“When I was 19 I won some money in a chess tournament. So instead of using that money for my college tuition I decided to drop out of college and buy a car. I bought a used 1982 Honda Accord. I drove it around for a few hours since they let me drive it right out of the lot. But when I saw my girlfriend and everyone else taking their classes I got a little jealous. I returned the car and cancelled the check and entered my sophomore year of college. But I regret it now.”
– James Altucher
Should you listen to James Altucher?
James Altucher is one of my favorite writers. He has a great blog that I read frequently and he wrote a book titled 40 Alternatives to College which really inspired me. It was one of the first books that I ever reviewed on this site. While it might sound a little cheesy, the book actually helped persuade me to take time off from school and work on professional writing.
Altucher has always been highly critical of college and frequently states that it isn’t worth the money. In the past he has advocated doing real life activities instead of sitting in a classroom, saying:
“Don’t discount the value of spending time experiencing the world before you make the enormous financial commitment of going to college.”
While this sounds great on paper, I had a very hard time finding anyone who actually listened to this advice. There are tons of famous college dropouts but no one, who I could find, credited any of their success to James Altucher. Since there wasn’t anyone better for the position, I’ve decided to share 5 things that have happened to me since I followed his advice.
1. I discovered that I hate work.
There’s a huge difference between having a fun summer job, like being a lifeguard or working at mall, and having to get up every morning at 5 am to drive to work. When I was in school my work experience consisted of helping out at a Christmas tree farm. It was a really fun job and you got to drink hot chocolate and eat banana bread during your free time.
After leaving college I got a normal job. There was no banana bread or free time. Everyone was pretty much depressed all day and the whole place smelled bad. After exactly three weeks there I decided that I never wanted to have a regular job again. I took a lot of classes in school, but none of them ever warned me about how mundane and horrible working for someone else was.
2. Running a business is easier than it looks.
While I’m not Bill Gates, and will probably never reach his level of wealth, I do okay for myself. In school I took a business class and it was confusing. There were a bunch of theories and none of it made sense. You had to read about the theory of planned behavior and a bunch of other complicated jargon. In the real world my whole strategy is to deliver a quality product on time. So far it seems to be working.
3. School taught me nothing.
School is a poor substitute for real world learning. The other day I went to visit a massive basilica that housed all kinds of religious artifacts. I learned more from wandering around and being curious than I would have from taking a class on the subject. In college you read a book on the history of Christian architecture in Latin America and write a dry academic essay. Classes don’t really teach you about anything outside of the classroom. You learn enough to pass a test and that’s about it. Going back to business, no professor, that I know of, has ever had a class on “What to do when you have to work with a client you don’t like” or “How to deal with a customer ripping you off.” That’s stuff that I had to find out on my own.
4. You can live like a millionaire without having a million dollars.
Most people go to college, rack up debt, and then spend the next 30 years trying to pay off their debt while being miserable. I’m actually pretty sure that most unhappiness comes from the fact that people get old and then realize that they never did anything that they actually wanted to. They gave up on being a musician or writing a novel so that they could become a middle manager in some soulless job. You don’t have to be James Bond or the King of Sweden to travel around and do fun stuff.
Having an apartment and some food is way less expensive, and stressful, than living in a boring subdivision and driving to work every morning.
5. If you can get good at one thing you can get good at everything.
For awhile I was the king of Scrabble. I got up every morning and would start my day off by reading The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. After a few weeks I became really good at the game, I even played “crwth” as a word. When I started playing I sucked. Getting a common five letter word was a big deal for me. After practicing for hours I became pretty decent. The same goes for word searches and puzzles which I did a lot of during my free time. Learning how to get good at a game, even if it frustrates you, is a good way to build up some willpower. You can use that same persistence in other areas like the gym work.
After taking a year off of school, I think the official 12 month anniversary comes in a week, I’ve had a way better time, and learned a lot more, than I ever did in class. James Altucher’s college advice does actually work and I’d highly suggest checking out both his book and his blog.