College is Unnecessary

At school today I was talking with some classmates about our plans for our future careers.  Almost all of them planned to go to a four year college and eventually become teachers, psychologists, physical therapists or some other fairly common job.

A couple planned to get two year degrees and become nurses or dental assistants, but not a single person from the group had any interest in pursuing a career that didn’t include some form of further schooling.  Except me.

When I told them my future plans didn’t include college, they acted as if I just told them I was the second coming of Christ.  They were absolutely shocked.  They warned me that if I didn’t go to college I was going to end up spending my whole life flipping burgers.  They warned me that if I didn’t go to college I would never be able to live up to my full potential.

So, I asked them why going to college was so important in insuring I had a successful financial future.  One of the kids started quoting statistics about the average income of high school graduates vs those with four-year degrees.  I asked him to explain to me why he thought those income figures were causation, rather than correlation.  He couldn’t.

He had never considered the fact that college graduates tend to have character traits that would result in a higher income regardless of whether or not they had received a higher education.

Nor had he considered that these statistics almost always fail to include those who attended college, but failed to graduate.  For statistics being aimed at potential college enrollees they’re quite misleading, because they’re only providing income information based on a select few “success” stories.  These statistics are about as credible as the infomercials for workout equipment where everyone effortlessly loses 50 pounds and feels better than ever before… For only 3 payments of $19.99!

Perhaps the worst thing about college is how much more productively the time could have been used.  College is seen as a stepping stone to success rather than an institution to increase your knowledge.  A place to regurgitate information on exams rather than learning.  A place to learn theory rather than real world application.

If being a lawyer (or some other career where college is a necessity) has always been your dream and truly resonates with you on the deepest level than by all means attend college.  But if you’re just going because society expects you to, or you don’t know what else to do, don’t.  You can do much better than that.  Live your own dream.

I could continue with more examples, but I think you get my point.  People immediately get defensive when you talk about college being unnecessary because they’ve never considered a future without college.  They’ve never considered that it may be possible to make a living without a small piece of paper because they’ve never thought about the true nature of money.

See, money is an indicator of value you’ve provided to society.  Provide lots of value and you’re going to experience financial abundance.  Provide little value and you’re going to experience financial scarcity.  The better you are at providing value, the more handsomely you’ll be compensated.

Most people operate with the mindset of trying to make as much money as possible while providing as little value as they possibly can.  In the long run this almost never works because you’re not providing a fair value to others in exchange for their money and nobody likes being ripped off.

I’m not sure why, but very few people ever consider anything besides the first approach, which is unfortunate because there’s a much more effective way to make money.  It’s actually quite simple.  Provide more value.

You don’t make money because of a small piece of paper you’ve received for sitting in a classroom for four years.  You make money because of the perceived value of that piece of paper.  That piece of paper is unnecessary to make a living.  All that’s truly required to achieve financial independence is to provide people with something they perceive to have value.

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Loving Work

When I was younger, I hated work.  It didn’t matter what kind of work it was, I always found a way to avoid doing anything that required a significant amount of effort.  On the rare occasions I did work I never did any more than the absolute minimum that was required of me.

This is how most people operate.  Most people see work as a dreaded necessity in their lives and will do almost anything to avoid it.  It’s been said that people are naturally lazy, but I don’t think that’s the problem.  The problem is most people don’t see why hard work is necessary.

When I first started lifting weights I found it very difficult, but I continued because I thought that eventually working out would become effortless.  As you might imagine, I was wrong.

As I became stronger, and began lifting more weights, working out actually became more difficult.  As I progressed to lifting more and more weight I began to realize the strongest guys in the gym weren’t the strongest because they had been lifting the longest.  They were the strongest because they were able to work through the most pain.  They were the ones willing to work the hardest.

Another interesting thing I noticed, was that although most people dreaded having to work out, the strongest guys actually looked forward to it, and many even considered it the best part of their day.  The strongest guys loved working out because they saw it as being necessary.  The strongest guys worked out because they knew it was the only way to reach their goals.

Seeing their perspective had a great impact on me and the way I thought about work.  Work was no longer something I had to do, but something I wanted to do.  It was still difficult, but it became something I enjoyed.

When I was in track in middle school, I ran the mile.  I set a new personal best every single meet my 8th grade year, and even though I was always exhausted at the end of my runs, I loved them.   The feeling of constant improvement was wonderfully fulfilling.

Over time I began to adopt the same mindset towards all the work in my life.  Lifting, and writing weren’t enjoyable at first, but I knew they had to get done to accomplish my goals.

I think the biggest breakthrough I had was that eventually hard work was no longer an annoying life requirement, but an exhilarating opportunity to improve myself, and progress toward my goals.

I began to love working.  Television, and other low level activities were no longer interesting to me because I knew they weren’t going to help me get to where I wanted to go.

