Want to Be Happy & Successful? Don’t Just *Go* to College

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I was born in 1985. I’m technically a millennial, but one of the old-school ones who got spankings; never needed or wanted a Participation Ribbon (but that’s bc I was terrified of failure & LOVE to win, let’s get real); and remembers when people grew handlebar mustaches as jokes.

I’m also part of the group who thought a college degree was necessary for LIFE. So, I worked my ass off to get grades & go to college & then law school & then grad school…

I have so many pieces of paper documenting my academic achievements. And I hate them.

I hate myself for chasing them.

I hate myself for getting my self worth be wrapped up in those pieces of paper.

I hate that I thought getting them would make me happy or successful.

They’ve gotten me a shit-ton of debt. I lost a lot of sleep and inner peace because of them. And I lost touch with my intuitive self after so much instruction.

I didn’t get those degrees without having some great characteristics – quick mind, determination, a sincere love of learning… but those winning traits didn’t happen because of school. School happened because of those things.

My curiosity was a great motivator when it came to school, becoming a professor before 30, and keeping the motor running when a bunch of my former classmates were starting full-on careers. But that curiosity also didn’t have objectives – I wasn’t going to do anything just learning a bunch of stuff. What job is that – human encyclopedia. Enter student loan debt. F*ck.

My higher education ROI was, uhh, not favorable.

And that’s the biggest reason why I don’t tell young people that they just HAVE to go to college.

Don’t just GO to college.

Go to college with a plan.

Go to college with a plan to make something of the experience. And by that, I don’t mean “finding yourself” or having a good old-fashioned hootenanny of a time. Was college fun? Heck yeah. Did I learn more about who I was? Heck yeah. I tore it up in college!

But those experiences – the fun, the self discovery – didn’t have to happen in college. If you want those things, go get those things. Travel. Work as a camp counselor in Rhode Island. Backpack the Appalachian Trail.

Go to college to get the skills, knowledge, and certification that will make your dream come true. You don’t get in the car with vague intentions of where you’re headed. That’s reserved solely for joy rides or deep contemplation. But it doesn’t actually get you anywhere. You get in the car with a destination in mind, then navigate the path to get there. Apply the same to college.

Goal-setting is important because

  1. Goals give us focus
  2. Goals allow us to measure progress
  3. Goals helps us overcome distractions
  4. Goals provide motivation

It’s all about setting a goal. The inportance of goal-setting in the grand scheme of achievement is no more apparent than when applied to the decision to go to college.