“What Should I Do with My Life?”

money

One of the questions I frequently get goes something like this:

I’m a young guy. I’ve been in school for pretty much all of my life. I’m not satisfied with my life. What should I do? 

For many of them, they think they have to go back to school. They think that a MBA, law degree, or even a medical degree will solve all their problems.

Well, lemme spill the beans on the truth …

Should You Go Back to School?

Obviously, they did not learn their lesson in college. Most likely, they already spent six-figures for a bachelor’s degree. For all their time, money, and effort … there was no job (or no good job) waiting at the end of the ride. But since their bachelor’s degree is worthless, they consider spending another six-figures to get an even fancier piece of paper.

If you are one of these people, you gotta …

Wake up, son!

Look … the education system’s primary motive is for its own benefit, not for your benefit. It must sustain itself and perpetuate itself, even it means doing so at your expense.

If you are desperate for a job, or if you’re clueless about your direction in life, or if you’re just following the herd, the system will offer to “help.” But it won’t be free. The system demands a tribute … a sacrifice. Quid pro quo. Tit-for-tat.

This is how the trade will play out:

You will borrow precious money (six-figures) and waste offer scarce time on meaningless drivel.

You will get trivial (possibly outdated) information, standardized tests, and another piece of paper that may or may not be worthless. You are not even guaranteed a job at this point. Instead, you’ll just get a chance for a job.

If you’re lucky, you may even pay off your loan in 30 years.

Who’s the sucker in this deal?

See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years, you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a fuckin’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!
- Will from Good Will Hunting

However, you’re smarter than that. You’re a power player. You don’t pay self-serving institutions to tell you what to do. You’re not going to spend $150,000 for something you could have gotten for $1.50. It is time to leave the system and strike out on your own. So when I ask you if you should go back to school, you should have a firm answer ready: No!

Personally, if I have to do it all over again, I would not have gone to college. Heck, I wouldn’t have gone to medical school either.

Bottom line: Do not go back to school.

What Should You Do Instead?

Now that you have established that school is no longer an option, what should you do? You should …

Do anything!

Lemme explain …

Option #1 – Internship

By now, you may not have an idea of what you wanna do for the rest of your life, but you should have an idea of what you wanna try. Let’s say you think you wanna be an accountant. (I don’t know why you’ll ever choose such a yawn-inducing field, but whatever.)

As an average guy, you send out your resumes, cover letters, go to interviews, and jump through various bureaucratic hoops (kinda like a circus animal) so you can get noticed by some ditz in the human resources department. For all your hard work, you get rejected at the end.

But as a power player, you “just do it.” Just do accounting. Get a phone book, turn to the “accounting firm” section, call up various firms, and offer to work for free. You’ll get rejections, but at least you’ll get rejected faster. If you’re the shy type, send out e-mails to local, small business and offer to do their accounting for free.

I still remember doing this for the first time as a high school senior. To graduate, I had to work at an internship once a week. I was interested in market research, so I flipped to the “market research” section of the phone book and called the nearest company.

As I dialed, I was sweating. My hands were shaking. I half-wished that no one would answer the phone.

Someone answered. Darn! “Hello?”

“H-h-hi. My n-n-name is A-alex and I am a s-s-s-student. I n-n-need an i-internship to graduate. I w-w-would like to work f-for you for f-free.”

Well, it wasn’t my smoothest moment. (There will be a lot of unsmooth moments later on in my life, especially during my early encounters with the ladies.) Despite my former anxiety of speaking on the phone (hence, my wicked stammers), I got the internship. (And don’t tell anyone this secret, but … they also paid me, which was a big no-no according to my high school.)

Seriously, just do something. Get rejected fast. And you’ll succeed a lot faster.

Sooner or later, someone will take you up on your generous offer. You are essentially offering a no-risk proposition. They get free help and you get experience in a field that interests you.

Who knows? Maybe the guy will decide to pay you. It happened to me several more times. I was able to transition from free work to full-time (paid) work.

Basically, take matters into your own hands and create your own internship. This way, you can do what you wanna do, instead of fetching coffee like a monkey.

If your internship doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it.

First, that is only one option out of a billion other options. Pick a different firm, a different industry, or even a different field. And then offer your sweet, sweet, no-risk proposition again. Someone else will bite.

Second, you are now wiser and more experienced. Maybe you’re experienced enough to get paid.

