My Rant On Formal Education

While on the F Line in San Francisco, I overheard a man telling a stranger he had just met how “You need to go to college in this day in age. With this economy, there isn’t any way you’re going to find a job and make any money without a college degree.  What are you going to do? Work in a coffee shop? They don’t make any money.” This struck a nerve with me.

I hate when people tell other people what they can or can’t do — that they have to do this, in order to accomplish that.  We should all know by now that there is no set formula for success.  Of course there are formulas to accomplish certain tasks and goals which have been proven to work. But success itself cannot be converted into a simple equation simply because its definition is different to each and every person.

Yes, education is important.  Everyone feels that they are supposed to continue their schooling after high school.  It’s the natural next step in one’s life. Some people feel they need that “college experience”. But are those that went to a University and received a degree any better off that the ones that didn’t?

I never went to school.  I took one semester at a community college. I do look back and sometimes wish I would have had that full-on dorm experience.  A real GPA, college parties, extra-curricular activities, stories that would last a life-time… but I didn’t and I’m better off than most people I know.  I know people that not only have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s, but also hold a Master’s degree and cannot find a job to save their life. Or they have jobs, but are miserable and still yearning to find their “calling”.  Don’t get me wrong, there are certain classes and certain materials that will absolutely benefit you in the real world, i.e. Business classes, Public Speaking, or specialized classes such as Radiology if you want to be a Radiologist. But the majority of college time spent, I feel is time wasted.

When I say I’m “better off than most”, I am by no means on my high-horse, proclaiming to be better than anyone, but when I take inventory of the people I know and the consistent theme seems to be how un-happy they are with their lives, they hate their jobs, they’re stuck in their situation, etc. I feel I can gratefully place myself in a different category.  There is no shame in taking pride in who you are and celebrating your own happiness.

I am living proof that you do not need a formal education to be happy and successful.

To me, life experience is far more valuable and will take you further in the long run than anything taught in a classroom. Now I’m not saying that you can’t create wonderful life experiences while also going to college.  Of course you can.  College is a life experience in itself.  But I feel that too often young people think that college is a guarantee and will ultimately put you on the fast-track to success as long as you simply complete your four years and earn that piece of paper, which is an absolute myth.

What matters most is your mind-set.  This is a ridiculously difficult thing to master, and is something I myself continue to work on daily.  It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you have, whether or not you have children, or whether your 80 years old.  You mind-set is something you can begin to change this very instant.

I’ve met so many people that still “don’t know what they want to be when they grow up”.  To those people I say: “If you don’t know, do it all.” If you don’t know what you want in life, the only way you’re going to find out what it is, is to try as many different things as possible.  Hence the 100+ jobs I’ve had in my own life, thus far.  Having that many jobs seems extreme to most people, but I was once told to “Never be satisfied.” and that advice sent me on a lifelong journey into the unknown to find my calling.

Throughout my 30 years on this planet, I would say one of the most important things I’ve learned is to put yourself in situations that make you feel uncomfortable.  Forcing yourself to survive while out of your comfort zone cultivates personal growth like you wouldn’t believe!

Now I’m not talking about “taking a stroll through the bad part of town, late at night, alone, with $1,000 in your pocket” uncomfortable – don’t be silly.  If you’re uncomfortable meeting new people, go to a mixer or networking event.  If you’re uncomfortable during interviews, apply for as many jobs as you can.  If you’re uncomfortable around children, volunteer to watch a friend’s kids.  There’s a saying: “If it scares you, it’s probably worth doing.” #truth

While these tasks may seem scary at first, once you realize that you are capable of doing them, and anything thing else your heart desires, they’re such a simple way to create a new you.  It’s funny how quickly you will find yourself not just surviving – but flourishing in these new surroundings.  Constantly conquering the unknown, building new skills, and creating those life experiences I mentioned before; “Leveling-Up” if you will :)

Another pre-requisite for creating the most successful version of yourself, and that I believe in whole-heartedly, is travel.  It doesn’t matter where, or how far, just go.  It doesn’t have to cost much.  If you can’t afford a plane ticket – jump in your car and drive.  If you don’t have a car, put your shoes on and start walking.  Go places you’ve never been before.  Travel also ties in to my theory of being uncomfortable.  If you haven’t been somewhere before, chances are you will find yourself out of your element, which will automatically spark that challenge within to conquer, build and create.

Most people unfortunately have a skewed perception of the priorities in their life.   They say they can’t take on the things I’ve suggested above because they have kids or “their family comes first”, or that they “have to focus on work”… That’s sweet, but you have to realize that in order to be the best parent, partner, friend, or employee you can be, you have to take the time to work on YOU.  You can’t give others your best, until you have become your best.  Doesn’t that make sense?

And most people will respond to that with: “Easier said than done, Heather.”  Well no shit! Of course it’s easier to say it, than to do it.  If it were as simple as saying it, the whole world would be on one giant uncomfortable vacation, now wouldn’t they? LOL.

It just makes me sad when those close to me feel as though they can’t do things they want to do because of their current situation.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” – H. Jackson Brown

Didn’t they have children? Families? Jobs? Of course they did. And they also took the time to work on themselves so that they could then share their magic with the world. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – kevin dooley

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