So I dropped out of school yesterday…
I had it all figured out. Until I didn’t.
It was senior year of high school and I was excited for college. It wasn’t the school itself I was excited about. I’d actually been rejected by all of the schools I wanted to go to. UNC, Georgetown, University of Virginia, even Wake Forest, all believed that I didn’t deserve a spot in their communities. The rejection letter from UNC Chapel Hill was the most gut wrenching. It was my dream to be a Tar Heel. Instead I was relegated to The College of William & Mary, a smaller liberal arts school in Virginia. Truthfully, I really only applied because my mom’s boyfriend insisted on it and it was a common application school, meaning it would only take a few minutes to apply. It wasn’t the school I was hoping for but it was still college, and I was ready, ready to get away from home for once, to start my own journey where I could find out what’s best for me, on my own. Where I could take control of my life. In August, only having seen the school once before AFTER accepting my offer, I set off on a 6 hour journey down to Williamsburg.
While I may have not gotten the school quite right, I still knew, or at least though I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it. In the years leading up to college I became deeply interested in finance, the stock market in particular. My mom is an ED at Morgan Stanley, so I had been around Wall Street for as long as I could remember. At the age of 13 I had purchased my first stock, Ford Motor Company. Immediately afterwards I was intoxicated by it all. I began reading the Wall Street Journal regularly, watching CNBC, and researching companies. When I stepped foot on campus I had the whole thing planned out. I was going to study finance in the Mason School of Business in preparation for a career in Wealth Management. Maybe it was because my mom’s boyfriend was in the business, but I loved the idea of managing wealthy individuals money. As a result I did all that I could to prepare myself for such a career, more than anyone else I’ve ever met my age. I immediately joined the school’s investment club, one of the only freshman, I attended every finance-centric event Mason put on, did an 8 hour long seminar on valuation modeling, and studied the Bloomberg terminal in my free time. I was researching companies in my spare time, riffling through 10-K’s, reading book’s like Ben Graham’s Intelligent Investor, and even began self-managing a stock portfolio consisting of my life’s savings.
I was so caught up in this vision of my future self. I could foresee myself in a crisp suit walking into my swank Manhattan office, carrying the newspaper, getting ready for another day as a Master of the Universe. When people would ask me what I wanted to do, I took pride in fact that I could explain my life’s course to them with certainty. Friends were jealous of this fact, my heir of certainty, that I had figure it all out. I was doing all of the “right things.” This went on for about 18 straight months. I was everything I had hoped I would be, until I wasn’t.
I was so caught up in this vision of my future self.
There’s another side to my childhood/personality that I haven’t explained up to this point. Sure I was one of the only 13 year olds buying and selling stocks. But way before that I was something else. A creative young entrepreneur. Whereas my mom instilled in me the interest in finance and seeking a safe comfortable life, it was my dad, and entrepreneur himself, that was likely genetically responsible for my creativity, risk appetite, and innate business acumen. My childhood was filled with a laundry list of business ventures and creative problem solving ideas. At age 5 I was running a general store-like stand outside of my house every weekend, looking to make a quick buck out of anything I could find in my house. Of course there was the staple lemonade, but I would also grab the puddings and yogurts in the fridge, in addition to the chips in the pantry. Additionally, I would repackage the tissues from around the house, wrap them in paper, label them, and resell them as to-go tissues at a mark up. I was pretty crafty for a little guy. With costs running at $0 I couldn’t lose (well, my parents were losing, but anyway, moving forward). From there I moved onto the more alluring world of baseball cards., buying, selling, and trading them on the internet through online forums, eBay, and Youtube (looking back, we, trading card collectors, were probably some of the first people on Youtube). I learned so much through that about negotiating, selling, and marketing, things I still use today. Sprinkled in throughout these ventures were my ideas. First it was the butter stick, a glue stick like apparatus to apply butter, then a spring loaded pizza table to keep pies warm and out of sight, then on to protein ice cream, hitting the big protein trend before anyone cared, and many many more in between.
These things came naturally to me. But something happened in the months leading up to college and then further on up until second semester of sophomore year. I totally suppressed my inner desire to create, to be the entrepreneur I was born to be. Instead, as outlined above, I got sucked into the world of finance. Finance became an artificial passion of mine that I fabricated for myself as a means of ensuring stability, predictability, and societal significance. I had become someone satisfied with the inevitability of a 9 to 5 job, money hungry, failing to find ways to provide value to the world. I was becoming someone I didn’t like or want to be, straying further and further away from my true self.
Finance became an artificial passion of mine that I fabricated for myself as a means of ensuring stability, predictability, and societal significance.
It all changed one afternoon, second semester sophomore year, when I got a call from a high school buddy while at the gym. He had an idea for a new mobile app. It was to be a location-based social network. To help people find others like them looking to do the same things as them. It was to match people with common interests, bringing a world that is pushed further away from interaction due to technology, closer together again for real interaction. Although I did really love the idea, there was something more that was getting me so excited. It was the re-ignition of my entrepreneurial spirit, a rekindling of my inner purpose. I knew that I had to go all in on this app with my friend. Success or failure, it didn’t matter, it was the entrepreneurial process that I was enthralled by and I needed to get back in on it. Together we spent the next 8 months getting the app built out, amassing a social media following, and building anticipation. On July 1st, in between sophomore and junior year, we finally launched Clique on the app store. It was one of the greatest feelings in the world, it brought me back to my entrepreneurial childhood where I had created and distributed things that brought people value. I had been re-exposed to those emotions again and I couldn’t possibly turn back.
