Choose Yourself Over These 3 Dream Crushers…
Before you can choose yourself you have to stop chasing the dreams of your parents and peers. Here are 3 of the most holy pillars of the American dream. If you are looking for icons to tear down…start here.
go to school, get a job, buy a house
- Part One – (You Are Here) – Why College Is No Longer the Best Option, Plus 40 Life Enhancing Alternatives.
- Part Two – 10 Reasons You Should Quit Your Job…
- Part Three – Why I Would Rather Shoot Myself in the Head Than Own a Home…
from James Altucher
I have two messages.
One for kids and one for parents.
FOR KIDS: You’re worthless. That’s what they are telling you.
If you don’t go to college you will “ruin your life”. You will “not have a job”. You will “be a [name the worst possible job you can imagine here]”.
We’ll get more into it later, how you will have the most amazing life you can possibly imagine.
But let’s first look at their agendas. And when I say they, I mean: your friends, your parents, colleges, the government, future bosses. They all have agendas that have nothing to do with you being smarter, more social, or happier. You friends want you to go to college because they are going to college, so they want to rationalize their decisions. Your parents want you to go to college because they have their own feelings of worthlessness and are projecting that onto you. Why else would they want to force you to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to somehow “have the life they never had.”
And I’m not being critical of them. I love your parents. They raised you. They got you to this point. We’ll deal with them in a bit. Don’t worry about them.
Colleges of course want you go to college. College tuition has gone up 10 times since 1977. Inflation has gone up 3 times. Healthcare has gone up 5 times. We had a national debate about healthcare a year or so ago. But no national debate about tuition costs despite it being one of the most important life decisions you will ever make and you are being forced at gunpoint to make it at such a tender age.
Your future bosses. They think they are worthless also. But what gave them a tiny ounce of worth was that they have a piece of paper on their wall that says they spent four years drinking and screwing around and getting in debt and more or less surviving. So they want some justification that their decisions were correct. So who are they going to hire: the person who helps them feel good about themselves for about half a micro-second, or you – who calls into question all of their feelings about self-worth, about existence itself.
The US Government. Why would they care if you go to college? Student loan debt is now higher than a trillion for the first time. Student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt for the first time. Student loan debt is BACKED by the US Government. Who makes money when you go to college? The US Government. Get yourself into indentured servitude. They don’t care! Wow!
That’s a lot of people, institutions, and governments you have to take care of. And you’re only 18. I feel for you. Don’t worry. We’re going to make it better.
Please, for god’s sake, ask yourself these questions:
A) Do I want to go into taking on my child’s debt after he graduates college? Because you might have to.
B) Do I want to go into debt by promising my kid college when he doesn’t want to go into debt?
C) The average student takes five years to go to college. That’s a long time. We don’t know how long we will live. That’s a big chunk of our lifespan. And your kids have already spent 12 years sitting at desks, taking tests, being around kids of the same ethno-demographic. Do they really need another four years of that? Is that such a great thing?
D) I ask you: name me, really, ten things you learned in college? Now, name me 3 things you actually used after college in your jobs?
E) Finally, wouldn’t it be great if your kid can have a better education, have a better time, maybe make more money, be in less debt, make more friends, make more connections, develop more skills, become more mature, and all the time you save more money? This is not a dream question asked by a genie. This is reality. This is a real question because it can and should happen.
Let’s do a little FAQ (frequently asked questions).
I got a lot of hate mail after I first started writing that our children shouldn’t go to college.
You can imagine.
I got death threats even. And it was quite annoying. I don’t like getting death threats. I get scared.
But it shows me that what is touching on a core fabric of our society. The American religion that says “kids must get a college education”.
And I got a lot of questions:
Q: James, you went to college. So how can you tell your kids not to?
A: It’s precisely because I went to college that I am most qualified. None of my jobs afterwards made use of anything I learned in college. My professors were boring and none of them were people I wanted to look up to or mentor me. And I saw exactly what was going on in college while thousands of kids parents were paying up to $40k (now $70k) a year when you include room, board, books, travel, etc.
Q: What about the statistic that was PROVEN in study after study that kids who went to college make more money 20 years later than their counterparts that did not go to college?
A: First off: the study is completely fake and anyone who took Statistics 101 in college knows that but I’ll get to that in a second. Think about 20 years ago. College was cheaper. There weren’t as many reasons NOT to go. And there weren’t as many alternatives as they are now.
