Like most students, I ditch classes sometimes. Unlike most, I ditched classes to listen to successful entrepreneurs speak, attend the live stream of TechCrunch Disrupt, or participate in self-development events featuring people who have created the outcomes in their own lives that I want to see in mine.
My college experience was far from normal.
I went to events where extraordinary people were speaking at. I wanted to learn from the best in the world. And I was fortunate enough to speak with, meet, or listen to:
- Former U.S. President, Bill Clinton
- Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak
- Noted investor, Warren Buffett
- Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates
- PayPal Co-founder and respected Venture Capitalist, Peter Thiel
- CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt
- CEO of Morgan Stanley, James Gorman
- Owner of The Washington Wizards and former President of AOL, Ted Leonsis
- Renowned Peak Performance Strategist, Tony Robbins
- Social Media Expert, Gary Vaynerchuk
- Former White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney
- Former Secretary of Commerce, Carlos M. Gutierrez
In an average semester, I flew out to attend two self-development seminars and read at least ten personal development books to expand my horizons. (Some seminars unfortunately overlapped with my exam schedules, but we will save these stories for later.)
Lest you think I just “phoned it in” on the academic front: while I’m definitely not the valedictorian, I made sure my parents smiled when they saw my name on Dean’s List every semester.
I believe you shouldn’t let school interfere with your education once you identify exactly what you want to learn. To illustrate, let me tell you the story of how I skipped the entire final exam period during my first semester in college. Before anyone starts to scream, here’s the story. During my freshman year, I badly wanted to go to Tony Robbins’ “Date with Destiny” seminar because I had heard many different successful people claim that it is a life-changing experience. I even met one MIT person who told me that he learned more about life in six days at the seminar than in 4 years of MIT. Since I already had some good experiences with Tony, I set my heart on going to the event. Then I found out that this annual six-day event took up six out of the eight days of my finals period. What a coincidence. I was very frustrated trying to make this impossible situation work.
After talking to professors and working on my schedule extensively, I ended up in three classes that had final papers and two classes with professors who agreed that I could take my their exams early. In the end, I experienced Date with Destiny, the most powerful, profound, life-changing six days of my life. My story might be a little extreme, but it also shows that with careful planning, you can do amazing out-of-the-box things that might seem crazy to traditional college students.
If you are curious about Date with Destiny, watch this 2-minute video. Fun fact: the Date With Destiny I went to is the event where they filmed the documentary “I Am Not Your Guru,” which is available on Netflix. You can watch the film and decide if it was worth it for me to go.
I want to encourage you to raise the bar and start to go to conferences and seminars. First, because immersion is the best way to learn. Second, you will make great connections with people who are also humble, driven, and share similar interests. Third, you might meet your future mentors. The psychological distance at conferences and seminars is one of the shortest, because you are attending alongside the people who are much more successful than you; you are all in the audience together.
I have spent more than 1,500 hours at seminars and conferences. In addition to the incredible content I have learned, I made some of my best friends, mentors, and connections there. I have skipped classes and exams to go to seminars, because I know which one gives me more value and growth for the time spent.
Embark on this journey of being humble AND hungry, you might discover a different “you,” if not a different world.