A Note to My 18 Year Old Self – “College is a Waste of Time”

Although I had a great time in college, I wish I would have been smart enough to skip it. In the end, I feel it unnecessarily disciplined me into believing that I wouldn’t be capable of making any real contributions or decisions for another 4 to 6 years.

If you aren’t going to school for something that specifically requires a credential– like practicing law in the state of California– those timeframes are pointless and extraordinarily expensive to follow.

I can’t help but thinking about where I’d be today if somebody told my 18 year old self that there is not such thing as “being ready” to be a real person.

Today, a young blog reader who is currently enrolled in university sent me an email asking me “how do I get out of this mess.”

Hi Dan,

I’m studying computer science in Europe, living at my parents house, have a girlfriend that I love, building iPhone apps for business (but not making a living yet). I obviously have too much on my plate. I also hate university. It’s not the topic, I just hate the way they teach stuff. I’m a really good developer and make iPhone apps with a friend / business partner.

How do I get out of this mess? I know quite a lot about internet marketing and I even know exactly what I want to do for business. The problem is that I can’t figure out how to liberate myself from the university and other responsibilities because I depend on my parents for a living. What do you suggest?

1. Re-set your expectations about the interpersonal difficulties of being an entrepreneur.

I know parents– especially good ones– can be tough to cross. They’ve done everything for you.

Here’s the thing– if you think disagreeing with your parents is tough, try firing a good employee who has kids. If you are good at this entrepreneurship stuff, someday you’ll probably have to do it. That’s just the beginning.

Since we’ve started our business, we’ve been subjected to physical threats, awkward office yelling matches, public humiliations, a pathetic extortion attempt, and plenty of other interpersonal crap.

Making tough personal decisions is a huge edge for an entrepreneur. It’s a rare and valuable ability, and it starts at home.

You’ll be one hell of a lucky guy if your competition turns out to be less ruthless than your parents.

2. The conversation is over once you’ve got cash flow.

I often think of Derek’s article zipit because I’m a big talker. It was common for me to read some stuff, take a little action, and then sit around the dinner table and run my mouth about all the things I was so excited about. “And then in October I’m gonna…”

I wish I would have shut up and worked.

I could have come to the dinner table 2 months later and said: “So I made $1,500 last month working 10 hours a week on my apps. I calculate that if I spend 60 hours a week on it I’ll be making $5,000 a month by the end of the summer. It’s a calculated risk, but I’m going for it.”

3. University is a speed limit that you don’t need.

Parents generally default to cultural scripts to have confidence that what they are suggesting and supporting for their children is good.

Did you ever hear that story about Steve Jobs? He hung around his college campus and attended classes that he thought would be interesting. He did not enroll!

To your parents, that might sound ridiculous, but to me it sounds like a brilliant plan. When I think back, that move would have saved me time and an embarrassing sum of money. All of the meaningful relationships I built in university could have been built without officially enrolling.

If you want to develop apps for the next few years, you need a credential from the app store, not a university.

4. “Don’t look the gift horse in the mouth.” Finding a profitable cash flow is a unique, fleeting, and special moment.

Figuring out how to make a buck on the internet isn’t the toughest thing on the planet, but it’s easy for smart people to bang their heads against the problem for years and not find a reliable source of cash flow.

Part of the reason I started the Dynamite Circle was that a small group of friends on my mastermind call basically told me “you need to start this. We want a place like this, and you are the guy to do it. Don’t mess it up because you’ve got some emotional issues about online marketing products.”

And it was true. I was shy to start a private forum. But when you find people who are willing to pay you for something you can do, it’s a rare, special, and magical thing. Take a hint!

I can guarantee you this: universities who are looking to fill up their class rosters and commit cash to their bottom line aren’t so special. They aren’t going anywhere and you can always go back.

5. Do not suspend or outsource judgments about your life. Responsibility for your career trajectory lies 100% with you. 

Let’s say you think you want to develop iPhone apps for a living. You have a belief that the best way to create that outcome is to spend up to 60 hours a week writing Objective C. Your parents understand your desire, but suggest that your outcome could be reached if you spend 10 hours a week coding and 50 hours a week on your university coursework.

It’s a common situation to find oneself in. It’s common for people, in all walks in life, to suspend judgment, assuming my parents must know something and continue on with your path and wait for more information to emerge.

Don’t do that.

Entrepreneurs see extraordinary rewards for pursuing paths before society has made it legible in a “script” that can be passed around.

Some would say it’s dangerous advice to give. So here’s my qualification:

Let’s assume you are committed to reality (you aren’t a dream thinker) and are good at being honest with yourself (and not feeding yourself short term ego-junk food): if you see a path to what you want that nobody else sees– you are experiencing the entrepreneurial moment.

You’re right where you need to be.

Go. Go. Go.





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