So what did smart, ambitious kids do? They went to college. What did kids who did not feel as ambitious do? They didn’t go to college. so the study has what is called “Selection Bias”.
They assumed they had one audience in their group that they were testing (people who went to college) but, in fact, they really had a completely different group (smart, ambitious kids versus not-as-ambitious kids).
A true test would be to take 2000 kids accepted by a wide variety of colleges. Then say to half the kids, “You can NEVER go to college”. And then 20 years see who made more income. My guess is the group that did not go to college. How come? Because they would have a five year head start.
They would not be required to study a bunch of classes they didn’t want to take in the first place and would never remember, and they would have the enormous gift of not having to be perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Or even tens of thousands of dollars in debt is still too much for a 23 year old.
I’m going to give you forty alternatives to college.
They are all going to be exciting and wonderful opportunities where my criteria were:
– You learn.
– You make friends.
– You learn about life.
– You get a head start on learning what you might be passionate about.
– For the first time you experience things you never experienced before and would perhaps never get the chance to experience again.
– You spend less money than college would’ve cost you.
– You learn things that were never taught in college (and I’ll describe first what those items are since they are extremely important in being successful later on. Better to learn them early than later).
So, here they are: 40 Alternatives to College
1- START A BUSINESS
Before I describe this I want to answer the first two questions that immediately come up:
a) not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. I agree with that. Failure is a horrible thing. But we all face it in one form or other throughout our lives. There’s nothing wrong with an 18 year old failing and learning to get through that. But being an entrepreneur will teach you how to form ideas, how to sell those ideas to investors, customers, and employees (if you have any), and will teach you a lot about managing limited resources such as money and labor. It will also teach you about negotiation, about execution, and many of the things I mentioned above are not taught in college. This is the college of the streets. And when you have to eat what you kill, you learn extremely fast.
b) Doesn’t it cost money to start a business? Yes. But it’s much less than the money it costs to go to college and the costs of starting a business are going down precisely when the costs of going to college are going up. My last business, Stockpickr, I started for $2500 and I probably could’ve started it for less. I made many times my investment on that. And that was five years ago. It would be cheaper to do now. The Internet has leveled the playing field.
Again, on the “not every kid is Bill Gates” point. Of course that’s a true statement. But there’s no law against being an entrepreneur. In fact, everyone can be an entrepreneur. You don’t need a degree for it. So what they really mean is: “not everyone can be a successful entrepreneur”. And as far as I know, there’s no law against failure either. When someone loses a tennis match or a chess game, how do they improve? They study their loss. As anyone who has mastered any field in life knows: studying your losses is infinitely more valuable than studying your wins.
I failed at my first three attempts at being an entrepreneur before I finally learned how to spell it and I finally had a success (i.e. a company with profits that I was then able to sell).
To summarize: Failure is a part of life. Better to learn it at 18 than at 23 or older when you’ve been coddled by ivory blankets and hypnotized into thinking success was yours for the taking. Get baptized in the river of failure as a youth so you can blossom in entrepreneurial blessings as an adult.
What do you learn when you are young and start a business (regardless of success or failure)? You learn how to come up with ideas that will be accepted by other people. Most kids graduate college with an atrophied idea muscle. Starting a business forces you to exercise that muscle every day. You begin to build your b/s detector (something that definitely does not happen in college). You learn how to sell your idea. You learn how to build and execute on an idea. You meet and socialize with other people in your space. They might not all be the same age but, let’s face it, that’s life as an adult. You just spent 18 years with kids your age. Grow up! You might learn how to delegate and manage people. You learn how to eat what you kill, a skill also not learned by college-goers.
2- TRAVEL THE WORLD
Here’s a basic assignment. Take $10,000 and get yourself to India. Check out a world completely different from our own.
Do it for a year.
You will meet other foreigners traveling. You will learn what poverty is. You will learn the value of how to stretch a dollar. You will often be in situations where you need to learn how to survive despite the odds being against you. If you’re going to throw up you might as well do it from dysentery than from drinking too much at a frat party.
You will learn a little bit more about eastern religions compared with the western religions you grew up with. You will learn you aren’t the center of the universe. Knock yourself out.
3- CREATE ART
Spend a year learning how to paint. Or how to play a musical instrument. Make a band and tour with it. Or write 5 novels.
Learn to discipline yourself to create.
