Three years ago I was in the midst of my second year of college — an average student by many standards — trying not to panic about the mess that was my personal life, and nervously deliberating on a crucial decision that could potentially make or break my future.
This was unfamiliar territory for me.
Since my Junior summer of high school I was determined to become an emergency medical doctor. I had prepared for it, planned for it, and invested significant intellectual and financial resources into it. I became a National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine alumni, an American Cancer Society assistant researcher, a registered CNA by the age of 18, and even shadowed an emergency physician at Northwestern.
Since sixteen I was absolutely convinced that this was my destiny; my life’s path.
Yet, in the midst of college, life was slapping me in the face.
My grades were average, I was working a terrible job with low wages and poor working conditions, there was little inspiration in the immediate environment, medicine was no longer my passion (which was a crisis, because for once, I didn’t have the answers) and everyone I looked up to who had all the results I wanted in life — control of time, money and the freedom to do whatever, or be wherever they wanted — either dropped out of university or skipped it altogether.
From the standpoint of tradition, I was supposed to lay low and find my answers in the classroom.
I was supposed to discover that my desire to be completely debt free, make more money than I needed and fulfill my life’s dreams by doing things (besides work) that I love — like travel and explore the world — would come through a degree and a ‘good job.’
However, in this existential crisis, profound and prescient answers came to me intuitively, pointing away from tradition; away from the classroom.
Staring unfamiliarity and uncertainty in the face, I began my introduction into the world of business and publishing — my newfound passion.
After starting a moderately successful ghostwriting venture in college and moving onto technology startups, I was struck by the ennui of the lecture hall: rote, repetitive, theoretical, 98% of the information useless or unrelated to my future. Juxtapose that against the saturating, sensational journey of trying to create a platform which could eliminate those financial obstacles and help me fulfill my dreams from nothing, without a knowledge of how to do it, and learning in real time.
Like many of the people I began to admire — Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Ryan Holiday, Sean Carter, Curtis Jackson — learning and applying lessons without school became a habitual theme. As a child Musk read 10 hours a day; in one year I read over 50 books, learning more about the world than in over 12 years of education.
So after much prayer and listening to my gut, I unofficially dropped out my sophomore year (2014): I just stopped going to class because I was happily busy working on my business.
Fast forward just over three years later, and I’ve successfully published my first book (Disruptive Change), and am in the process of publishing the second (this year!) along with a platform focusing on the future of Millennials.
Nevertheless, in between that time there have been many failures (including that tech startup), twists’ and turns (6 different jobs, damaged friendships, overdrawn bank accounts), unforeseen obstacles and circumstances.
Yet, like our predecessors before us, one would have to be a fool to throw away the journey and its powerful lessons, because like them, we are innately driven by an impetus to have ownership over our lives (and thereby freedom) and understand that the traditional vehicle of a university education is not the means to get there; especially for a fundamentally shifting global economy.
‘You should stay in school,’ many people argue, ‘the statistics support that young people with at least a bachelor’s degree acquire better jobs and earn more than those without one.’
While this may be true statistically, for the next generation of entrepreneurs (or would-be-entrepreneurs) — anyone whose goal is financial freedom — there are too many instances where this traditional notion is contradicted in the real world.
For example, as of 2016, the average college graduate has at least $37,172 in loan debt — this is up 6% from last year; not accounting for other factors as inflation, changes in interest rates, cost of living, Millennials average asset/debt ratio, etc.
And as of now, there are some serious indicators (51% underemployment among Millennials and the percentage of graduates living at home, the highest since 1940) which allude that the traditional path — of go to college, select ‘the right major’, get a good job — are not means to an end for those who want control of time and money in a 21st century economic environment.
Questioning the value of modern education and its payoff is not something new, and we’re not the first one’s to speculate on its utility.
Nevertheless, what we’re seeing — and what Disruptive Change explains — is that there is something very fundamental at the very core of our existence that is changing; shifts that go beyond isolated incidents.
In this case, we are entering an economic environment in which just having a ‘good job’ isn’t enough to get by, where some form of micro-entrepreneurship (especially consulting) is the key to success — don’t take our word for it, people have been talking about this for decades. And for the next generation’s long-term well-being, they must be re-educated to acquire the financial literacy not taught in schools.
This isn’t some temporary trend, Millennials have already started twice as many businesses as their parents, and have been unofficially labeled the ‘true entrepreneur generation’; who recognize that the true success promised by university advertising will require them to be more entrepreneurial and independent than previous generations.
As part two of The Futurist Series, we’ve begun a new project by investigating what role a secondary education plays in the 21st century, to question if school really equips the next generation to handle the century’s challenges and whether it augments their raw potential or limits them:
- Is traditional education the only way financial freedom in the changing global economy?
- Who will have the most economic advantages in the next decade; the entrepreneur or the employee?
- Does traditional education really lead to the fulfillment of one’s full potential?
- What happens to the future of nations if the state of modern education doesn’t change?
These are the big questions of 2017. Times have changed and so should we. It is our belief that the apparent “disruptive” changes affecting popular business and media culture are merely tips of the iceberg. If the next generation wishes to succeed in the new world, they will need a new path. And for us, that path may lead us to drop out.