College the Smart Way

While I’m here, I figure I may as well take the time to comment on everything that interests me. Today, Daniel-san, I want to share with you my thoughts on college and how that drunken mess experience fits into the puzzle that is your life. This weekend, I was over at a friend of mine’s site, College Startup, and he wrote a great post (which also features a solid discussion) about whether or not college is necessary for future success [edit: dead link removed].

Since I graduated from college in 2003, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the pros and cons of my own personal experience, and now that I’m a seasoned veteran, I also know how I could have used that time to better position myself for life after graduation. In today’s society, money equals freedom of choice, and you could say that my advice is driven by this idea. So, if you’re interested in taking command of your life and achieving financial autonomy (so you can spend your days putting plugins in your blog’s sidebar), then perhaps this is just the post you’ve been looking for!

Should you go to college?

If you’re not already working on an idea that’s got really solid sales potential, then I say the short answer here is yes, absolutely. As an addendum to that answer, I also think you ought to try and pick a school that’s a few hours away from your home, because this will give you freedom to operate through the elimination of nonessential distractions. There are huge bonuses of going to college away from home, and I’m going to throw just a few of them out there for ya:

  • Life will hit you square in the face: If you’re on your own in a strange place, you’re going to have to find your sea legs pretty quickly in order to hack it. Although the parallel may seem vague to some, there’s actually a nice correlation between adapting to a new environment and starting a business when you’re young.
  • Compartmentalized distractions: What? From booze to boobs, there’s about a million distractions in college, but when you really look at things, your distractions are fairly compartmentalized at this juncture in your life. In reality, this translates to free time, and this is the time that you spend exploring things while you’re in college. Personally, I learned lots about the cosmopolitan lifestyle during this free time, so I’m happy to say that when I’m rich, I’ll be totally prepared to be there. The bummer here is that I didn’t prepare myself to GET rich, which would have been a lot smarter. What I’m trying to say here is that you ought to be cognizant of the time that you have to explore things in life, and moreover, you ought to try and take advantage of this time and build a foundation for your future. Think about that the next time you want to watch that three hour marathon of Blind Date (although I have to admit, those damn comment bubbles are freakin hilarious).
  • Resources at your fingertips: Never again will you have so many incredible resources so close at hand. No matter what you’re trying to do, you won’t have to go far to find influences, knowledge, or support to help your cause. I simply cannot express with words how valuable it is to have nearly unlimited resources to help you with your ventures in life, so this is yet another reason why you should focus on a business-related item while in college.

Direction

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re equipped with a pretty nice internal compass. One of the keys to living a successful life is discovering how to use this compass to guide your decision-making. I can’t say that’s it’s the same for everybody, but for me, the key to finding my compass was simply to dedicate time to a non-recreational pursuit that was mentally engaging. I can spend countless hours each and every day scouring the web, soaking up designs, and running off on thought-tangents about businesses that have great web applications…Wait a minute – if I’m this interested in this stuff, then maybe there’s something to it!

How does this tie into college life? Well, I can say that from a personal standpoint, finding a way to beat Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto III probably was not a very intelligent decision during my final semester of college. If I had instead focused on something that was really of interest to me, perhaps I could have saved myself two years of searching for personal answers. Maybe I could have come up with something that would have already provided me with financial autonomy. All I’m saying is that you should consider these things if breaking the shackles of capitalism is of any interest to you whatsoever.

Perspective

A lot of your success in life will depend on your perspective. As far as college goes, I would like to challenge your perspective of what college really represents in the timeline of your life. Do you think it’s ok just to do well in your classes and graduate with whatever degree you choose? Do you think that you should be genuinely interested in the material that you cover in your classes?

Knowing what I know now, I would argue that it’s not ok just to do well in your classes. Although grades and degrees are all the rage on college campuses, I don’t think this is the savvy way to approach things anymore. Instead of worrying about that semantic crap, think about this – what if it didn’t matter how you performed in your classes? What if you didn’t have to worry about positioning yourself to find a “good job” once you graduated? Would your outlook change? What if you stepped on campus, and you had a single assignment that would span your college career:

Find something you really love and appreciate, and then use that to build something of personal value. Explore the different ways of monetizing what you love, and learn as much as you can about it in the process.

When you find the value in your life, the answers will come much more easily. Change your perspective; find your direction; and take your destiny into your own hands.