This is a guest post by Praxis Winter 2014 Participant Conor McClanaghan.
It wasn’t long into my college career that I knew something wasn’t right. I felt like I was spinning my wheels and just going through the motions. I wasn’t a bad student — I just knew that what I was doing was just what was expected of me. It wasn’t anything new. It wasn’t anything exciting. It wasn’t anything really all that educational. It wasn’t going to prepare me for the real world, but it was certainly going to use up my precious time.
Once I discovered Praxis, I dropped out of school at the opportunity to enroll. I packed up my stuff and moved across the country to Philadelphia, PA to begin my ten months. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. My months at my business partner, Modern Coins Direct, have taught me more about working in the real world and about myself than 4 years at any school could have. I’m now on the track to starting my own operation and have more opportunities than I could have imagined eight months ago. I took a big jump by leaving school, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Here are five of the reasons:
1. The opportunity to move to a new city can’t be passed up.
A courageous migration will put you in a position to meet countless others that you otherwise would never have crossed paths with. Your network will expand across township, county, state and potentially even national boundaries. Plenty of these new people in your life will become professional connections in the future and many more will become lifelong friends. Such close relationships will help foster a love affair between you and your new city, a love that will only grow as you develop a pioneer mentality that is necessary to survive on your own in a new town. This mindset will lead you to immerse yourself in unfamiliar cultures, which will broaden your horizons, and help you discover more of what you like and dislike.
Although you can move to a new city at any age, when you get older you get tied down with family and work commitments. Move to a new city when you are young and not tied down.
2. It’s the best way to discover what you love doing.
This is a big one, and it is mostly applicable to those of us who are unsure of what kind of career we want to pursue. It is true that you don’t really know what you like until you have tried it. This is how I learned going to college to discover what I love was both foolish and costly. How can you get a taste of different fields of work when you are stuck in a classroom going over relatively useless material that you likely covered in high school?
Praxis, on the other hand, puts you out in the commercial world and exposes you to numerous sectors of the economy at once. It provides you a new job that gets your hands dirty in an industry you probably didn’t know much about beforehand. The curriculum is so flexible you will likely have the ability to fill your schedule with another job or two. This program is best utilized if you use the ten months to try as many new things as possible, giving yourself ample opportunities to find new passions.
3. The work experience is the best out there.
Whether your business partner is a marketing business, an accounting firm, a coin dealer, a publisher, a manufacturing plant, or an urban design group, you will be placed on the front lines of a dynamic organization creating real value for consumers. You won’t be making copies and going on coffee runs like you might at a corporate internship. This is more of an apprenticeship, a chance to work alongside CEOs and learn how to run their particular business. There is no substitute for experience, and Praxis is an experience builder.
In my own experience, I have learned in close proximity to the founder and CEO how to operate a multi-million dollar operation. The hands-on dynamism and pressure of such learning far outdoes any textbook-learning at a business school. This is a real business education.
4. It has the most original and straightforward liberal arts curriculum out there.
If you attended college recently, or currently are a student, you probably agree there is a lot of fluff you have to put up with to get a degree — and expensive fluff at that. Praxis takes a no-nonsense approach. You won’t have to spend a year and a half completing 45 credits worth of general education requirements (essentially redoing high school). There are no ‘tests’ that simply require you memorize then recite. No multiple-choice quizzes. And there is no way to cheat or freeload off another student. The material is rich in all of the modules, and is designed by experts in each field to provide you with the most value in the most concise way. It consists of readings, videos, lecture series, thought experiments, and writing assignments — in addition to weekly discussions with other participants engaged in the material and with experts in each field.
It is original not only in how concise and dense it is, but also in its substance. For example, the Praxis history module looks at history through a unique lens. Instead of the typical history taught in school, which gives favorable coverage to political occurrences (think of the major dates usually taught in US history: 1776, 1812, 1865, 1917, 1941, and 1964 – all political dates) it focuses on less-told — but in some ways more impactful — dates like the invention of so many innovations that have shaped history — the telegraph, model T, containership, jumbo jet, and world wide web. It exposes you to the reality of exponential human progress since the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The economics module is very similar. Instead of focusing on memorizing the definitions of terms, and reading graphs, it puts an emphasis on the economic way of thinking, centering on the way people act predictably by responding to incentives.
All of these come together to create a robust liberal arts curriculum that not only outpaces what you’d be exposed to in many colleges, but also prepares you to think like an entrepreneur. All the subjects have helped me become a more dynamic, creative thinker who can approach problems in a new way.
5. Do it for the challenge.
The easy way out would be to go to a traditional school and get your bachelor’s degree. Everyone else is doing it! How is that working out for them? How does that help them become better thinkers, entrepreneurs, or employees? The more impressive, rewarding, and rigorous route is Praxis. It’s challenging, but it is more than worth it at the end of the day.