Creation doesn’t happen from inspiration. It happens from perspiration, discipline, and passion.
Creativity doesn’t come from God. It’s a muscle that you need to learn to build. Why not build it while your brain is still creating new neurons at a breathtaking rate than learning it when you are older (and for many people, too late). I didn’t write a novel in college. But I did attempt four novels in my 20s. Did I publish them? No. Did I make a lot of money from them? No. But I learned how to write. And I learned it for free and on my own time while I was working full time jobs. I put in my 10,000 hours writing at a relatively early age. And that virtual apprenticeship has made me a considerable amount of money since then. And I didn’t need college to do it. In fact, college got in the way of starting earlier.
4- MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH
This is the hardest of all. Spend a year learning how to do standup-comedy in front of people.
This will teach you how to write. How to communicate. How to sell yourself. How to deal with people who hate you. How to deal with the psychology of failure on a daily basis. And, of course, how to make people laugh. All of these items will help you later in life much more than Philosophy 101 will. And, by the way, you might even get paid along the way.
5.- WRITE A BOOK
Believe me, whatever book you write at the age of 18 is probably going to be no good. But do it anyway. Write a novel about what you are doing instead of going to college. You’ll learn how to observe people. Writing is a meditation on life. You’ll live each day, interpret it, and write it. What a great education!
6.- WORK IN CHARITY
Plenty of charities do not require you to have a college degree. What is going to serve you better in life: taking French Literature 101 or spending a year delivering meals to senior citizens with Alzheimers, or curing malaria in Africa. I have an answer to this. You might have a different one. And, by the way, if you do any of these items for a year, two years, maybe ten, then maybe go to college? Why not? It’s your life.
7.- MASTER A GAME
What’s your favorite game? Ping pong? Chess? Poker? Learning how to master a game is incredibly hard.
Let’s start with the basics: Study current experts on the game. Videos, books, magazines, etc. Replay, or try to imitate in some way, the current masters of the game. Play a lot: with friends, in tournaments, at local clubs, etc.
Take lessons from someone who has already mastered the game. This helps you to avoid bad habits and gets someone to immediately criticize your current skills. Mastering a game builds discipline lets you socialize with other people of all ages and backgrounds but who have similar passions, and helps you to develop the instincts of a killer without having to kill anyone. Nice!
Once you master one game, it teaches you “how to master” in general. This is an incredibly useful skill to learn. Particularly if you can do it for cheap. A chessboard and some chess books cost a lot less than a college education.
8.- MASTER A SPORT
Probably even better than mastering a game because it’s the same as all of the above but you also get in shape. I look back at myself: I imagine what if I had gone to India and spent a year learning yoga. Amazing!
I would’ve made friends from all over the world, I would’ve gotten in shape, I would’ve been fit and healthy. I almost can’t write these words. It’s so sad for me to see the opportunities I’ve missed.
9.- WANT TO BE A DOCTOR?
Don’t you need a degree? Maybe. But first, how many bad doctors are out there? People with no bedside manners. No compassion. They hear your symptoms, listen to your heartbeat, and then turn to a big reference book to figure out what anti-biotic you need. And, by the way, they overprescribe highly dangerous anti-biotics just to not take any chance. I can do that!
So before you sign up for ten years of hell and a million in debt do this: Volunteer at a hospital, or at a morgue, get in touch with your element, see what they do, how they work, you may find doctors don’t quite know as much as you thought they did, you may find you don’t like being vomited on. You may find you don’t like changing bed pans. You may find that you weren’t as compassionate for this type of life as you thought. See if you may like to explore Chinese medicine instead which looks at the body in a different way than western medicine and has different costs in training. I’m not making a judgment on which is better. But take your time before making a decision that will change your life forever at the age of 18.
10.- WANT TO BE A LAWYER?
Work as a paralegal, do it for free for a year, see what really goes on in the law firm.
Watch those lawyers working 80 hours a week, sleeping in the office. See the first year associates come in with their huge debts to pay only to find themselves in caucus rooms full of boxes with boring documents that they have to highlight for at least a year or two.
See if you want that. If you truly like legal work there are many ways you can do it without a degree. For instance, set up websites that help people get access to legal advice for cheap. You don’t want to give the advice yourself (because of the scam of legal education, it’s against the law) but you can provide pointers to the basic templates for wills, partnership agreements, divorces, etc. so that people no longer need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on these documents by using lawyers that charge $500 an hour to just fill in some blanks.
