Controversy. I love controversial topics. One hot topic that’s been around for some time has been the decision for young men and women to go to college or not. And this is a big decision. It could be the difference between living a decent life or a totally shitty one. Or can it? Where is the line really drawn? Is there any line at all?
I love to learn, and in life, I remind myself frequently that we are forever a student. But there’s one problem when it comes to learning that is rooted into our sometimes overly colloquial society. Many people believe that REAL learning can only be done in a class-room. And that is where the real learning happens, and only there… but this is obviously wrong. The term education, as Peter Thiel has said in interviews, is a massive abstraction, it can mean anything. And he is right, which is why he also has a program that pays college students $100,000 to drop out of college.
Let’s say you’re around 17-18 years of age. Your parents are, in many cases, practically shoving you into picking a college to go to. They want what’s best for you, because they love you, and they care for you, and they want to turn your room into a man cave, well your dad does, your mom wants it to be her art studio. But that is where some of the problems begin. How many 17-21 year old people have you met who really seemed to have a solid vision on what they “want to do with their life?” (I always hated this question, but more on that later.) Of course this seems like a small issue, until you factor in the social pressure of going to college right after high school, parents are scared their kids will never go unless they go NOW! And that makes sense, just get that shit over with right? Eh… factor in the actual cost of college, even at a minimum level, this is not a decision that kids should be making so hastily.
I personally know very few people between 17-21 who have a good idea of what they want to do, but I do know a few who have big goals and actively pursue them. But often these dreams are shunned or belittled by the huge amount of people who didn’t go after what they wanted in their life, they took the path of least resistance and coasted through on life’s default settings. And I feel bad for these people, because maybe if the right people came into their lives, they would see things from a new angle, and this is one of the biggest reasons I push people to read MORE BOOKS! At the same time though, you can do anything you want in life, and I personally fear becoming complacent and comfortable and coasting through a decade of life not growing, not learning, and before you realize it you’re out of shape and wondering what the hell happened, but at least you still have the same job and are a grand master at data-entry and your favorite sports team just drafted that college prodigy and they might have a chance of going all the way this year, make sure you get that dude on your fantasy team too…
Now, let’s say you’re in your 50s, and you’ve been slugging away at your “career” for almost 3 decades. One day you look back, you wonder where it all went wrong. You wonder how your life slowly slipped into a subtle mediocrity. Then you wonder what it would look like if you started that stupid blog idea you had 28 years ago, or quit your job to drive a food truck to Miami with your buddy, because it sounded fun. But it’s just too risky… it could fail. It could leave you broken and homeless and your dog wont get fed because you don’t trust your neighbors to come over and feed him, so he’ll probably just crap all over the carpet because you’re hundreds of miles away trying to scrounge up enough money to buy a bus ticket to get back because the food truck broke down and failed and you spent the last of your money on a back alley craps game (and lost) trying to double your money, and your buddy turned out to be a horrible business partner, and an alcoholic who just partied every night, and your girlfriend text you saying she can’t be with somebody who just quits their job like that.. You should have just stayed at your job and lived your normal life…
But that’s not true…
All those things are temporary, all the set backs, all the heart ache, all the stress. Even success is temporary. And that’s when you realize, sitting there watching your neighbors come home, wondering how they come up with the money to get a new Mercedes EVERY SINGLE YEAR, that the biggest risk you ever took in your life wasn’t putting your life savings into a risky business/dream-plan, but instead, taking minimal risk, and coasting through life on an easy path, because when we were all little kids, the powers that be told us to go to college, or else you’ll never get a good job. You’ll just become a garbage man.
Don’t get me wrong, college is very important for a first world society. We’ll always need doctors and scientists who are working to help us understand the world. Many of the jobs you need college for are part of a working society that, in most cases, pushes the progress of humanity. But so do entrepreneurs and “risk takers.” The problem stems from our societal beliefs as a whole when it comes to schooling. Not going to college has a serious stigma around it. Saying you “never went to college” seems synonymous to most people with saying “I chose to do nothing with my life.” But this all stems from how our brains are wired and many other factors. If you met somebody who said they never went to college but then learned their business brought in over $1 million that year, you probably wouldn’t care to much about their former statement. But at the same time, that same guy could be employing several people who have MBA’s or Doctorates for all you know, or maybe the vast majority of his workforce is people with GED’s and High school diplomas. Where is the line drawn?
