If you were in my shoes, and you were hiring an individual for a specific role in a technology company, would you take an Ivy League grad or a high school grad?
Right now, without question you’re leaning towards the Ivy League grad; however, by the end of this chapter, you’ll see things differently. You’ll be given more insight in order to answer this question, and you won’t make the same mistake I did when faced with a real-life scenario involving this question.
Why should you invest time in reading this chapter?
We live in a world where the common belief held towards education is disenchantment–especially if you’re an entrepreneur. “School or college is worthless,” people reason. Indeed, many components within the education system is broken. However, just because some pedantic teacher dropped the ball, doesn’t mean your education has to suffer. You’ll find that many wealthy entrepreneurs are autodidacts–meaning, they’re self taught in various disciplines. I’m not speaking about the one-hit-wonder entrepreneurs; I’m speaking of the billionaire entrepreneurs you’ve never even heard of. The focused entrepreneurs that absolutely dominate without kicking up dust in the media. These entrepreneurs leverage and hack education in order to squeeze out knowledge and expand the mind. This practice not only expands their mind, it enhances their focus. In the chapter below we’ll discuss the nature of education, what’s good, what’s bad and how you can hack education to acquire an Ivy League education for free.
People who argue against education have it all wrong.
To give you some background, I absolutely detested teachers growing up. Many were lazy, they lacked critical thought and a lot of them simply went through the motions. I, too, went through the motions–the motions of goofing off. And I did this better than anyone. Seriously. I wasn’t a class clown–that had too much class in it. I was simply a clown. Yet when I attended college, I took a glance around and suddenly the goofing off didn’t matter–it was all about results. Goofing off was cool, as long as you delivered come test day. And I thrived in this environment. I took classes I wanted to take, I studied because I wanted to study (and I studied an insane amount of hours); and last, I took advantage of every mind-expanding opportunity I could–because I was fortunate enough to be there in the first place.
Then the real world hits, and it’s much different than academia. As if this is unexpected, you’ll find that many students get pissed. “You mean, the four years I spent studying didn’t set me up for automatic success in the real-world?!”
You hear business authors preach how education is off and it’s all their fault. They say, “Education only teaches standards. Education only shows you how to get good grades. Don’t follow the rules.”
I argue that there are definitely good things within the education system, there are bad things and last there are downright ugly things. Further, the good elements of education teach one the habits in order to become a more focused person.
Education gives you context for life.
The fact that I’ve studied about every single religion and have a deep understanding of Tibetan Buddhism doesn’t pathe the way for a successful career. It does, however, give one better context for the world. And you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve found myself with someone at a business function and learned that their roots stem from Tibet (yes, even as obscure as it is in the U.S.). In that moment, we absolutely hit it off–and this can result in a massive business deal. Don’t tell me that it’s worthless. Could anyone study anything on their own? Yes, but most never would. If I didn’t have to learn about different religions, I’d have read business books instead–because that’s what I was interested in. If a university didn’t require me to learn about such lessons, I would have never studied the subject. This is a positive element of universities. Universities contain structure that provide context for different areas in life.
College puts the burden of learning on you.
Your educational experience is directly aligned with your effort. If you drank yourself through college, you bet your ass you won’t learn anything. Typically the people that do this blame their negative experience on school as a whole.
Most people argue against the school system because they don’t understand its purpose. Its purpose is to put you in an environment to compete, to challenge yourself, to develop critical thought and to acquire context for life. If you think this will give you a golden ticket to succeed in life, that’s nobody’s error, but your own.
A lot of the pedantic professors you come across in college are very focused. Their focus is not on succeeding in life; rather, their focus is on what history reveals about certain questions that give insight into life. It’s your job to read and interpret that, and then act on it within life. The school system can give one tremendous ability to focus, but only when you graduate will you have the actual opportunity to focus. It’s your burden to learn this and apply this to life.
Eat the food, not the vomit
Education often puts you in an environment with very bright individuals. Universities are filled with professors that love research. Most of these professors conduct sound research. The scrutiny and pressures of their colleagues drive them to do so. The end product they churn out is often quite raw; however, it’s in its truest form. Many authors make a killing off of reading this research, and then packaging it for the average person. Eat the food (source of data), rather than the vomit (authors regurgitation of data). Education is an excellent conduit for the interpreting the source of data and research.
Promotes critical thought
Last, education promotes critical thought through structuring an environment that requires writing papers on a wide-array of subjects. Of course, the burden of forming this critical though rests on you; however, the structure is there, and it’s there for you to take advantage of.
Your degree does not dictate worth
When I interview candidates that are fresh out of college, there’s one red flag I always look for: their interpretation of their degree. When you ask them, “What salary do you think is fair, and why?” Many respond with an answer like, “Well, I have a college degree, so that makes me worth more in the market-place. So I think I should at least make 60 grand a year.” I have to hold myself back from laughing. It’s really not their fault that an answer like this is given; it’s a habit that’s ingrained in our society, and they’ve accepted it.
At least in my world–the world of entrepreneurship and fast-moving technology–I’ve found that your degree doesn’t correlate with your worth. Is your degree worthless? No, it’s an indication that you were given the material to acquire knowledge; however, that’s all it’s worth. Your worth is directly correlated with your value. Your value stems from your ability to apply the knowledge you’ve accumulated. Unfortunately, many employers and corporations don’t have the insight, audacity and time to manually gauge value, so instead they use the college degree as an indicator.
An answer that would make more sense would be something along the lines of: “Well at my last position, I outlined seventeen areas that we were inneficient, and I implemented various revenue streams that resulted in $80,000 in four months. Thus, taking an average of that $80,000 and dividing it by four, gives you a figure of $20,000 per month. I’m not sure of our margins at this company, however I think at least 25% of that value per month would be fair.”