Be smart about it. If you love the law, there’s 100 ways to get involved without having to be a lawyer. But first work as an intern in a law firm and see what it’s all about.
11.- DO ANYTHING YOU WANT FOR ONE YEAR
You’ve just worked pretty damn hard from the ages of 4 to 18. Take a break. Go swimming. Lower your expectations about what you need to accomplish so quickly. In the past 100 years lifespans have more than doubled. There’s no rush at the age of 18 to dive into five more years of stress. Take a break. It’s when you lower your expectations that the full range of possibilities becomes open to you. Try it and see what happens, what passions fall your way.
12.- GO TO UNCOLLEGE.ORG
Take courses in things you are interested in. The web is an amazing thing. They didn’t have it when I began college. But there are sites like uncollege.org where you can see a full list of courses being offered online but universities from all over the world. From Stanford to MIT to random courses on just about any topic.
Why not “study” at uncollege.com for free (or cheap, as some of the course cost) and see what really interests you?
Here are some of the college courses offered at uncollege.com:
Stanford Artificial Intelligence Course. Free online course with 140,000+ participants at Stanford.
MIT Open Course Ware. Follow the curriculum guides to get a free MIT education. Various multimedia and resources for each course.
The Open University. 600+ free online classes with exercises. Track progress. Use forum. Intro to advanced classes.
UC Irvine OCW. 190 UC Irvine courses. OCW Consortium. For more Open CourseWare universities, see current members, including 22 U.S. universities and many from around the world. The search engine for finding courses is mediocre.
Harvard Med School OCWI. 115+ Harvard Medical School courses.
Open Yale Courses. 30+ Yale courses, all subjects. Available video and audio are on iTunes and Youtube.
Stanford Engineering Everywhere. 13 Stanford engineering courses. There are also thousands of courses listed that aren’t from the traditional courses but could be even more valuable. For instance, here is a sample list:
Google Code University. Google courses for coding, programming. It’s Google so it has to be good.
Udemy. Attend or create online courses. From free to $250 on any subject. Can include video, PowerPoint, PDFs, audio, and or classes.
Learnable. Attend or create online courses from $10-50 on Web Dev, Tech, Lifestyle, and Business.
TED. Tech Entertainment Design. Presentations of the most innovative ideas from around the world.
Academic Earth. Lecture videos from the best universities in the U.S. Thematically organized into playlists. Also organized by subject and by university.
Khan Academy. 2,400 videos and some practice exercises. Lots of math, some science, some finance, test prep.
13- DO THE DAILY PRACTICE FOR A YEAR AND SEE WHERE IT TAKES YOU
The basic idea is to kick start your health, your idea muscle, your creativity, your motivations, and your spiritual life. The body is not just your muscles and blood and bones. But it’s also your emotions, your brain, your mind, and your ability to give up control over every aspect of the world.
All of these things must work in conjunction to live a healthy, happy, and successful life.
For example, if negative people keep trashing your ideas, insulting you, and dragging you down, then you must consciously move away from them. Not as easy as it sounds and is part of the emotional aspect of the daily practice.
I built a site (to use it is totally free) that allows you to check the boxes each day on the Daily Practice. Not necessarily to measure progress. The key is not to be competing with yourself every day. The key is to be happy. This is what worked for me and still does. And progress is individual for each person.
The basic default goals I put up there are:
PHYSICAL: Exercise How Many Hours Did You Sleep? What Did You Eat Today?
EMOTIONAL: What Negative People Did you ignore What People Did you Connect? What positive people did you bring into your life?
MENTAL: Idea List (with functionality so people can track ideas) What Did You Read Today (not counting media)
SPIRITUAL: What am I grateful for today? What spiritual practice did I do today? These are just starting points. For instance, for myself under “Mental” I put: “Books I am reading today” so I can keep track over time what books I’ve read (or started). I’ve seen over the past 20 years and from probably over 1000 testimonials now, that persistent use of the Daily Practice as a guiding principle (regardless of religion, creed, race, etc.) has a tendency to completely change one’s life every six months. I’ve seen it with me and I continue to see it.