Option #2 – Personal Project

Internships are nice and all, but you still don’t have much control. You still gotta answer to a boss. There is a better option. And if I was in your shoes, this is what I would do …

Start your very own project.

Let’s say you wanna be a journalist. There is no reason why you can’t create a website to show off your articles. Doing your own thing have several key benefits:

1. You will constantly report news. This will make you into a better journalist.

2. Your site could get popular and you can start making money from it.

For example, take a look at the Drudge Report. Matt Drudge started it as an e-mail newsletter from his own apartment. He then added a website as a supplement to his $10 / year newsletter. The site is basically a page of links to various news of the day. The simple HTML site now gets billions and billions of views a year.

Thanks to the Drudge Report, Matt Drudge is worth millions.

(If you wanna know how Matt did it, click here to see how the Drudge Report drives more traffic to major news sites than Facebook or Twitter. It is an excellent read.)
 
3. Even if you don’t make money from your own project, at the very least, you’ll have a portfolio to show your prospective employers. Who is more likely to get the job: a person with a worthless degree or a person with proof that he can get results? 99% of the time, people want results, not fancy deadwood.

Bottom line: Do anything you like. But start now!

How to Make a Good Money

Often, when people ask what they should do with their life, what they really mean is how they can make a lot of money doing minimal work.

Low-work, high-paying jobs are coveted. (In medicine, this would include specialties like dermatology. Top-tier medical students gravitate to this specialty not because it is a challenging field, but because the schedule is light and the pay is lucrative.) These type of jobs are given to the best of the best, to those with connections, or to those with good-looks.

The chance of you getting this type of job is extremely low. Look, you’re a great guy and all. But if I had a low-work, high-paying job lying around, I would choose one of my friends or a hot girl to fill it. No offense. How can you possibly compete against them?

Therefore, it is best to get this silly thought of low-work and high-pay out of your head. Low-work and high-pay will not be your reality … not until you have power. Once you have power, you can get others to do the heavy-lifting, while you collect the heavy-payload.

However, if I had a high-work, high-paying job lying around, I can’t give it to any dimwit (no matter how fond I am of her or how close I am to him). That is why I would choose the most capable person to fill it. This is where you come in.

But before you can compete, you must have skills and experience — one that you are working hard to get at this very moment.

The initial stages of going out and getting experience will be hard. You may not make good money right off the bat. So how do you survive in the meantime? Well, you may have to take a low-pay, crap job to make ends meet. That means you’ll have to work twice as hard …

  • on your internship / own project and

  • on your crap job

I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s gonna be tiring as heck. But once you’re valuable enough (and confident of your value), you’ll get that high-work, high-paying job. And the money will flow in like a river.

In Conclusion

By going against the mindless mass and by getting your own experience, you can break into any industry. You must take control of your life if you want results. Unless you got the looks or the connections, no one is going to hand you an opportunity on a silver platter. Depending on others to give you an opportunity just because you have good grades does not work anymore. It may have worked in the 60’s and maybe even in the 70’s, but it certainly does not work now.

Few people will take control of their lives, even after reading this priceless advice. Call it inertia, laziness, or wanting someone else to choose them. Since you are a power player, you do not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. You will do what few do: take action. And thus, you will be way better than the average. You will easily decimate your competition.

Talk and idea are cheap. Walk and execution are priceless.

When you’re bored, start over in a new field. The second, third, fourth, or fifth time of breaking into new fields will be much easier than the first. Get into the process of doing something productive every single day.

By doing something new every day, and by and getting new experiences every day, you will eventually stumble upon what you wanna do for the rest of your life.

No one can tell you what to do with your life, but I can show you how to find the answer. It beings and end with yourself, no one else.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
- Steve Jobs

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Comments

  1. Society has ingrained into people’s mind that “Going To College” is the only path available for people to learn a trade. That having a college degree will automatically put you in a job. In reality though this is just one way to learn a new trade as there are so many other ways of doing it saving the person thousands of dollars in loans.

    I remember while i was in High School stressing out because everyone was sending out college applications to various schools and me i was doing nothing as i was not interested in college as of yet. Having the College Advisor on my back constantly trying to sell me the dream of going to college. In the end i chose to go another way and instead joined the service.

    While in there i learned many things like leadership, teamwork and the like. All the while getting to visit exotic places i could have never visited if i were in college. I went where the oceans current took me! I met many people form different parts of the world experienced other cultures. Believe it or not within those 4 years i learned and experienced many things that college would have not offered.