I currently spend almost all of my time writing, making videos, or juggling (I’m looking into incorporating juggling into my motivational speeches).  Although most people think my life would be boring because I spend so much time working, that’s a matter of perspective.  I see their lives as being boring.

When I think of exciting activities the last thing that occurs to me is sitting on a couch in the living room staring at a box. The average American spends almost 5 hours per day watching television, and how any of them see it as anything more than a poor temporary escape from reality is beyond me.  Watching television is among the least intelligent ways you could spend your time.

Why would you ever want to escape from reality?  Your life is still going to suck when you turn the TV off.  Why not improve your reality instead?

It can be difficult to admit that you don’t like your current circumstances, but if you’ve neglected to put any hard work into your reality you can’t expect to get anything more than subpar results.

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Escaping From Reality

As a child, I remember always looking forward to the cartoon marathons on Saturday mornings.   No matter how bad my week had been, I knew that when Saturday morning came around I could escape.   On Saturday mornings I could get away from all the stress and problems from my life, if only for a few hours.

As I grew older I still watched television, but my primary escape from reality became video games.  It wasn’t unusual for me to play them for 8-10 hours a day, and when I got an iPod touch the problem only magnified.

At first I only downloaded a few simple games on my iPod.  Paper Toss, Doodle Jump, things like that.  But over time I began to download more time consuming games.

I can’t recall most of their specific titles, but I remember at one point I was actively playing 4-5 MMORPG’s (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and I was even the leader of the biggest clan on one of them.

I was addicted, spending all my waking hours playing them, and as sad as it sounds, sometimes I even lost sleep over them.

As I fell deeper into my addiction I saw my life spiral out of control.  I alienated the few friends I had, and I felt alone and unfulfilled.  I was tremendously focused on becoming the top player on those online games, but ultimately my focus amounted to nothing.  I was spinning my wheels, but I had nothing to show for it.

As I became more interested in my personal development I managed to quit television, and video games, but I never understood what caused those addictions in the first place.  And without that knowledge I would later try to escape reality through the internet, and other unhealthy releases.

Something I never understood was that neither television, nor video games were the problem.  They were merely symptoms, and as long as I tried to address the symptoms I was never going to solve the problem.  Even if I had some success in eliminating the symptoms from my life, as long as the problem remained I was going to continue to attract similar negative symptoms into my life.

The problem was never that I watched too much television, or played too many video games.  The problem was that I was too afraid to face the reality I had created for myself.  And the disgust I felt after this realization no longer made stagnation an option.

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Adjusting Your Runs

The key to offensive success in soccer is off-ball movement.  Making offensive runs off the ball is what opens up space to exploit the defense.  No team will ever be successful at a high level of soccer if the whole team just watches the player with the ball.

After a particularly rough game last season, our coach was talking to us in the locker room, and he asked why nobody was making any off ball movements.  We sat in silence.  He asked if it was because we didn’t know where to go.  Someone nodded their head.

After that our coach said something that really resonated with me.  He said, “Even if you don’t know where to make your runs, make them anyway. If you make the wrong runs we can correct them, but if you just stand there you’ll never learn anything.”

I don’t think he realized just how powerful those words were.  Our team began making lots of mistakes, but we quickly improved our off-ball movement, and we ended up finishing 2nd in our league.  More importantly it helped me develop a different mindset towards failure.

It made me realize that failure isn’t bad.  Making mistakes is ok as long as you learn from them.

Many foreign language learners try to become perfect at the language they’re learning before ever going out and speaking with native speakers.  Their ego is too concerned they’ll make mistakes.  And they probably will.  But in those mistakes lies the quickest road to improvement.  You can’t adjust your runs if you never make any.

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The First Step

“Ready, fire, aim is superior to ready, aim, aim, aim.”

~Steve Pavlina

When I first became interested in personal development I used to read personal development material for hours every single day.  I used to watch motivational video, after motivational motivational video.  I used to plan all the steps I needed to take to reach my goals.  But I never took action.

Too many people fall into the trap of reading article after article, book after book, podcast after podcast, without ever taking action.  It’s easy to spend your days consuming personal development material and believe you’re making progress toward your goals.  I’m here to tell you you’re not.

Nobody ever learned to ride a bike by reading a book.  Unapplied knowledge is next to useless.  It’s easy to sit on your computer and read articles because it’s “safe”.  But until you start taking action, however scary that may seem, you’re never going to accomplish anything.

Because you’re reading an article about taking action I’m going to assume you have some type of goal you want to achieve.  Maybe you want to lose weight or make more money.   It doesn’t matter what your goal is as long as it’s something you want and not a goal your family, friends, or society is pressuring you to accomplish.  Don’t read any further until you have a goal in mind.

