I’ve been waxing poetic on all the ways American education fails for over a year now. Not only do I find it disheartening that we still insist on the status quo of churning out compliant factory workers, but I’m empathetic to the plight of my peers who fell for the promise of higher education’s return on investment.
But what’s the answer if a college education is no longer worth it for most people? (We’re excluding physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc.)
“The magic of teaching is vastly overstated, mostly by teachers, and by those who staff programs that have economic interest in teaching prospective teachers how to teach.” — In the Basement of the Ivory Tower
After interviewing a wide range of millionaires for his book, “The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late” Michael Ellsberg contends that most successful people learn their most critical skills outside of school.
Ellsberg argues that education is not the same thing as academic excellence and highlights 7 success skills that people can leverage to become financially successful in their own careers. Leveraging these 7 skills you should be able to create a career for yourself that can’t be outsourced, offshored or automated.
I won’t discuss all 7 here (you’ll have to read the book), but the skill that resonated most for me was having an entrepreneurial mindset. He explains that people with the entrepreneurial mindset relentlessly focus on the outcome they want to produce in the world and in their lives. Alternatively, people with an employee mindset feel satisfied working harder and harder without paying attention to whether their efforts are producing the outcomes they want.
You can’t be the type of person who aimlessly follows ‘orders’ from your boss. Proactively go out and find problems within your organization, help solve them, AND THEN return to your boss to show them the results. That’s how you succeed; that’s how you get promoted.
On the employee mindset:
People with the employee mindset may work hard. Very, very hard. But they haul ass along a path others have created for them; they don’t create their own path. They are the passive recipients of instructions, orders and guidance, not the active creators of their own world. They do not have the answers; someone else does. They do what others around them tell them and expect them to do. They hope — indeed, expect and demand — that, if they please the people above them, a steady stream of benefits will flow their way. (“I did what you told me. Now give me my reward!”) If the reward is not forthcoming, they complain and get bogged down in bitterness and resentment, like a child who didn’t get a candy from Mommy.
To people with the employee mind-set, power resides elsewhere, not within themselves. There may be some safety and security in clinging to the employee mindset because those with employee mindset rely on someone more powerful and resourceful than themselves to save them and shield them from risk.
Here are two additional quotes I really appreciated:
“If you want to succeed, find leaders who are doing amazing things in the world, and push them up. Find powerful people and help them reach their goals. If you’re of service to them, they will be of service back.”
“There are two decisions you need to come to in order to be free, and to be more effective. First is that you are not entitled to anything in the world, until you create value for another human being first. Second, you are 100 percent responsible for producing results. No one else. If you adopt those two views, you will go far.”
I’m not really the audience for Ellsberg’s book anymore, but I sure wish someone would’ve handed to me as an undergraduate. If you’re looking for direction and/or guidance in your education or career I encourage you to pick up the book. The people out there tinkering, starting businesses, failing, refining their ideas through exploration… Rest assured they’re getting ahead and acquiring valuable real world experience in an ever-changing world.
To be clear, I’m not telling you to forgo a college degree (maybe one in the arts), but I am pleading with you to take control of your life – before it’s too late.
Was your college education worth it? Was it applicable to the job you’re doing now? Do you catch yourself following orders and getting complacent rather than proactively searching for solutions? What is something you wished you learned in school? Here’s some topics other young professionals wished they would’ve learned in school.