College is so 1990s, why are you even in class right now when you should be investing all your food money into a service that will definitely maybe become the next Instagram? Content is the king – all I do is post videos of my cat, and I’m better off than our high school valedictorian! Read these ten tips that will earn you the Nobel Prize in blogging.
Please raise your hand if you’ve heard one of these statements, in one form or another, more than ten thousand times in the last few months. All hands are up? I thought so.
In a less than thriving economy, where even thegovernment of a certain superpower was temporarily out of order (hint: there are 50 states, they’re united and in America), it’s getting increasingly easy to be drawn to the startup story. According to the urban legend, all it takes is one great idea, some seed money and voilà – you’re on your way to purchasing your first yacht. Alternatively, if the best idea you can come up with is A Social Network Just Like Facebook But Not Facebook, but your status updates consistently get over 3 likes each, why not blog? Share your cat food tips with the world, sell some ad space, make some money. Easy. Or is it really? (You know the answer’s going to be “no”, but please do stick around).
The Steve Jobs inspired mantra to “stay hungry, stay foolish” has been misused so many times that it can probably file a lawsuit against the offenders all on its own. It has become the “Be the change you wish to see in the world” of the new generation, encouraging hoards of young people to quit the “beaten track” in pursuit of their dreams. Perhaps not surprisingly and in a beautiful display or irony, not quitting your regular’ ol’ school or your regular ol’ job has, in certain circles, become the new novelty. Sadly, many of those who chose to follow their startup dreams have fulfilled Jobs’ prediction: they’re both hungry and foolish, though perhaps a bit more literally that they’ve anticipated.
While pursuing your dreams is certainly a noble and worthwhile cause, I believe that the unpopular idea of formal education and traditional work experience needs some help and patting on the back. There are more than enough articles on How to Avoid Failure as a Startup and that Failing is Okay, Expected and In Fact Most Wonderful (for more details, see the entire Internet). I hence propose a very short collective reminder of why it’s actually a great idea to get that degree, or pursue that corporate job:
1. Knowledge, skills & expertise are kind of important in life. Ask anyone (even the startup scene)
If done right, schooling can be a fascinating experience – an opportunity to delve into the depths of human knowledge while developing a set of skills that will serve you in the years to come. Alternatively, it can be as enjoyable as eating glass. You had a lousy teacher or set of teachers? Great, then you’ve hopefully learned two important lessons: that you can’t always depend on those in charge to do their job well, and that you can overcome less than ideal circumstances with your own hard work. What about all that stupid, useless math you had to do? You’ll find it’s extremely handy when you find yourself in need of some logical thinking and pattern finding (which, for those of you wishing to become successful, is always). Those boring essays you had to write? I don’t see a better way to practice for writing all those reports, project descriptions, or startup pitches, which is sure to happen unless you somehow subscribed to the Fun & Games edition of life.
Perhaps not directly and perhaps not always, but you will use that knowledge and those skills that you have developedwhile in school. Don’t believe me, the blogging lady with a corporate job, but do ask yourself: when was the last time you’ve read something, wrote something, listened to a conversation or spoke to someone? Oh, you mean you’re doing it right now? Some points just prove themselves.
2. Those dreadful high school years? Just a preview of what’s to come
The truth of the matter is, when you enter school, you subscribe to a complex hierarchy where you learn to negotiate your own way and place (commonly known as “growing up”). If it weren’t for my peers who made sure that I knew the rules of cooperation early on – and informed me if and when I was out of line – I probably would’ve been rather unpleasant to work with. This is a big thing, seen as how you’re very likely to interact with humans whether you’re in a startup or somewhere on the corporate ladder.
If you drop out of school, at whichever stage and for whatever reason, you inevitably miss out on those formative experiences. In certain circumstances, this is completely justified – see Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates et cetera. However, before you start citing their choices as reasons for your own, take a good hard look at what your particular circumstances are.Are you leaving school because you need to commit full-time to your already growing startup, or do you just “need that time away from school to think clearly and work on some stuff”? If leaving still seems like a solid decision – may the Force be with you! Your yearbook will miss you dearly. If not – go do your homework.
3. You can’t get arrested for aligning your dreams with goals of a corporation (yet)
You’ve worked hard. You’ve gotten a fancy degree in Latin, with student loans the size of China and chronic arrhythmia from all those Red Bull fuelled all-nighters. There’s this dream that you have, but feel like you still need a bit more time to flesh it out and not starve, but not being a complete maverick is not in style lately. Even Grandma Gertrude is asking why in the name of swing dancing aren’t you starting your own business, like Marnie’s nephew, instead of working in a skyscraper in downtown New York?
It’s okay to take some time. It’s okay to work for a corporation – as long as you don’t tell anyone from the startup industry, those judgmental glares actually hurt. It’s even okay to always want to work for this conventional industry, in a cubicle devoid of sunlight, with bonuses and bosses and business hours, as long as that’s exactly what’s right for you. Not anyone else, but you – today, tomorrow, or until the next season of Project Runway is out (yes, this is how some of us measure time). Don’t let the pressure get to you, and when it does, do yourself a favor and search the terms “startups” and “fail” in your favorite browser (if that’s Internet Explorer, please leave the premises right now).
I’ll leave you with those three, but please feel free to share reasons both for and against formal education in the comments section. While you’re busy writing me hate mail, please bear in mind that education and entrepreneurship aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, if you look at any meaningful innovation in the history of time, you’ll realize that the first is a prerequisite for the latter. If you have set out to build something truly lasting, you need to understand and build upon a huge foundation of knowledge. Despite the advances of information and technology that have brought us the likes of Wikipedia,Coursera and the Khan Academy, I always argue that the classroom is still the best place to learn, think critically and practice interacting with other human beings. Similarly, even if you’ve mastered all the knowledge, getting some experience in the work force is always a useful thing – assuming humans are the target audience of your startup, and your potential investors.
Take away points: if you want to experience being hungry and feeling foolish (in the literal sense), look no further than the latest juice cleanse diet – and I guarantee you’ll experience both. Otherwise, stay patient and persistent, and I’m sure that eventually, with the right knowledge and the right skills, you’ll figure out the best way to be immortalized by humanity. Whatever you do, just don’t use the words “next” and “Facebook” in the same sentence.