Alright, now that you’ve got a goal I want you to think of one action you could take to bring yourself a step closer to your goal.  If you want to become a blogger register a domain.  If you want to become an author write the first page of your book.  If you want to start a band purchase an instrument.

Once you’ve thought of an action you could take… take it.  Even if it feels like in the grand scheme of things it’s not going to make a difference, take it.  Because Action Precedes Motivation it will motivate you to take further action.

After you’ve taken your first action take another step toward your goal the next day.  And the next day.  And everyday following that until you achieve your goal.

Don’t let this be just another forgotten article.  Take that first step.

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Disclosure

Beginning December 1, 2009, the FTC requires bloggers to provide disclosures whenever there could be hidden interests or unspoken biases related to recommendations

Per the FTC rules, if I interview someone and they grab the bill for lunch, I would need to specify this. Ditto if I use an Amazon link that gets me 8 cents instead of an Amazon link that gets me 0 cents. If someone gives me a comfy t-shirt with a logo and I wear it in a photo, same deal. Disclaimers all over the place.

This would be tedious for me and a continual eye sore for readers. But rules is rules.

To cover my ass and preserve your reading experience, please assume that, for every recommendation, link, and product I use, the following all hold true:

(Illustrations courtesy of Louis Gray and Jeannine Schafer)

Special thanks to Tim Ferris for allowing me to adapt text and images from his disclosure page.

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Action Precedes Motivation

Most people wait until they’re motivated to take action.  That’s why most people never end up taking action.

There’s a common misperception that you need to feel motivated to take action.  That’s wrong.  You’ll never amount to anything if that’s the mindset you adapt because action doesn’t follow motivation.  Motivation follows action.

If you’ve ever ran or lifted weights regularly in you’re life you’ve probably felt like skipping a day at some point.  And you probably have skipped days.

But what’s interesting is that if you can convince yourself to run that first mile or lift the first set you almost always feel motivated to do more.

But what if it doesn’t motivate me?  Although I’ve found that the above strategy motivates me the majority of the time, sometimes it doesn’t.

In the past I’ve used will power to push myself through those workouts and I still do occasionally, but that’s not always necessary.

I’ve found that often the reason I can’t motivate myself to workout is because I’m already overworking my muscles and they need a chance to recover.

Some days it’s in my best interest to allow my body to recover instead of risking injury.  Realize, however, that there’s a fine line between resting because your body needs to recover and using lack of motivation as an excuse to skip a workout.

This analogy can also be applied to almost anything else as well.  Don’t wait until you’re motivated to start a blog.  You can have one online within an hour.  Don’t wait until you feel motivated to leave your job.  Two words is all it takes. (I quit)

You’ll never accomplish anything meaningful if you wait until you feel motivated to start taking action.  Take initiative today.  One step is all it takes.  The rest will fall into place.

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Problems Aren’t Bad

A common misperception people have is that problems are bad.  That couldn’t be any further from the truth.

For one, we have the appreciation factor.  How are you supposed to appreciate good health if you’ve never been sick?  Wealth if you’ve never been poor?  Love if you’ve never been alone?

Most people in the United States and other developed nations know on an intellectual level that people are starving in Africa.  But they’ve never experienced scarcity so they can’t appreciate abundance.

When I hear religious people talk about “Heaven” it makes me sick.  I don’t think faith is a bad thing, but I can’t help but feel nauseous when I hear about a magical place in the sky where problems don’t exist.

Do you understand how boring that would be?  I sure wouldn’t want to live there.

Another great thing about problems is they provide feedback.  They let us know when something went wrong so we can work to fix it.

You feel pain when you stub your toe as a protective mechanism to prevent you from further injuring yourself.  In the same way problems exist to deter us from making future poor decisions.

When you begin to understand the true nature of problems you’ll learn to love them.

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Complaining

Complaining is one of the worst habits you could possibly have.  Even the most positive people complain on occasion, but most people complain waaay too much.

I’m not going to complain about complainers because that would only contribute to the negativity, but realize all complaining does is contribute to feelings of discontent and helplessness.

Complaining about how you’re fat, lonely, and depressed does nothing to solve the problem, if anything it makes it worse.

By complaining you’re giving your power away.  By complaining you’re telling the universe that you’re not ready to take responsibility for your life.

Another negative effect of complaining is that you’ll attract more negativity into your life, potentially spiraling yourself into a whole negative cycle.

Consistent complaining is one of the main reason depressed people find it so difficult to find any happiness in life.

They’ve spent so much time complaining that they’ve manifested a reality that matches their negative thoughts, and because they’ve conditioned themselves to think so negatively, they can’t even appreciate any remaining remnants of positivity left in their lives.

For the most part people complain because they’re afraid to take responsibility for their lives, but once they begin to hold themselves accountable they’ll be a lot happier.

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