I Love Learning And I Still Dropped Out
Yesterday I hopped off a coaching call with a man from India. His name is Yatin, and I reached out to him because I needed to know more about a marketing campaign I was running for a client. Specifically, I needed to know why it wasn't working as well as I had hoped.
Before the call I wasn't sure what was going wrong with the campaign. I checked all the variables I was aware of and the data just wasn't looking so good. As soon as Yatin and I connected on Skype, everything became clear. He showed me more than 10 different areas of the campaign I hadn't seen. Flaws in my strategy became instantly clear, and so did an action plan that I could implement immediately.
I was on the edge of my seat for the entire call. Every 5 minutes I had a 'knowledge bomb' dropped in my lap. I was learning so quickly that for a good portion of the call I had my head in my hands.
After the call I felt like I had taken part in an 'experience', like a roller coaster at Disneyland. I felt alive and excited to implement what I had learned. I was energized, I was ready to go!
"I Love Learning!" I thought to myself. "When I'm Learning I Have More Fun Than Anything Else!"
Then I realized the irony. Here I was saying "I Loved Learning!"
... but I dropped out of college last year. Don't people who love learning go to college?
Is leaving college what someone who 'loved learning' would do?
College: A System With A Purpose
College is a system. It is a business system built to make money and serve a purpose to it's customers.
The System includes teachers, lectures, textbooks, libraries, college counselors, semesters, etc.
The Purpose is to teach information that will help students become well-rounded individuals and prepare them to enter the world of work and career.
My opinion is that the system for teaching is extremely outdated. Shuffling 300 students into a lecture hall is a terrible way to teach, and it was a horrible way for me to learn. Massive textbooks put you to sleep, and you don't get to actually apply anything you're learning until after you graduate and get your first job.
That's assuming you will use the information you learn in school anyway. Right now, I use about 0% of the information I learned in college, and I've got a pretty exciting freelance career and I'm building a business that excites me every day.
I use none of my biology class information. (I didn't even use it when I worked in a biology lab)
I pay an accountant to manage what I learned in accounting class.
My marketing class didn't talk about Facebook or Adwords marketing.
New System, Same Purpose
Most of college can be replaced. 'Learning' will always be extremely important, but it doesn't need to be tied to the college campus. I didn't learn well in the college system, but I love learning. That's why I left.
The purpose of learning has always been to prepare an individual for life, but there will be new ways to go about learning that replace the old.
Coaches - Coaches are paid to teach you information that they have an expertise in. In college, professors are supposed to fill this role. The difference is that often, professors don't have much first-hand experience and often the material isn't related to anything you really need to know. When you hire a coach it's because they are an expert, know their field well, and you need to learn right now. (That's why I hired Yatin)
Mentors - Mentors are supposed to keep you on track. Their wisdom helps you avoid dangers, plan ahead, and make good long-term decisions. Mentors are the equivalent of college counselors, who are people meant to help guide you through your years in school so that you arrive at the end without failing class and with potential for a good career. I have a few business mentors. They are people I look up to, they keep me on track, and they inspire me to keep plugging ahead.
Books - In college you're told to read textbooks. They're packed with information, but once again... how relevant is this information to your life? I don't think any of the textbooks I've read for class have been that beneficial, even when they contained lots of information that took years to compile. In contrast, the non-textbook books that I've read have revolutionized my thinking and actions. I read a book called 'The Richest Man In Babylon' and 6 months later went from $0 in savings to over $10,000. (Incredibly, over 50% of Americans, many of whom went college, have less than $1,000 in savings.)
Groups, Conferences, MeetUps - A big reason to go to college is because you can connect with other 'educated' individuals, and then use those connections to help you out later in life. You meet them through class, clubs, sports, and fraternities. There are many more ways to find like-minded individuals. You can join online groups with people who have similar goals. You can attend conferences, you can message people on LinkedIn, you can even join co-living spaces and share a house with really, really cool people. Unless you're at an 'elite' university, and sometimes even if you are, the campus crowd isn't anyone you'd want to 'network' with anyway. I recently spent some time at a $40,000 per year institution where drunk teenagers in wife-beaters were getting high, flipping trashcans, and shouting at the top of their lungs. Is this the crowd worth paying to hang out with?
Special Experiences - Some colleges pride themselves on the special 'extras' they offer. Some mention their great study abroad program as a justification for the massive price-tag. (As if you couldn't fill out a visa application on your own.) Others, like Northeastern University, ($50,000 per year) mention the cool internships they'll help you get so you can have real 'on-the-job' training. You can find these programs on your own. I got a marketing position at a resort in the Philippines by sending an email to the guy who owned the resort. In addition to learning about marketing, I went scuba diving and sailing around the island. I have a friend who similarly got an amazing job (one of the coolest I'd ever heard of) by tweeting at the company CEO. This is more common than you might expect.
I Love Learning
I love learning, but I didn't love learning inside the college system. It's methods feel archaic, the results are dismal, and the cost is astronomical. An entire generation is being crushed by debt and has nothing to show for it. (40% are behind on their payments) They're also losing time; time that could be spent doing something much, much more educational. There are ways to replace college that leave you just as prepared, if not more prepared, for life as an adult.
I didn't love college, but I love learning. Maybe you feel the same. When information is relevant and has clear value, learning feels like entertainment. Education can be extremely stimulating, but for some of us the 'college' method doesn't work.
For me, college wasn't fun. But education is fun, and I'm reminded of that fact every time I jump on a coaching call, talk to a mentor, attend a conference, or open a new book.