14- TAKE A JOB
Yeah, that’s right. Why wait until 23 when you are $200k in debt. Take one now when you are $0 in debt and see what happens. Doesn’t matter where. Be the janitor at a McDonalds. You’ll learn how to work. You’ll learn about customer satisfaction. You’ll be forced to deal with people who are not like you (and you might not even like). These are skills not taught in college and many people learn them too late in life. Not only that, a job has two other benefits: A) You can rise up and make a lot of money. B) You can see where the gaps are in an industry, which will give you ideas on how to start a business. There’s also the benefit, of course, where you will have money.
15- WRITE A SCRIPT FOR A MOVIE
Go ahead, try it. You won’t be able to do it later. Watch a bunch of horror movies and then write a script for one. Get Syd Field’s book on writing screenplays. It might be a crazy idea. When you are 40! But it’s certainly not a crazy idea right now.
16- DIRECT A DOCUMENTARY ON SOMETHING YOU ARE INTERESTED IN
For instance, do you like baseball? Track down everyone who has caught the baseballs of record-breaking hits: Babe Ruth’s homerun record, Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter’s hitting record, etc. I’m making this up off the top of my head. I hate baseball. But a documentary like this has a nice arc: with each segment, for instance: what made Ruth such a success, or Aaron, or whoever. Why was the baseball so coveted? Follow its rise in price over the years and see who owns it now and why. Baseballs like this are religious icons in America. Following their path is pure iconography. It’s perfect for documentaries.
Or, if you want to get a documentary on HBO: interview all the prostitutes and call girls in your suburb. Anything goes when you are doing a documentary! And, even better, you can do the whole thing on your cell phone! You have to love the Internet and the advances in technology in the past 30 years.
17- AUDITION IN BROADWAY FOR A WHOLE YEAR
See what it takes, how you can do it. Acting is not a bad skill to learn no matter where your life takes you. And you will build friendships and contacts from all walks of life. And you never know, you could be a star!
18- VOLUNTEER GARDENING AROUND YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
You will learn about real estate, about gardens and plants. Shovel snow in the winter. You will learn about your community.
19- BECOME A REAL ESTATE AGENT
See if you have what it takes to sell things. Real estate is probably about to boom no matter what I write about why I personally would never want to own a home again.
Let’s look at a basic fact: there are 300mm people in America. Eventually, there will be 350mm people. That’s 50mm extra houses needed. Why can’t you make money right now selling them? You will learn marketing, sales, interior design, the basics of architecture, and again you never know who you can meet in the process of this that could catapult your career in a completely different direction.
20- TAKE UP YOGA
And I don’t just mean the physical aspects.
Yoga is a way of life that cleanses the body. It’s about nutrition. It’s about being honest. It’s about meditation. It’s about being kind to people. And, getting back to the physical, you will get into BRUTAL shape. Is that such a bad thing to do for a year than spending $50000 going to a school?
Oh, and by the way, if you did yoga for a year you’d probably be able to start teaching it and making some money. And learning how to teach, how to explain basic concepts, how to overcome shyness, are valuable tools not taught in school. Not to mention you might find a business to start: maybe a new kind of yoga clothing.
21- GO TO 4 VIPASSANA MEDITATION RETREATS WITHIN ONE YEAR
They are completely free and brutal. Get to see how your mind works.
Vipassana, which means “seeing things as they are”, is a style of meditation that requires intense sitting and diving into the mind. Observing what it does to you. It’s completely free and there are centers all over the world. A retreat takes ten days. You will learn more in those ten days about your mind and your body than you can learn in six months of college.
22- STUDY WHATEVER IT IS YOU ARE INTERESTED IN. GET IN THE GAME
My two daughters are interested in manga comic books, which is a multi-million dollar industry in Japan. They draw manga characters all the time and come up with stories for them. They know every style. They’ve read books on manga drawing. They’ve read hundreds of manga books.
I would love to give them the opportunity to spend a year studying it at a very deep level. To attempt to master the art. They already know more than any college student about manga drawing. Imagine if I could give them the chance to become among the best in the world at it. Which is what would happen if that was a direction they would choose. For me, it doesn’t matter. But for them, it could be their dreams come true.
23- BECOME A CONNECTOR, MAKE THINGS HAPPEN
You might say, “Well don’t I have to be already big in an industry to connect people”.
Here is what you do: get someone who is an expert in a field you are interested in to agree to give a talk. Let’s say it’s about entrepreneurship. Get a law firm to sponsor it (they would love to – think of all the potential clients in the audience) and use Facebook to market the event. BAM! You’ll meet a million people.
