Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Views on Higher Learning

RG wrote in and asked about my views on higher learning after having read the post on JJ Luna's book 'Skip College and Go Into Business for Yourself'.
My views on higher learning, meaning the education your receive pre and post high school that will enable you to become a self sufficient human being, can be summed up in a handful of bullet points:
  • You should only go to college if you can pay cash for it (ie: your parents pay for your education sans loans, you pay for college as you go, or you get scholarships. Don't take out loans for college!).
  • You should only attend college if you are going into a field that absolutely requires it (writing doesn't, web design doesn't, being a doctor, lawyer, or rocket scientist does).
  • You need a skill (or multiple skills) that you can sell to others. This is especially true in difficult economic times. People won't pay for you to be a paper pusher (note the huge layoffs of middle and upper management), they won't pay for you to do a job that isn't economically feasible (such as car assembly in Detroit when cheaper cars can be had from overseas), they won't pay for you to do something they can do themselves (note the number of restaurant closings...people can cook at home and save money).
  • People do pay for things they absolutely need: plumbing fixed, surgery, legal defense, car repair, etc.
  • Quit waiting for permission and GO DO SOMETHING! No matter what positions I am hiring for, if the job candidate doesn't have credible experience I don't want to talk to them. I don't even care if they have a degree. I care about #1 can they do the job (based on prior accomplishments and not BS chatter) and #2 can they help make me money (this is where skill as well as the ability to think creatively/logically/strategically comes in). It's that simple. I don't care about degrees and internships, what I care about is can they do what I need done and do it well. I would rather hire the geeky kid down the street that eats, breathes, and sleeps web design (for example) than a person who has a new college degree and no actual experience.
  • Whatever skill/skills you choose to have, you should learn something more about said skill every day, become an industry insider, practice your skill every day, learn how to market/sell said skill(s), give some of your skill/service away for free to good causes, become known as an expert in your field, do such a good job that word of mouth brings you more than enough work, and leverage your skill/service a number of ways in order to have multiple sources of income from it.
  • I think everyone should own their own business. When you own your own business and you are your own boss, many things become quickly apparent. Everything from budgeting to pricing to customer service to continued education to deal making to PR to all of the other things that impact your bottom line become of the utmost importance. There is no padding the expense account, brown-nosing the boss, reading FaceBook all day instead of working, etc. that many people do at work and think it constitutes an income-producing job.
  • There is also a place for strategic thinkers which may come with higher learning but often comes with experience/logical thinking. Simply, they see a need in the market and meet that need. Hard times? They open a second hand store because they know people would rather pay second hand prices than full retail when times are tough. There was also the story about a guy who was selling used cars until he noted that people would pay more for individual parts off a car than what the car would bring as a whole so he opened an auto junk yard and made much more than he ever did as a car salesman.
  • You also want to work on sub-skills that will allow you to improve your money-making opportunities such as having a good attitude and personality so people will want to hire/work with you, develop your understanding of accounting and finance which is important in any business, brush up on particular areas of your chosen skill (this may include a pertinent college class or two), find a mentor in your field, network in your field, etc.

The bottom line is to pick something you want to do in order to earn a living at it then GO OUT AND DO IT! And strive to do it better than any one else.


  1. This comment came out at another blog during the British student riots a few months ago. He hit the nail on the head what its all about. Myself I was lucky enough to have a 72+ hour per week, good wage job in the summers to minimize my exposure to loans while in college.(Farming)

    "Austerity is not the issue in Britain regarding the riots. Here in the United States, college has been transformed from a path to a brighter future into just another debt-enslavement mechanism, with recent graduates unable to leave home because of sky-high school loan payments. It has become such a profit center for the private bankers in the USA that the British Bankers now want the same scheme. So they lobby the government to cut funding for education so that British students are forced to go into massive debt for a college degree that may have little value in the real world. But the British students are apparently much smarter than their American counterparts, and they spotted the trap before it was sprung!"