The feeling was invigorating and I wanted more. My passion was let loose and wouldn’t be reined in for anyone or anything. After Clique, we started another business together, a custom textile printing company cheapcustomprinting.com. The challenge of marketing a company that sells something as boring as custom flags had, counter-intuitively, been a ton of fun. I had been aligned with my life’s purpose again and this time I wasn’t veering off.
I had been aligned with my life’s purpose again and this time I wasn’t veering off.
However, all while this is going on I am getting set to return to school for my junior year. My anti-traditional education thoughts were starting to percolate again and the feeling towards dropping out was becoming harder to ignore. With those things in mind, I decided anyway to suck it up and go back. Fall semester junior year I formally started in the business school (although I had taken man classes in advance, remember I was an eager finance student). My schedule was filled with classes like business ethics, money & debt markets, and intro to marketing. The majority of my time in these classes was spent on my phone or laptop, answering business emails, doing graphic design for our marketing, or discussing orders and the app with my partner. Focusing on class was becoming a huge challenge, besides the material was so basic, I felt like I was wasting my time. I had learned a multitude more practical information through self-teaching (reading and the internet) as well as through actual business experience. The classes just seemed so basic and outdated, I couldn’t take it much longer. And not only that, now that I had made the all-important decision that finance wasn’t for me, the classes simply had no influence on what I wanted to do in the future. As time went on I continued to shift my attention away from school and more towards my life and finding personal fulfillment, doing not what I was supposed to do but what I thought would benefit me most going forward. As a result, some of my grades began to fall as I found the material less and less relevant, therefore not worth my time. I couldn’t take much more, but the holidays were coming up, maybe some time to decompress over winter break would change my mind.
Winter break did nothing of the sort; instead it pushed me further away from school, in the best possible way. The first day back for break I was on a plane headed for Miami to help my dad with his travel package for the New York Giants Game vs. the Dolphins (He runs a company called Big Blue Travel). On this trip I was introduced to ex-NFL punter and current fitness entrepreneur Steve Weatherford, whom I spent a day training and talking with. We hit it off due to our mutual passion for fitness as well as business and social media. We made plans to workout again together when we got back home to New Jersey a few days later. One workout, turned into two, and two turned into three, and all of a sudden we were spending essentially all of our waking hours together training, hanging out, and discussing business ideas. The cross-roads of business and fitness has been a really great spot for me as my passion for both keeps me motivated non stop and finding someone like Steve who shares those passions has been refreshing. Very rarely do I find people who can keep up with the speed of my thoughts (for better or worse) and Steve is one of those guys. We share a mutual appreciation for each other.
As time progressed we began to discuss the opportunity of us joining forces where I could help him build up his personal brand in new and creative ways and eventually use that to build businesses with the purpose of motivating and inspiring others through fitness and nutrition. It was finally all coming together for me, I had found a role for me that I could utilize my strengths, take ownership of, and follow my life’s purpose (by the way, check out the book The Alchemist, it talks a lot about pursuing your life’s purpose).
I had found a role for me that I could utilize my strengths, take ownership of, and follow my life’s purpose.
But the next semester was approaching fast, and as you can imagine I was dreading going back, yet I hadn’t quite made a decision. It wasn’t until a trip to the British Virgin Islands that dropping out seemed like a real option. However, this wasn’t just any trip to the Caribbean, this was a trip to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and it just so happened that Richard Branson was staying on island with us. It was surprising/refreshing how accessible Richard made himself. Almost everyday Richard and his family would eat breakfast with ours. Naturally, Richard and I started to connect due to our shared entrepreneurial spirit. Immediately he recognized that within me. Progressively we spent more and more time with each other, him inviting me to paddle board sessions around the island and me challenging him to a match of tennis (he kicked my ass). As we got more comfortable with each other we began to discuss more personal topics like family, life, and my future. When we got to the portion on my future we talked a lot about school and what role it would play for someone like me. Ultimately Richard’s advice was that if you are someone like me with innate entrepreneurial drive, aware of your life’s purpose, and have an idea or opportunity ready to be worked on, you/I shouldn’t waste any time and get out of school as soon as possible; school serves no purpose for specific individuals like me (and him 50 years prior).
That was just what I needed to hear at exactly the right time. When I returned from our trip to Necker I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole situation. I was tired of school, I had a real opportunity to pursue outside of school, and a stamp of approval from one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.
So that’s where I am at now. I drove down to my school yesterday, hung out with some of my good friends and then submitted my request for withdrawal. Will what I’m doing ultimately end up being the most successful choice I could have made. Who knows? But what I do know is that I’ve made the decision that makes me the happiest, and ultimately that’s all that matters!
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I’d love to hear about your journey. What are some decisions you guys have made that have altered the path of your life. Find me on Twitter🐥🐥🐥 @MichaelMartocci, Instagram @MichaelMartocci, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and on Snapchat👻👻👻 — MichaelMartocci, to connect. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to meeting you and hearing your story.