What, in turn does that get you? $5,000 per month, which equates to $60,000 per year.
Education gives you potential knowledge, not kinetic knowledge
In the example above, you’ll notice that I wrote “Your worth is directly correlated with your value. Your value stems from the ability to apply the knowledge you’ve accumulated.” Education merely gives you potential knowledge, once you’ve applied the knowledge, it becomes kinetic knowledge–or value.
Elementary schools and high schools
Our elementary and high school system. Yes, our elementary and high school system, at least in California, renders itself broken. It’s filled with teachers that punch in the time clock, sit you down for hours, and make you do work. It’s much like Family Guy’s interpretation of a math student. Peter Griffin, the thick-headed father of the family, adopts a Chinese immigrant, puts him in the corner, pokes him with a pencil and says, “Do math.” Believe it or not, I’ve seen teachers teach in a manner that relates to this.
We are creating factory workers
The traditional education system hasn’t grown proportionally with society’s innovation. The curricula, structure and style of our education system centers on training the industrial-age worker, not the information-age worker. They teach one to specialize in a specific area and do repetitive work, instead of growing the mind through a wide-range of material and then applying the material to different problems that matter in the world.
The Bottom line:
Don’t fall into the group that blindly blasts education. It has its pros, cons and ugly cons. Just make sure you understand the nature, and goals of the education system so that you don’t feel scammed upon graduating into the real world.
So how can you take advantage of education, and allow it to help your mind focus? That’s what we’ll cover next.
How to Get an Ivy League Education For Free
You don’t need money to get an education–even an Ivy League education. As outlined above, the biggest advantages of education center on its ability to unroll a roadmap of courses that you otherwise would never take. Education, if employed correctly, gives one context for life, critical thought and raw knowledge. In addition, at least in college, it’s all on you to succeed. It’s on you to learn. It’s all about results.
So how can you acquire an Ivy league education for free, and become a more focused person? There’s only three steps.
First, find the roadmap
Create a your own course of study. Your course-load is on you to decide. Figure out your time period: 4-week, 8-week, 16-week or some other time period.
You can find curriculums and credit requirements for specific degrees and programs just by visiting university websites. They literally give you the road-map to acquire any degree you wish. For instance, for Stanford’s Business School, they have the following courseload for first year students:
- Critical Analytical Thinking
- Ethics and Management
- Global Context of Management
- Managerial Finance
- Managing Groups and Teams
- Organizational Behavior
- Strategic Leadership
- Data Analysis and Decision Making
- Financial Accounting
- Human Resource Management
- Information Management
- Managerial Accounting
- Modeling for Optimization & Decision Support (MODS)
- Non-market Strategy
Pretty straightforward material–and pretty expensive material (this can cost you about $100,000 for two years).
So how do you find the classes and take them for free?
Second, gather the material through open-courseware
Universities have made a recent push towards open-sourcing their courses. They’ve opened up lectures, notes, presentations and tests that are free to the public.
Why did they do this? With the rise of the internet, knowledge quickly became readily available and free to anyone that wanted to learn. The internet put more power into the hands of the student, instead of the institution. What these academic institutions found, however, is that most people didn’t need to learn courses of interests because they already have universities that spoon feed them material. If you give away the material without the spoon, most people don’t know what to do. This is where the focused entrepreneur excels. It doesn’t hurt, it only helps the brand of the university if they open-source their courseware.
There’s a variety of sources from which you can gather material; however, here are some of the places that I’ve used:
1. MIT’s Open Courseware Library: MIT has been spearheading the open-course movement since 1999. They offer a wonderful array of curricula and material for taking a variety of course in many academic disciplines. They have a wide-range of humanity courses, computer science courses, literary courses, film, cognitive sciences, mathematics, physics, marketing and more. MIT is only one of many world-class universities that offer open courseware.
2. iTunes Open University: iTunes has a wide-array of courses, as well. In both audio and visual format, the open university free’s the knowledge that was once housed in the silos of Stanford.
Third, Make it happen
As a daily foundation exercise, I suggest taking courses in a variety of subjects. You may want to combine the following into your course-load: Mathematics, Philosophy, Literature, Cognitive Sciences and Religious Studies. The age of the polymath isn’t dead; in fact, it’s what will separate you from the specialized machines that are now present in our workplace. Learn and apply a variety of disciplines to your educational experience.
Take special note that the above steps will allow you to acquire an Ivy League education, but not an Ivy League experience. The experience is founded on the relationships you meet while at school. Essentially, this is the main, if not only, value that universities offer today.
Let’s circle back
Let’s move back to the beginning with the question of hiring an Ivy League grad or high school grad. Now, I’ll give you some more background and insight into this question.
If you were in my shoes, within the entrepreneurship realm, which candidate would you rather hire:
- St. Peter’s Prepatory Academy
- Harvard University
- Harvard Business School
- No real work experience
- Wanting $120k per year
- Managed twenty people
- Failed at two startups
- Succeeded at one startup, and succeeded big. She, herself, generated $400k annually for startup
- Autodidact in cross-disciplinary subjects including mathematics, marketing, literature, computer science and architecture from MIT, Stanford and eight other schools while working.
Don’t make the same mistake I made; if you’re an entrepreneur, you know which one you’d pick: Candidate #2.
- Startl makes it their job to identify and enhance the future of learning
- Fred Wilson, a visionary venture capitalist on Hacking Education
- Sir Ken Robinson on how school kills creativity
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