I dropped out of college almost a year ago to this date. (And I couldn’t be happier)
The reactions from people in my life were expected:
“How will you get a job?” To which I responded that I already had one.
Then they’d shift focus,
“College is about more than getting a job anyway…It’s about getting an education that makes you a well rounded person.”
I’ve always wondered what “well rounded” actually means, and I suspect nobody really knows, but fair point. Education IS valuable.
It’s so valuable that I’d argue that you can’t afford to passively accept whatever the college curriculum throws at you. You need to take control of your education and define what educational success is for yourself.
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But this is exactly what college can prevent you from doing. Rather than promote an open source learning environment, it tells you:
“Don’t do what you want to do, do your homework.”
“Don’t test yourself, let others test you instead.”
“Follow the curriculum we give you and only cite the sources we approve.”
Early on in my college years I realized that the things I wanted to accomplish in life were simply not going to be possible if I approached learning passively like my college courses asked me to.
I needed a new model, and even before I dropped out, my reading of the Praxis blog and my interactions with the team and participants helped me understand the path to getting there and inspired me to design my own curriculum for my life.
It’s hyper-focused on my goals and includes areas as diverse as classical studies, languages and philosophy to marketing, entrepreneurship and futurism.
But the specifics are less important than the general practices that can apply to all self directed learning.
So, how do we break the mold and get from being a passive learner to a self directed learner?
Define your personal and professional goals and create a learning plan for achieving them.
While traditional educational institutions give lip service to the idea of “discovering yourself,” and “figuring out what you want to do with your life,” the reality is that college has become a sort of 4 year vacation from the responsibility of asking yourself some very important questions. These might include:
• Who am I now and who do I want to be?
• What really makes me come alive?
• What are my strengths and weaknesses?
Don’t worry if the answers don’t come immediately or if they change over time. That’s part of the process of self directed learning — you can pivot any time you want.
Once you do have a starting point, you can begin tailoring your learning towards those answers.
Forget what you’ve been told about education.
Let’s face it.
We’ve been told lies about education for a long time. Those lies manifest themselves in many forms but their common principle is obedience to the educational system you are paying for with your taxes. Take the red pill from Morpheus and throw your beliefs about education out the door because they’re almost all false.
Some of these are:
• Education requires an authority figure telling you what to learn.
• Education requires that you learn things you have no interest in and which serve no value to your goals in life.
• You need to “get an A,” in every subject you take in order to be successful in that field or any field.
• People won’t know you’re educated unless you have a degree to prove it.
• You need to learn your field before you can start practicing in it.
There are more, but you get the picture. You do not need sanction from a professor, nor do you need to study every subject in order to be “well rounded.” The quality of your learning can be demonstrated in more ways than a letter grade and your education will be proven by what you do and create, not what institution you have a paper from.
The last fallacy is particularly vicious because it delays the real learning process for college students by at least 4 years.
Which brings me to the next step:
Start putting what you are learning into practice IMMEDIATELY.
The single most important thing you can do for you education and your personal and professional success is to begin putting your education to use as soon as it’s begun.
Praxis does this by placing our participants with their business partners the same day they begin their curriculum. This helps them learn the material better but it also gives them immediate feedback about the value of their curriculum.
There are other ways you can do it, all of which I’ve tried.
• Start a blog to write about what you are learning. Our CEO Isaac Morehouse recommends this to all of our participants.
• Take on freelance consulting jobs in your industry.
• Get a speaking gig.
• Start a business, publication or nonprofit.
• Go on a radio show or podcast
You’ll stumble and even fall on your face at times but you’ll be learning the most important skill you can develop in yourself along the way: how to apply theory to practice.
**** This post is ongoing and will continue to be updated and revised
- The Habit is the Way: Cultivating Success as a Discipline
- Ten Books You Should Read Before College
- The Unschooled Intellectual
- The Practical Value of History