Get everyone in the audience to sign up on an email list. Then hold networking dinners, etc. Your personal network has real value. Networking does happen in college but it is 1/10 the networking you can do on your own.
24) BECOME A PARTY PLANNER
Sweet 16s, Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings. Figure out all the people in your area that offer services for parties. Then offer to organize events for cheap. You can be cheaper than any other planner out there because your personal expenses are cheaper. And, again, the networking you develop will be invaluable. Not to mention: parties are fun.
25- LEARN AND MASTER A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Include a trip at the six month mark so you will see if you are really learning it. I took French for five years in high school and college. I cannot speak to you one word of French. The way to learn a language is to intensely study it 5-7 hours a day and then go to that country and speak it. And you will learn it. Don’t learn French, though. Time to either learn Chinese or Portuguese (Brazil).
26- GRAB WHATEVER IT IS THAT IS BUGGING YOU, BOTHERING YOU, UPSETTING YOU, AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
Are charities wasting too much money on salaries? Do research; write an article, do a blog, a documentary, expose the problem. Here’s another idea for you: there’s a lot of class action lawsuits in this country. Make a website that is a central resource for these. Do lead generation then for the law firms. You can make a lot of money this way. And help a lot of people.
27- BECOME A PERSONALITY
Write articles for all websites that will let you syndicate your work. Just to give you an example: when you are 18 you obviously know all the stars and celebrities that 17 year olds love. Make a blog, syndicate it, write about every piece of news on these celebrities, capture all their twitter feeds, photos, etc. I’m not suggesting you become a Perez Hilton or a paparazzi. Find something you’re interested in, and build a website that makes you the central source about that topic. This teaches you how to build a website. How to do research in the real world (as opposed to research about Oliver Cromwell or whatever you are studying in college), how to distribute your ideas, how to become a better writer and communicator, etc. And maybe you make some money out of it. Worse things have happened.
I know a 17 year old making $5000 a week profit off of his website and just decided not to go to college.
28- WRITE AND PITCH YOUR OWN TV SHOW
TV is not dead as a medium. In fact, it might be just beginning with Hulu and Netflix starting to offer original programming plus 500 cable channels that need new programming.
Every day come up with 10 ideas for TV shows and how you would shoot them. Before you finish your first year of doing this you will have at least several good ideas you can go ahead and shoot. What if you like an existing show? Write a spec script for them and send it in. Hollywood TV studios bring in writers all the time who submit spec scripts. It’s very hard and it’s very competitive but you’re 18. You have time.
29- GO TO MOTIVATIONAL SEMINARS
In every city there are motivational seminars you can attend. You don’t have to spend $5000 to attend a Tony Robbins seminar but you can spend much less and get just as much value from any number of speakers who have been successful in life and now want to transmit that success to you.
That’s valuable information they will be imparting. Imagine year learning from these mentors. Do your research, make sure they are good, put in the time to ensure the message is one that resonates with you and that the teachers have integrity, and then go for it. Learn.
You are off school and 18 for crying out loud! Go canoeing, hiking, anything. When I was 4 years old and about to go off to nursery school for the first time, my dad told me: “first there’s nursery school, then kindergarten, then grades one through twelve, then graduate school, then a job for forty years, then you can retire.” WHAT!? I think I started to cry. I liked my life JUST AS IT WAS. I wanted to play. Well, now you can again. You don’t have to be 65. You can be 18. And then at 19 figure things out.
31- BECOME A MODEL OF WHATEVER YOUR SIZE IS
You are beautiful no matter who you are or what you look like. Learn the fashion industry. Work in it. Intern in it. Pose for it. Wear a bracelet and have those pictures appear in a pamphlet. There’s nothing wrong with trying.
32- GO TO SAN FRANCISCO AND MINGLE WITH SILICON VALLEY
No matter what people say, if you want to do a tech startup, go out to San Francisco, go to the tech meetups, learn who the movers and shakers are, learn how to code, and start a business.
Your networking ability there is 1000 times what it would be in Kansas City.
That’s why Google started there. That’s why Facebook moved out there. That’s why Apple is there. That’s why you can be there. And by the way, Steve Jobs didn’t get a college degree. Nor did Bill Gates or Larry Ellison (the CEO of Oracle).
33- VISIT ALL THE ARCHITECTURAL HISTORIC SITES OF EUROPE.
