by | Nov 27, 2017 | Motivation | 0 comments

TIME TO READ: 7 minutes

The current narrative is that college is a waste of one hundred and fifty grand and four years of your life. And with more and more pressure to ditch it, I’d imagine it can cause a lot of anxiety and confusion for any current/soon-to-be students.

The two main “college is useless” arguments are:

  • With unlimited information available in our pockets, knowledge is now commoditized, and if you know where to look, you can figure out pretty much anything. The flip side is that with so much information out there, you’re forced to drink from a firehouse, and sometimes paying for a teacher with 30 years of experience to slow down the stream in combination with the accountability of a graded exam is important. Left to our own devices we procrastinate and “start Monday.”
  • Then there’s the examples everyone likes to point to: “Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and the founder of Whole Foods and Uber and Twitter and etc. and etc. dropped out after like six months and look at them!” Correct, with some digging you’ll indeed discover some people we admire most were not a fan of degrees. The problem here is to be human is to overvalue one’s own skills, abilities and talents. We don’t understand ourselves unless we have those uncomfortable, deep conversations alone, with no one around to impress. In other words, you are not Steve Jobs. A clear example of the age old dilemma of people thinking they’re something they’re not is the awful American Idol auditions from a few years back. I’d watch those in awe. Hundreds and hundreds “following their passion” failing to realize they sound like nails on a chalkboard.

And so, I don’t think college is bad, per se. I think structure and deadlines are important. I think if left to ourselves we would not get much done, as self-accountability is almost non-existent in our brains default operating system. Plus, socially, the people you meet and the relationships solidified at 2 AM are invaluable. I don’t think its a good idea to lock yourself in your room with a bunch of books and videos or homeschool. Opportunities arise from relationships and people, not YouTube and Tony Robbins.

The issue with education is graduating with a bullshit degree and getting the first job you can, with the mounting compound interest on your loans and the pressure to prove yourself to your parents, peers, and girlfriend. I know countless people who have jobs that have nothing to do with their degrees. I wonder how many baristas there are with marketing degrees? Or servers with a major in public relations?

But, the biggest problem I see with college is that it teaches people to be a student. Someone who waits for directions/permission, doesn’t take initiative, and instead falls in line and complies. I think that’s a massive vulnerability in life. Screwing with the status quo is how innovation and ideas happen. Coloring outside the lines is a strength, while career students see it as a way to get points off. I truly believe school kills creativity.

And so I do believe experience beats the textbook. Learning in the universe beats any Ivy League classroom. And I believe there to be no correlation between real world success and a class ranking. Plenty of bad students “make it,” while plenty of good students do, too. I don’t think of college to be the end all be all it’s made out to be, and I think it’s better approached for that teacher who changes your life, the roommate who introduces you to your business partner, the life experience of living four years on your own, and the fact that 8:30 AM classes sucks, but you show up anyway. And it should never ever be approached because its what you’re supposed to do, or for the brand of “I went to X” and that looks super sexy on my resume.

I think the following are ways to pump up your degree and really squeeze as much juice from the lemons.

[1] Travel as often and alone if possible

Stepping out of your comfort zone (risk taking). Talking to strangers (communication). Gaining perspective (empathy). Hearing different opinions (debate and politics).
Decision-making (leadership). Coming up with/planning an itinerary (research).

There are so many benefits to traveling, that, as I write this, it would be cool if someone started a traveling school where the students traveled to a new place every semester and met with a new teacher.

Switching to a new environment every couple months would force the student to be comfortable with change, a key factor of success, as the world spins and evolves at a rate never seen before in history.

There’s so much land out there, and it’s shame so many spend their lives within the same 30 square miles of it. Every interesting and successful person I know is well-traveled. It comes with the territory.

[2] Read every single day

We consume most of our information in bite-sized, caption format. Our attention is fragmented, with more stimulus blasting us than we were ever designed for. With overloaded brains, we tend to skim, and never full drop into the deep part of our minds where we unearth our diamonds. I see that as a real problem, and so I see tremendous value in blocking out time, preferably an hour each day, to focus concretely on something. Mainly because no one else is doing it and everyone is walking around all wound up and distracted, and, like the old adage goes, if everyone is going one direction, it’s almost always a good idea to go the opposite.

Books are a ridiculous value. I’ve bought books for $5 that have changed my life.

[3] Write every single day 

I’ve written plenty of posts that weren’t that good, didn’t make sense, and were kind of generic. Sometimes I look back and ask myself did I really write that? What was I thinking? Either way, I’m grateful that I kept at it because that constant practice has sharpened my thoughts and ideas to a razor’s edge. Sitting down and shaking the junk out of my head onto paper, rather than letting it bounce around, has allowed me to constantly tune and challenge my own thinking. I now can communicate effectivity in a world where I believe that to be everything.  The sky is the limit for those that can express themselves and captivate an audience.

Also, taking my ideas and posting them for the world is part of a process for me. It forces me be vulnerable and open myself to feedback/criticism. And most importantly, it teaches me to publish and “ship.” To do. Execution: a rare skill in a world where everyone seems to have the perfect idea but then stumbles over their own two feet.

[4] Workout and eat healthy 

It’s probably a really good idea to take extreme care of the one body we’re gifted and carry with us on this long journey of life. I’m not sure why cooking skills, proper nutrition and fitness isn’t a part of general curriculum, sandwiched between Calculus II and Human Studies 101. Good luck crushing your goals or doing anything worthwhile when the lunch you grabbed, full of processed carbs and sugar, fogs up your brain and makes you want to take a nap. Moving to the physical, it’s hard to have the confidence to get after your dreams when you can’t unbutton the top button of your pants.

Basically, in the simplest form, screwing with your health is a sure way to slow down the process or even completely derail high hopes and dreams. The foundation of a full life, the bottom of the pyramid, is taking care of oneself. It’s insane how many people ignore this simple fact.

[5] Start an actual business/get an internship 

This goes back to my beginning argument against college. Nothing beats getting your hands dirty. You wont truly get “it” and understand things unless you get out there to try it and experience it yourself. I know plenty of people that went to school for something, got good grades, lined up a job after graduation and then realized they actually hated working their chosen career. It’s a huge mistake to never put on your shoes and walk your talk.

And so internships are an invaluable tool that provide the ideal gateway to figuring out what it is you want to do with your life. Work with someone you admire or someone that is doing the things you want to do, so you can dip your toe in it for a few months without actually having to jump and hope you can swim.

If you talk to any graduate, they will more than likely tell you nothing they learned was actually applicable in real life. That is true across all education mediums. For instance, I got my NASM certification seven years ago and that was the last time I ever opened the textbook. It got my foot in the door at a local chain gym but I can’t recall much about squat compensations or the anterior tibilias. My business card doesn’t list any certifications nor has a client ever ask. I learn thru the experience of training clients every single day.

You can’t read about how to do it, you must actually go do.