The 18 to 28 Debate: Is College Worth It?

The world is changing, and it’s important to acknowledge that certain long held beliefs should be re-examined. So many of us are stuck doing things in an outdated way and it’s only leading us to unhappiness. With that in mind, let’s rethink the paths people can take from ages 18 to 28. I don’t have all the answers, so after reading this piece, leave a comment so I can get your perspective on the 18 to 28 debate.

Is education the only way someone with few resources can find success?

What’s ironic about this question is my answer. As much as I take issue with the “one size fits all” education model (especially in countries like the United States), I am on the board of Pencils of Promise and I’m on the board of Charity Water. I know, in certain underdeveloped parts of Africa, if water is supplied then children, and parents, can focus on their education–instead of water. That’s why Pencils of Promise builds schools in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos. They focus on education because in less developed countries, entry level education leads to opportunity in the same way that entrepreneurship, the internet, and self awareness can lead to opportunities in countries like the US. 

So, the passion in my activities–not my words but my actions–they aim to show the opportunities present in wealthy countries due to the internet. I encourage people to look at their opinions and  not just fall into the limitations of a one size fits all education system. My actions speak to providing education to those in third world countries because it is the most practical. So it’s an interesting question for me.

I go far less entrepreneurial in less developed countries, mainly because I believe that the internet is the biggest gateway. Luckily, in the last decade there have been big advances in internet and cell phone dynamics in less wealthy countries. Still, it’s not to the level where I feel the practicality of  saying, “hey kid become an influencer” or “sell t-shirts on Shopify on your cell phone” isn’t actual, practical execution. For me, this is actually a story about the fact that I hate being ideological and that I don’t have a passion for any specific thing. But, I do have a passion for what’s right at the moment and I put my money and my actions towards believing that education, aka schools,  is the real gateway in poor countries. 

The way education is packaged in places like the US is too rigid and doesn’t speak to the realities of the opportunities. In some countries since there is no other gateway than the serendipity of who your family is, or your life experience, I think the added thing in that environment is a school. 

via GIPHY

Education in the macro, period, is the end all be all. If you are living in America where you have complete internet access (and a stunning amount of ten year olds have a smartphone). I believe that the vanilla execution of education in our school system is a huge vulnerability because we’re taught that’s the way out and I don’t believe that’s the modern model. In other places, where you don’t have the internet and you don’t even have schools–I’m a big fan of putting schools and school infrastructure  in place because there’s a lot of people that learn tremendously well from a school education. I just think it’s a lot less than others think, and we’ve gone through modern first world countries believing everyone learns from that system. 

College enrollment trends

Two massive trends. One of those is Covid. I get it, like Forget it, I’m not paying $40,000 for Zoom classes when (back to my point) I can get better classes for free on Youtube. If covid had not happened, and it’d be interesting to see what the numbers were last year, I think they’d continued to drop. You can get better “courses” on the internet and you can take that money and travel the world for 40k as an eighteen year old. Plus, you would really learn…the big argument is, you grow up in college and you meet people. As if that’s the only way one gets life experience and meets people. I think if you’re crafty as shit,  there’s a way better way to spend 50,000 dollars a year. 

Will that affect how companies vet new candidates?

It’s already happened. Google, VaynerMedia, Apple, IBM, Nordstrom, Costco and Bank of America, plenty of companies don’t require a college education. That game is crumbling in front of our faces. Not to mention an enormous amount of people are looking at entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is having its highest rise of all time. Here’s why, there’s a huge confusion–I really really want to change the conversation around entrepreneurship. 

Entrepreneurship has been hijacked by club promoters, i.e. showmen. It completely lacks practicality. What I mean by that is, do you know how epic a life that’s making 86,000 dollars a year doing something you’re crazy about is? Butterflies, honey, pasta, star trek, beard oils, wine…it’s real. It’s hard but it’s stunningly real to go from 18 to 28 and make 85k a year loving your shit. I think that’s really practical and for a lot of people they don’t realize it’s practical for them. Instead what a lot of people do is get in debt with high interest. Then they take an entry level job at 40,000 a year,  that they have no interest in, to pay the debt off. 

The 18 to 28 Year Old Debate

The 18 to 28 year old debate. Let’s debate those ten years. Here’s what most people are doing, they’re going to college. Luckily, for a small percentage–their parents pay for it. Awesome. Vacation. Enjoy the shit out of it. A lot of people are not though. They’re going into severe debt with high interest and no ability to bankrupt out of it. Then they go and take a job they don’t necessarily want, a lot of the time. 

There’s no way to clean the debt. So, they go from 18 to 22 doing that, then they go into a job market that doesn’t value the far majority of these diplomas. That game’s over. It just is. If you go to a top 5 percent school…people may take more note but not really. It just doesn’t carry the momentum of a degree the way 25 or 30 years ago. It’s not not the same weight. 

I have no clue where some of my employees went to school. If they all said community college, or they didn’t go at all, or they went to Harvard–it all would have landed the same way. In a world where the average income in the United States is 63,179  dollars a year (let’s not talk about the coasts or the bubbles some of us live in) I just think a lot of people can make 80,000 a year on Shopify or Facebook and live well. 

I don’t think everybody is an entrepreneur, I really don’t. However, I do think a lot of people have entrepreneurial tendencies that can get them to a little success. They’ll have the juice if they go hard on their thing. Sports, science, entertainment, music, whatever. 

Then they have to layer practicality; they have to sell something. 

The Tag Team

The other thing that nobody talks about, on this 18-28 year old debate, is the tag team. Tag team champions, the two people who come together. The crazy, artistic entrepreneur who is too wild and would gamble all the money. That’s the person who can make money but doesn’t have money. Then, the practical person, the secretary, the excel sheet doer, the responsible adult–that team is money. 

In a 2021 world, this needs to be talked about. One creative, money, sizzle–and one steak in the ground. Someone who is charismatic and someone who knows how to set up an LLC and makes sure people attend meetings. That team is money. That team is collectively in debt for 87,000 right now working at jobs they hate (at scale). 

The examples are every influencer on the internet. There are plenty of people making 100k. Their problem is that they’re buying Rollex’s and Beamers…and renting fancy houses in LA, so they’re underwater. This is real for people who want to play it safe. My model for 18-28 is safer, and happier. I believe this. Show me every 28 year old that’s in debt and I’ll show you half of my community.

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