I never went to college. It’s not because I didn’t have the time or the money… It’s because I didn’t have the patience or maturity. Back then, I was an ungrateful little shit with a bad attitude towards education. I was convinced that school was for fools.
In hindsight, the only fool was me. I wish I could go back and slap my 18y/o self. (don’t we all!)
However, much to everyone’s surprise, I’ve actually grown up to become a semi-successful human being. I’ve never struggled to find work or accumulate wealth, and I’m just as competent and reliable as the next guy. I live a happy and free life.
I missed the college boat and somehow still turned out OK. How did this happen?
Limiting Belief: If you don’t go to college, you will struggle for the rest of your life.
I’ll admit that I carried this limiting belief around for many years. The universe constantly likes to remind me of how undereducated I am. Stuff like this:
- Every job application I look at shows either “college degree required” or “college degree strongly preferred”. This isn’t just written loosely within the list of job requirements, it’s the first dot point on every posting.
- When people I look up to ask me what college I went to, I’m forced to reply with “none”. Their look of disappointment and let down breaks my heart every time.
- Apparently a Master’s Degree is the new Bachelor’s. Reading articles like this one, this one, and this one make me feel extremely depressed and even further behind.
The good news is… All of these subtle messages I received throughout my life ended up backfiring. Being told over and over that I’m likely to fail actually helped light a fire under my ass and pushed me in the opposite direction. I grew determined to succeed! Failure is not an option for me. I refuse to be a statistic!
At this point in my life, going back to school is not likely (never say never). But I definitely intend to learn as much as I can and keep up with my formally educated peers. I have a theory that valuable learning can happen anywhere, anytime, and from anyone around. And I’m setting out to prove it.
Learning Time is Anytime:
It’s silly to think that the most important learning in life happens within a specific 4-year window somewhere in your late teens to early 20’s. Can’t that same knowledge be learned during other various stages throughout your life?
I think that important learning happens in the window of time between your day of birth and your day of death. People can and will be learning important things throughout their entire life. I hope to never stop learning new things, much like these senior citizens.
College learning period = 18y/o —-> 22y/o.
Actual Life learning period = Your birth ——-> your death.
Learning Location is Anywhere:
Whether it’s on a tennis court, in an office cubicle, or traveling in Jamaica with some buddies, people can pick up knowledge and learn lessons anywhere.
College classrooms and lecture halls are great learning environments for some stuff. But I would also argue that it’s equally important to study material yourself in the real world. In fact, that’s why teachers give you homework… Homework reinforces what you learned in school but in a completely different environment – your home.
Learning can happen anywhere. If you think about it, the entire world is actually just one big classroom.
Teachers Can Be Anyone:
Just the other day, my neighbor’s 3 year old daughter taught me how to memorize the planets in our solar system by singing a song. I’m learning new things from a 3 year old!
Think of all the people out there that post blogs, podcasts or YouTube videos* on how to do things. These are just regular people sharing what they know. Complete strangers can teach a lot of valuable information. Online blogs and podcasts is how I learned to invest in real estate, brew beer, and make the world’s most delicious artisan bread.
There are 7.7 billion people in the world. To me, that’s 7.7 billion teachers I can learn from. 🙂
*Fun fact: Studies show 86% of people who use YouTube do it to learn new things.
One Type of Learning Is Not Better Than Another:
Check out the below 9 types of human intelligence. Can you say that one of these is a priority in life over the others? I don’t think so!
- Naturalist (nature smart)
- Musical (sound smart)
- Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
- Existential (life smart)
- Interpersonal (people smart)
- Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)
- Linguistic (word smart)
- Intra-personal (self smart)
- Spatial (picture smart)
It’s Not What You Know… It’s How You Use It:
Colin graduated college with honors, and earned a degree in computer science. IBM was quick to recruit him after school.
Sam tried college, but left after only 6 months. He hated tests and exams. After dropping out, he got a job as a bell boy at the Holiday Inn Express in his local town.
Fast forward 20 years…
Colin now works for Time Warner Cable as a TV Repairman. His job at IBM only lasted 3 years – he left because it was too stressful. He joined another computer company afterwards but didn’t last long there because “technology just changes too fast” for him to keep up. Eventually, he settled down at Time Warner Cable where he drives around in a van and does weekend shifts.
Sam, however, is now the VP of Operations at Starwood Hotels. He sits on the board of the American Hotel and Lodging Association and was just asked to do a TED Talk on emerging trends in the hospitality industry. Sam never stops learning. Promotion after promotion, he takes what he’s learned in the past and applies it to the next role. Ever since he was a bell boy he had his sights set on owning a hotel, and he won’t stop until he achieves this one day.
So although Colin started out with a higher formal education, Sam experiences more career success and will continue to do so. Why did they turn out so different?
It’s because just knowing stuff doesn’t make you successful. Applying what you learn and putting knowledge to use is what makes you successful. And continuing to learn keeps you successful as life evolves.
Think this story is an exaggeration? Ever heard of The Peter Principal? People will rise only up until their level of incompetence – no matter their level of education.
Who’s Keeping Score Anyway?
School students are graded by getting A’s, B’s, C’s etc… The higher the grade, the better the student did in that class.
Real Life doesn’t work that way though. We don’t get grades in real life. We each get to define what “success” looks like personally. And we don’t really have a right to judge others on what they’re doing.
There’s some good news to add to the story above about Sam and Colin… Both these guys are actually completely happy with their respective lives. They couldn’t care less what other people in the world are doing – they are doing what makes them happy. They are both successful in their own eyes.
Going forward, I refuse to feel bad about not going to college. I’m determined to educate myself elsewhere, and will continue learning for the rest of my life. I’m proud of my accomplishments so far, and look forward to doing even greater things in the future!