“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Since the very beginning of my college career, everyone seemed to agree that I needed to get my MBA. My advisors heavily encouraged it my freshman and sophomore years, and my family agreed, getting my MBA was the smartest move for me. In college, I heard all the time that a bachelor’s degree is becoming commonplace. In today’s modern world, they are almost like a high school diploma; it seems like everyone has a four-year degree. To get ahead in the world I needed to get a master’s degree. But even early on, I knew deep down that path wasn’t for me.
My first reason, was that I was burnt out from school. I had absolutely no more motivation to continue on with formal education. I’m a very competitive person, so I always viewed school as an environment to compete with my peers, rather than actually focus on learning. After having a 4.0 GPA my entire schooling career, that challenge eventually wasn’t a challenge for me anymore. When I got to college, I was forced to focus on the learning itself. I started actually paying attention to the learning environment, and I realized I wasn’t learning anything. Rarely was I ever engaged in the class lesson; it’s hard to be engaged when you’re sitting in a room and being talked at for an hour and a half. Homework was always frustrating, tests were extremely stressful, and I was forcing myself to get up and even make it to class every single day. That was not an environment I wanted to be in any longer than I needed to be.
I also wanted to be an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, my greatest heroes were Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. All of which dropped out of college. I used to tell myself, if I graduate college, I will consider myself a failure. I thought that way because I wanted to start a company that would free me from the traditional ways of life, such as school. Some of the most successful business people in the world did not get their MBA, and I felt like I didn’t need one either. There are no requirements to be an entrepreneur. It’s not necessary to have a master’s degree, as long as you’re capable of building a successful company. That was the only realization I needed. Entrepreneurship to me is an entirely different education in itself. It’s practical, experiential learning, and the only way to learn and succeed is to work hard and constantly take action. That’s what I love about it, and in that sense it’s a stark contrast to getting an MBA. Acting on my dreams seemed to be the more appealing path to me.
Finally, I value self-education substantially more than formal education. Jim Rohn once said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” What I remember most from college, and what was most valuable for me, were my professors and my peers. I learned the most not in class, but from going to the professor’s office after class. Sometimes we would talk about the class lesson, but most of the time we would talk about life. In those talks, I truly grew as a person. My peers gave me an entire life’s worth of education about people. I was able to see the diversity of everyone around me; I saw the vastly different things people were motivated by; I learned how to interact with people from all walks of life; and I realized the importance of relationships and being genuine. That was all learned outside of class. I also realized the power of books, especially the power of books not used in school. I started to see that through books, I could learn any subject in the world, all by myself.
I eventually decided that I couldn’t live my life according to the opinions of everyone else. People are quick to share their opinions, and we’re quick to take those opinions to heart. Getting my MBA was always something I had zero interest in doing, and the people around me still almost managed to talk me into it. Does that make any sense…to pay thousands of dollars to do something I had absolutely no desire to do just to please those around me? I think there’s power in not doing the things you don’t want to do. Finding that power helps you realize that we each have the final decision in our own lives. At the end of the day, what you want is the only thing that truly matters.