So to jump back to our original questions, about going to college or not, it is clear as day that it is not clear at all. There doesn’t seem to be a line anywhere, and it’s only our current perspective that could be creating a “walled path.” It is commonly known that there are thousands of very wealthy people who never went to college or dropped out, and you’ll see how massive this group really is with a book I’ve recently read. But the fog of war is good, and I’ll tell you why. Previously I said the dreaded “what do you want to do with your life” question that we’ve all been asked growing up, and lets face it, who the fuck actually knows how to answer that question with sheer honesty and realism. The most realistic answer you’ll ever hear for that question would be “I honestly have no fuckin’ idea!”
Let’s stop asking kids “what do you want to do with your life” and instead ask them a better question.
-What do you want your life to look like?-
With the answer to this question, instead of just finding an occupation, or trade, or fancy title, we instead start to picture our actual LIFESTYLE. Then from there, the idea of what to actually DO, becomes more clear, because we know whatever it is we do, it’s to build the lifestyle we want to live. As Jeff Bezos once said, it isn’t about Work/Life balance, it’s about Work/Life Harmony. And building the lifestyle is what is most important.
Depression is a huge deal in America, one of the worlds most powerful and prosperous nations. Why is that? It’s in part due to the mindset we are brain washed into believing. That if we follow the preset path told to us by our teachers and parents, we’ll eventually be happy and safe, or free (safe and free are two different things.) We won’t be happy until we have x – the house, the wife, the car, the job where you get to wear a suit every day, the raise, the promotion, the title.
As Seneca, the great stoic philosopher once said, a great fortune is a great slavery.
As we get older, we start to understand where true happiness stems from, hopefully at least. Despite all the talk about careers and money, we all want to be happy and enthused about life, and everything else can be secondary in the grand scheme of things.
There are many books you can read on building a better lifestyle. One of my favorites which you’ve probably already heard of is called The 4 Hour Work Week or Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. (Tim actually has a part in that book about his battle with suicidal thoughts when he was at Princeton and how he coped, added in is also his opinion about Princeton and colleges in general, which is not very good.)
But there is another book out that that is more on the topic of this post. In Michael Ellsberg’s awesome book called The Education of Millionaires, he debunks many of the common myths that people believe about being successful and going to college. Michael is a very smart man, currently a successful business man, he did go to college, he talks the pros and cons of choosing which path to take. If you’re even remotely unsure that college will be worth it, read this book. Michael has interviewed many people, including Matt Mullenweg, the creator or WordPress, Sean Parker, the co-founder of Facebook, and tons of successful business owners who never went to, or dropped out of college.
Michael, like Peter Thiel, is a big advocate for people NOT going to college, as long as it is for the right reasons. With tuition prices over 1000% higher than inflation, and an endless stream of “for profit” colleges throwing ads all over the place, it seems like colleges are more interested in making money than actually educating their students.
The Education of Millionaires is filled with great advice on how to properly run your business. How to be a better networker, a better marketer, and even what it takes to move up the ladder in a corporate environment. This book really defines the difference between street smart and book smart. Which are both important, and always makes me think of the scene from one of my favorite movies, Tommy Boy, where David Spade’s character explains to Chris Farley’s character that the reason his dad was successful was because he was STREET SMART! It sounds horrifically cliché to say that though.
The thing I love most about this book though, all the great teachings aside, is Michael Ellsberg’s ability to point out all the bullshit clogging the system using empirical evidence and relative material, and for that I respect him very much. This book, along with Zero to One by Peter Thiel, and possibly a few others, will rewire your brain on the perspective of truly being an entrepreneur – over night. A must buy for anyone conspiring to change the world.
-Get the education of a millionaire without the student loan debt-
…and never stop learning.