Screw Going Back to School

How many times have you heard this from confused folks who have yet to find their true calling?

“I’m thinking about going back to school.”

Screw that! Why? Because the odds are excellent that more education and/or additional credentialing isn’t necessary to get to the level of success, freedom and work fulfillment that you desire.

I’m not anti-education. In many cases I’m for it. I certainly don’t want anybody that hasn’t been to medical school removing my appendix. I’m especially pro education for younger folks and for those who clearly know exactly what they want to do. College is a great place to grow up. I almost did there. But I didn’t find out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Did you? Perhaps that’s because at that tender age we’re still in the process of growing up.

But that’s not who’s going back to school. More often than not it’s the confused and uncertain folks who are returning to the classroom. If they told themselves the truth, they may have to admit this: “I’m going back to school because it’s a socially acceptable way for me to avoid making this big decision for another 2-4 years.”

They are prime suckers to fall into this trap – perpetuated by the world’s biggest lie: someone else knows better than you do, what’s really good for you.

Of course it’s safer to believe in this illusion because it’s a convenient way of escaping personal responsibility. If things don’t work out, you can always blame the school, or the government or heck, blame the economy.

We frequently fall into this trap because we are experts at belittling ourselves. We doubt ourselves, undervalue our talents and judge our performance so harshly that it seems like we’d be nuts to trust ourselves. Somebody else must know better. Bull! They really don’t.

This return to school could be nothing more than a hidden urge within you that’s looking for approval. You’ll never get the approval you need from others, so stop looking for it. Every one of us is the product of a collection of beliefs and assumptions that were laid on us by family and society. It’s time to examine those beliefs and to toss out those that no longer serve us well.

Instead of wondering, “Should I go back to school?” why not ask, “What exactly do I think this education or further credentialing will bring me?” Then, “What will that bring me?” Keep asking and drilling a few rounds deeper and you’ll eventually get to what you really want. Then you can ask this beautiful question:

Is there a more direct way to get what I want?

Often, self-employment (with the talent and resources you have right now) is an easier, more direct way. But, self-employment is so bold, you say. Yeah, it is. So what?

Has being cautious paid off big for you so far? Going back to school does not put you in play in a big way. It’s benching you. It’s like putting yourself on the sidelines of life and delaying your real contribution. Then at the end of 3 or 4 more years and thousands of dollars, “they” may still tell you that you can’t get what you want. Going back to school is not a sure thing.

Neither is self-employment. But I can fail a lot faster and a lot less expensively by walking my own path and adjusting in the moment to what I’ve learned. So can you. Going into business, leading with your own strengths and expressing yourself authentically is a much better bet at success than following the herd.

Delay is much more expensive then failure.

Any delay. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hiding in school or hiding in shitty employment. If you’re putting off the active pursuit of your true calling and work life freedom, then you’re not fully in the game. And it’s costing you big time.


  1. Wonderfully stated and so very true!

    When I graduated Magna Cum Laude with an English degree I was qualified for nothing. My best friend and I decided to open a restaurant.

    So many people dream of opening a restaurant. We just did it. We didn’t know what we were doing but knew we’d figure it out as we went along. I was quoted in the local paper (Northhampton, Massachusetts was a small town) and the big punchline was something like, “This is a lot more fun, and a hell of a lot cheaper, than business school.”

    It was true. We spent maybe $10,000 each (in 1979) to launch the business and were quickly at breakeven. Do you think we would have learned more about running a business by sitting in a classroom? It’s possible, but I sincerely doubt it.

    Years later, when I KNEW I wanted a career in software, I went back to school and got a Master’s in Computer Science. It was difficult (I did not have any computer background) but knowing what I wanted pulled me through. Soon after I started my first software-related business, and I’ve started a few since then.

    Now I just have to see if I have enough guts to tell my High School Junior to resist going to college until he figures out what he wants to do. Yikes. Otherwise I’ll feel like a right-to-lifer taking my little girl to the clinic to get rid of her “little mistake.”

  2. Yes Bill, I love your story about just doing what you wanted to when you wanted to. There’s always a more direct way to get what we want. You went straight at it and learned a lot from the experience.

    You’re not lacking in courage, so I’m sure you’ll tell your son what’s in your gut about possible options and consequences. Help him to feel what’s in his gut and then ask. What do I really want to do above everything else right now? How would that make me feel? If imagining what he wants makes him feel good then tell him to go for it with all his heart. He’s got a wonderful example of following his passions in you.

  3. I like this, because it’s true and it’s the opposite of what most people (even personal development blogs) say.

    I see too many people at college who are just there to “get a degree and make more money.” If I ask them enough questions, I can usually find what they really want to do: something like music, poetry, photography, or web design, but they don’t want to put in the tremendous effort to succeed in those fields. They want to do something easy.

    Life isn’t easy.

    Richard X. Thripps last blog post..Photo: Vegetarianism

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