and clients in treatment centers. I became passionate about learning why some people made positive life changes, while others struggled and struggled and even died in the process. I think I received my most advanced degrees in humility, love, pain and personal change.

Now, I’m in my 25th year of this phase of higher education, and I still have so much more to learn. I feel like a college freshman looking for the psychology building.

To a trained researcher, my life may appear to be awkward and disjointed, even disappointing.

It’s okay. Today, I fully accept that I’m a slower learner, still searching for a higher education.