Guest Post: Purposeful Education with Jessica Miller

For this weeks guest post we are joined by my sister Jessica Miller.  Jessica is a Deputy District Attorney in California and has been practicing law for 12 years.  She has graciously offered to share her experience finding her way through college and law school.  She has some great insights that can help you find the purpose of your own scholarly journey.  Enjoy

See A Need Fill a Need, by Jessica Miller

“Never learn a skill you don’t want to use.”  Wise words told to me at a ripe old age of 14.  Being a wise 14 year old, I promptly used this new found wisdom to flatly refuse to learn anything my brain deemed remotely feminine; sewing, ironing, anything involving a glue gun.  Now however, as an adult, I routinely cursed my 14 year old self for failing to learn those skills.  Clothing that could easily be mended, in my house, has to be sent out to a seamstress (or my grandmother) for repair.  Craft projects on Pinterest get pinned under the Board, “Things my Aunt Jolene Can Make Me.”

I was given a sewing machine as a gift once; a gentle prompting to perhaps take some lessons and learn this essential skill I lack as an adult.  I thought to myself, “How hard can this be?”  Without any lessons or training at all, the very next time I found a small rip in the seam of my shirt I whipped out that machine, and promptly sewed it to the machine.  That’s right.  I sewed the shirt to the machine itself.

Looking for a new home?  Need an education in sewing?

I recently ran across a different spin on that sage advice I had retained as a teenager:

“Education is the difference between wishing you could help other people and being able to help.”

You see, there are so many needs in the world, in our community, with our families and friends and for our own personal edification; however, not every person has the appropriate training to fill every need.  I propose that, instead of refusing to learn those skills we don’t want to use, we focus instead on the needs we want to fulfill and then craft our education accordingly.

My own traditional education highlights the deficiencies of an education sought without purpose.  I had always known that I was going to college; however, the details of what I was going to do with that education were grey in the early years.  At the age of 17 I chose to major in “Liberal Studies,” a major geared towards teachers who engage in primary education.  It wasn’t until my last semester of my senior year that I actually went into a classroom of 5th graders and realized teaching was not for me.  Actually, it was worse than that.  I lacked the temperament, the patience, and the life skills to deal with 30 5th graders on a daily basis.  I was literally months away from my diploma and had come to the realization that my college degree was going to be nothing more than expensive wallpaper.

What was I going to do?  In academia the next logical step was to pursue a masters degree, so that is what I did.  If elementary school wasn’t for me, maybe college English would be.  After a year in the master’s program I realized this was not the path.  While I have always loved literature, I would not be filling any needs, personal or otherwise with a Master’s in English Literature.

I took a year off to clear my head.  I gave myself permission to assess my skills, my needs, and what I really wanted to do with my life.  What was my purpose? It took me 3 months to figure out that law school was the education I needed to be able to contribute to society and to fulfill my own personal goals in terms of a career.  From that 1st contracts class on the first day to today, I have seen and felt the benefits of that purposeful education decision.  Law school opened doors to allow me to become a prosecutor, which not only satisfies the needs of my community, but allows me to argue in a courtroom on a weekly basis.  A job I find fulfilling and satisfying.  I am doing my part to help.

Happy Graduation, now put that education to use
Jessica Miller

Before becoming a prosecutor, I was able to have a small solo law firm.  I was able to fulfill the needs of my clients while also catering my practice to allow for the needs of our family.  Running a small business was not taken lightly.  Before hanging out my shingle I sought out additional training and education in not only how to navigate a solo law practice, but also how to manage a small business.

Purposeful education leads to purposeful living.  Too often I have seen a college education wasted on someone who was not ready for it; or on someone who really needed a different type of education to master their own life.  More often than not, the most meaningful education we receive is from hands on experiences and our ability to make the most of them.  For example, my Dad used to spend weeks and weeks before any vacation he took reading up on every single thing about the place he was traveling to.  He called it, “getting some knowledge.”  That wasn’t the end of it though.  We would hit the vacation with our feet running.  “You never know if we are ever going to get the opportunity to do this again,” he would tell us.  With eyes wide open we would usually take a whirlwind tour of as much as we could possibly fit in, coming home from the vacation more exhausted when we got home then when we left.

My mother has also been a life-long gatherer of knowledge.  She is always learning new things—usually about how to better her life through diet, through spirituality, and through holistic living.  While my brothers and I would frequently tease her about her essential oils or herbal dietary supplements, it is often her experience we turn when we seek out when we have something wrong.

My parents set an example for purposeful education in a non-traditional manner.  So to should we approach every educational opportunity placed before us as a chance to fill a need either for ourselves or others.  Whether in a formal school setting or as a life challenge, when you see a need, fill that need.  Purposeful education ensures that you can move from wishing you could help, to getting it done right.

– Jessica Miller

What do you think?  Have some insights? Come on over to our closed facebook discussion group to share your thoughts and join in the discussion.  Or you can email me directly at  IF you are interested in further reading check out other Food for Thought articles and learn all about the Archetypes of Skill.  You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.

Live Skillfully!



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