21 Lessons by 21: #10 Do not dropout of school. Do not quit your job.
Stop the mainstream media craze.
On January 18, 2016, just a few days before I was heading back to university for another semester of study, I called up my mentor bursting out in tears: « that’s it! I am sick of all this. All of the signs are conspiring against me. Nothing seems to work. I’m in the wrong environment, I really need to move out, leave, risk it but at least have a chance. I cannot get anything done. School is killing me. It’s a total waste of money. I already feel like I’ve flushed 3 years worth of my life down the toilet. I just want to be thrown out into the wild and show the world what I can do. »
He calmed me down, and said: « Listen Samia, everywhere you go in the world, whether it be Morocco, Germany, or even Japan, people will always remain credit-crazy. A diploma isn’t your personal proof of education or intelligence, but it’s a passport for opportunity-making. »
Fast forward a year later, I had no chance to enter Germany if I didn’t bring a solid proof of the recognition of my university degree — which I did, and still it took a number of months for them to process.
Yes, people get around, but many doors are closed because of the education you fail to receive. I could argue in another piece the many advantages and disadvantages of having a college education, but that is another argument. The point of this one is:
There is no need to go against an institutionalized system that goes back to hundreds of years ago, as a more effective way to classify, categorize and rank people based on systemic references.
The « successful » friends I have who made it without a degree are either particularly skillful and are, in most of cases, offering their services as as freelance work on or off-line, or inheriting their family business. And the ones that I don’t personally know, which are making it to the headlines of Forbes lists, created groundbreaking value for a critical mass through an innovative solution.
But just before you start making any hasty conclusions, I would like to point out to 2 things here:
While it’s true there are successful college dropouts, statistically speaking, they are not the norm. In a recent study, 11,745 US leaders were examined, including CEOs, federal judges, politicians, multi-millionaires and billionaires, business leaders and the most globally powerful men and women. It was found out that only 94% of them actually attended college, from which 50% graduated from elite schools.
Now if 94% can associated with these leaders, what % rate of success can we fathom for an ambitious lambda dropping out of university somewhere in the middle of the Atlas Mountains in North Africa? Clearly, the school itself is not just a differentiator, but the environment as well . (Bill Gates wouldn’t have been Bill Gates if he was born somewhere in African Savannahs — Read Outliers from Malcolm Gladwell)
Being in charge of your own financial/economic destiny is not for everyone. Not everyone is able to determine if they can get work done without a schedule or boss. Being your own boss seems to me like what everyone is looking forward to become until you realized you’re not getting your work done, and you’re not making money to make ends meet. For some time, I was really wondering why many people were complaining about their work and still not doing anything about it or deciding to do their own thing. For some, the idea crossed their mind a few times but they didn’t seem to be proactive at all. Instead, they are content, leading lives punching a clock from 9 to 5 in a blue collar job.
The hard truth here is that: there are people that need schedules to follow on a day to day basis. They need a boss to tell them what to do and guide them through. They need the pressure of supervision and external accountability to really be of any use.
So being self-aware about this personality trait that varies from one person to another helps a lot in determining the path you choose.
Now the second thing I often heard and read extensively on mainstream media is the famous maxim to « Quit your job » that any experienced person would call utter sense-less BS.
No. NO. and a categoric NO. You do not quit your job and pursue your passion. I don’t know what sort of brainwashing is this and how many people actually fall for this trap (probably a lot of millennials at this point).
You don’t quit your job and suddenly you hit the life jackpot. That’s plain stupid. You still have to pay rent and make ends meet (unless you have the luxury to live with your parents).
Instead, you go to your day-to-day job, come back home at night and work on whatever idea or small business you’re passionate about. Your savings will help for the initial costs of your startup and while you do breakeven, that’s when you decide to leave your job. An analogy could be drawn here about college dropouts and understand that they only did because they had a good idea before that was already functioning well before they left.
But that’s for the extreme. If you were to ask for my opinion, I am not content with a single source of income. In Morocco, the saying goes like: « don’t put all your eggs in one basket ». Successful and well-off people you see on your screen have on average 7 to 8 businesses/income-revenues sources. And for that I would say that if you lose your job, you need to get another one for the time being and work on getting multiple revenue streams. Keep your day job, not because you love your job, but just to know that you have a backup (and you probably also should become addicted to having backups in that sense). When shit hits the ceiling, you won’t be cold and starving out in the streets on a November night.
This is not to say you shouldn’t drop out, or quit your job. This is an invitation to do a cost-benefit analysis, evaluate alternatives, and make a thoughtful decision you will be the only one to hold yourself accountable for.