    From there i worked at another job where i was a Sales person there i learned how to sell and used those skills to sell and promote myself! Selling to me is something every person should learn as when we meet anyone we are in a way selling ourselves to them. What are the advantages you bring to the table if your degree is worthless?

    People forget that you have to do your homework when it comes to choosing a degree to specialize in. Many do not do the research and hence when they get out they cannot find a job either because the industry in saturated with people who have similar degrees or the field is slowly shrinking due to Technology or its no longer feasible.

    I know when i went to college i did my research and discovered that the computer industry during the “90’s” was the thing to be in. I quickly went and signed up with my GI Bill and within a year and a half got my Associates and with in a month was hired for to work for a tech firm.

    Many of these educated people lack the hustle to get interviews lined up. They think that just by having a degree that it will get them a job without them doing anything! I remember hitting the classifieds, Craigslist, online job boards and the like! Hell i even hit up “Head hunters” like Robert Half who i had on speed dial. This is something colleges should teach their students.

    Still i could have done all of that without a degree if need be. It would have taken longer but it would have been possible!

    So find out what area you are interested in and see if there is a demand for it. Colleges are only in it to make money and not for your well being. Find out the other ways you can get into a field. Like Alex said above and i promise you you will get picked up.

    Sorry for the long comment Alex! Great Post!

    • Hey Jose,

      Great comment! I can see that throughout your life, you’re constantly breaking into a new field … your own way. With or without a degree.

      Kids, if you wanna be like Uncle Jose, listen to the man.

  2. “By going against the mindless mass and by getting your own experience, you can break into any industry.”

    This right here. Great post!

  3. Best post yet….This is the truth….

  4. I think there are so many kids (by kids I mean 18-21 year olds) who say I’m going to college and I’m making good grades so I’ll do whatever I want.

    They play video games, surfer for crap on the internet, and waste their life. Now we have a bunch of them who don’t know how to get along with others

    You can still goto school for cheap and have plenty of time to do productive stuff (and keep the parents off your back). My community college (that is only online by the way and super easy classes…30mins worth of homework per class per week) goes for $75 dollars per credit hour and with 60 credit hours you can get an associates or certificate for about $4,500. Or if you can come in with 30 credit hours from high school (like my siblings have) you can get a degree for $2,250.

    And if college is wrong for you/a waste of time, you aren’t $100,000 in the hole!

    Point is don’t waste so much money (and a ton of time if you are doing hard classes) on you college degree. Especially, when employers care and pay so much more for EXPERIENCE. You can still always do something productive while doing school and work.

    • Hey Mark,

      You certainly have a point about community college. It offers so much more value than 4-year colleges and universities.

      I actually fulfilled all my science requirements for medical school at a community college. If it is good enough for a future doctor, it is good enough for anyone.

  5. Alex, I agree with your post so strongly that it’s crazy. I personally declined a couple of job offers when I graduated last May to start a personal project of my own, and I can’t believe how much better of a decision it has been than going the traditional route.

    Awesome post, keep up the great work!!

    • Hey Chris,

      I really admire people with boldness, which you seem to be.

      I’m glad to see you’re carving your own path. It’ll be a bit more difficult starting out, but if you keep at it, you’ll be so far ahead of your peers … it’s not even funny.

  6. It’s so crucial to just take action. Everyone (myself included, sometimes) waits around for someone to come recruit them or for some stroke of luck to fall upon them. In reality, the only way someone really becomes successful is by creating value for society or help someone else in their endeavor to create value. Plain and simple. You did a really good job of explaining that. Thanks for your insight.

    Chad
    BuildTheFire

    • Hey Chad,

      You pretty much hit the nail on the head. Most people wait around for someone else to choose them. But then there are the select few who just choose themselves. It is those in the latter group who will make the biggest impact in the world.

  7. Hi Alex,

    Excellent post, brother!
    I always think about the Good Will Hunting quote you mentioned above when I see all these mindless people going to college and spending a fortune for what they can teach themselves for a tiny fraction of the cost.
    Sure, I went to college and graduated with a 3.75 GPA. (By the way, I went for free on a scholarship). Did I learn anything useful that I didn’t already know? Nope.
    Everything I know, that I consider valuable and applicable in today’s world, has been either self-taught or by observing the mistakes of others. One thing I can’t stress enough about knowledge: Your knowledge is useless unless you put it into action.

    Sincerely,
    Bob Smith

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