You want history? You don’t need to spend $200,000 in college learning it. Go TO history. Go to all the places. Learn the lessons learned on those very spots. Think about them. Study them. You will survive on your wits. You will become more of a world citizen than any young person stuck on a 3 square mile college campus in the middle of nowhere.
34- BACK PACK EL CAMINO THE SANTIAGO – THE WAY OF ST. JAMES
Thousands of spiritual seekers a year hike this trail in Spain. Paulo Coehlo has written books about it. Many people have said it has changed their lives. Before you rush head first into the crushing world of materialism give yourself a chance to experience what a spiritual quest might look like. You can experience it a little bit by reading The Alchemist by Coehlo but what if you can actually experience it.
35- HIKE THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL
Similar reasons as above. But you learn how to survive on your own, in the woods, without a soul in sight. You may never get this chance again to confront your fears, your sense of selfworth, and your loneliness.
36- MAKE YOUR OWN LIST OF ALTERNATIVES
Make your own list of alternatives that really resonate with you. This is my list of what I think will work for young people. Add to it. And email me at [email protected] and give me more alternatives. I’ll put up a post when I get enough alternatives. Again, this is about exercising your idea muscle. It’s really hard. It’s just as hard as exercising your physical muscles. My brain hurts writing this. I’m sweating.
37- VIRTUAL MENTORS
I still do this.
A few weeks ago I watched every Woody Allen movie. I read his books. I read every interview he did. I wrote a blog post: Nine things I learned from Woody Allen. Because I spend so much time trying to get to the essence of his work and art, my efforts were appreciated and the article proved to be enormously profitable.
Every week I study a new virtual mentor. Right now I’m studying the life of Howard Hughes. I’ve also been studying the life of Gandhi. These are people who changed the world. Who created things. People who mastered the fields they found themselves in. Who created entire new worlds from the visions in their mind. Did they go to college? Gandhi did (he was a lawyer by training). But Howard Hughes didn’t and re-created the oil industry, the movie industry, the aviation industry, and Las Vegas.
38- RUN FOR OFFICE
This might seem like a joke. You’re only 18. But run for city council. Or run for mayor. Become familiar with all the issues in your town. Come up with a platform about how your town can be improved. Part of your campaign is that you have no financial incentive for what you are doing. And then run for office.
This will teach you how to speak. Again, how to come up with ideas. How to communicate them. How to allocate resources. How the political power system works. And guess what? You’ll probably lose. Like Margaret Thatcher did on her first campaign for office at age 24. Like Bill Clinton did on his second campaign for governor. Like Winston Churchill did repeatedly. But losing is part of life. Then you come back. Then you become perhaps the greatest politician ever and really do something that can change our lives.
39) RAISE FUNDS FOR A CAUSE YOU FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT
Use kickstarter, for instance, to raise the money. Make a difference. By the way, who are you raising funds from? Rich people. Successful people. People you can learn from. People you can later ask advice from. People who will remember you because they will say, “this is an 18 year old who cared”. Guess what? There are not that many 18 year olds who care. Now you can be one of the few.
40- WATCH A MOVIE A DAY FOR A YEAR
There’s a book about this. A boy didn’t want to go to college so his father said, “fine but on one condition. Watch one movie with me every day.” The boy agreed. They talked about each movie. He learned from it. And his relationship with his father changed every day. That year changed his life.
If you don’t want to watch a movie every day read one book a week that you and one of your parents pick and discuss it at the end of the week. Movies are about life. They are about pain. They are often about the troubles of adulthood. What a better education then to watch these movies and discuss them with an adult who has maybe been through some of these issues.
I miss my father. He’s dead now for six years. I wish he had made an offer like that to me when I was 18. He was very busy working and couldn’t do it.
But now I miss him.
I could’ve made this list 100 alternatives long. But I think you should come up with alternatives as well.
There’s lots of ways to get experience, learn skills, make money, avoid debt, find happiness, avoid sadness, and deal with the fear that you aren’t accomplishing something simply because you didn’t choose the too-easy path of going to college at the age of 18. Debt is very stressful. It crushes lives. It turns people with every opportunity in front of them into indentured servants. It prevents you from following your passions. It prevents you from changing the world.
Give yourself a chance. Give your parents a chance.
At least spend a year trying the above alternatives or one of your design.
Maybe spend two, or even three. Heck, maybe spend the rest of your life doing one of the above. I’m sure if you do that you will make the world a better place. And when that happens, everyone who goes to college will benefit from the smart choices you made.