This is the story of why I dropped out of college, and how I selected the path I’m on, where I don’t work for anyone, and spend most of my days in a coffee shop, writing and dreaming of boats. It’s a nice life, knowing nothing is ever perfect. I still have dandruff and a curious case of excessively cold hands. My dog has diabetes. But taken for what it is, I’m better off now than I was in school.
It was my senior year. I had just finished my last full semester and had one elective left to take. It could have been a class in anything I was interested in or willing to sit around for, and if I had followed through I’d have a degree in finance, accounting and economics. This surprises some. Many seem to think I went for “fitness.” I didn’t go for fitness, but that does sound like it would have been fun.
While I do think college is for some people, I don’t think it was for me. Because all the while I went to school, from kindergarten on up through however far I got, an ever-waging war was escalating inside between what I wanted to do and what the institution told me was safe. I wanted to start a business. Professor guy who looked liked an owl said I should be an accountant.
But I started it anyway – my business. And it sucked up all my days and nights and about every relationship I had. Now I still had fun in college, but I didn’t party much, so I got the moniker Grandpa Flynn because I was in bed every night before eleven o’clock. I can’t say I had more than ten total nights where I lasted to two in the morning.
So I read and I wrote and started doing things and what I learned is “not all knowledge is had in college” and by getting to know people who had been running a business I began to see that there was an alternative to all this, one that would let me pursue what I wanted more than money, more than just a 9-5 with benefits and a reliable paycheck: Freedom. And maybe, if i was lucky, or just happened to be good enough, I could make a few dollars doing what I liked. To me, that sounded rather lovely.
I’m not saying don’t go to college. That isn’t what I’m saying that at all. The world needs accountants and engineers and scientists and so on. Even tuba players. And I am in no way implying you can’t start your own business after you go to college – totally that is something you can do.
But you need to weigh it out. You need to know what you want to do and you better have a plan. Don’t waste four years playing beer pong and peeing in bushes, then complain when you come out with $100k in debt and demand other people bail you out. It makes you look childish.
If you have an idea and can work hard and want to, then start a business. Better to fail young and take risks while they’re bearable – then go into accounting. But only after you screw everything else up. And I say if you’re going to take a year or two to “figure things out”, well, spend that time finding a way to bring value to people’s live, or what economists call, the marketplace.
Ask: What problems can I solve? Then offer to solve them. (Obviously you would do this for money.)
I guess what surprised me most about college is how little people were there to learn and how little they were actually taught. This was made clear by all the glad faces whenever classes were called off; even more so by how many faces never showed up in class at all. Like, you know you’re paying for this, right? Now I may not have agreed with many of my professors – some I thought were downright dumb – but I was paying for this, and so I never missed a class.
My advice? Think about it. It may seem like it’s either you go to college or resign the rest of your life to some low level of income. But that isn’t how it is.
You can be as successful as anyone when you seek out those who have done amazing things and bother the hell out of them. “Hey Mr! How did you do that?” It’s funny what you can learn outside the walls of academia when you try. And seriously – Youtube. Check it out.
Dropping out of college was the best move I ever made. It was financially reckless; I was drowning in debt; no one was coming to save me. So when I made the call many thought I was crazy. Some didn’t support me. But my girlfriend did. And now she’s my wife. Likely she saw something in me that even I didn’t, which makes sense, because I have terrible eyesight.
So I was lucky because it worked and is working still today – lucky, but also hard working. I hustled and fucked up everything and for a while embarrassed myself but in a year business was brisk. So I paid off my loans, something I’m afraid those I would have graduated with may never do, and suddenly learned another sucky little thing about life: Taxes.
And in case you’re wondering, no. I wouldn’t say I’m extraordinarily smart or talented or even all that special in anything, to be honest. I just know how to work hard even past the point where it looks like I cannot succeed – but then, somehow, by the grace of God, I sometimes do.
Sometimes, but not always.