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You Don’t Need a Degree to be Successful

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Did you know that some of today’s most famous entrepreneurs became successful without a college degree? People like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg never completed college. Some dropped out before finishing. Others dropped out after two years or even six months. (Read more here and here.)

I am not suggesting that going to college isn’t important. I am a firm believer in education. I went back to school after my children were raised and finished my master’s degree, required for the work I do.

But I also know that there have been many people who have made it without earning that degree. They knew what they wanted, they had a passion for it and were ready to work to achieve it.

That’s the key – willingness.  Willingness to put in the time and energy to learn.

  • We learn from life.
  • We learn from good mentors.
  • We learn from studying and applying ourselves.

Consider your options.

As you think about where you want to go from here, consider all the options available to you.

My son was born with an incredible ability to draw. He started drawing as a kid. His art caught the attention of his teachers at college and when he struggled to complete an Algebra requirement in order to get his bachelor’s degree, his professors told him, “Don, you have great talent. Forget about the degree. Go out there and use your talent.”

They were right. The degree itself would not help him in his career. But working in the artistic world would and did.

We start life planning for our future, hoping it fulfills our hopes and dreams. Some goals are lofty and require considerable work, time, and commitment.

Others are simpler: I just want to live a happy life, find a job, get married, and have a family.

But then life becomes more complicated. You are not finding the satisfaction you hoped for. You really don’t like what you do, and technology suddenly makes the learning curve much higher.

When my parents were married, they expected life to demand hard work, persistence, and a knowledge of what you were doing. Both came from immigrant families. They didn’t hold college degrees. My dad didn’t go past the third grade. But they knew how to farm and what it took to be good at it.

And they were. At the end of their lives, they had raised ten children, and were very successful with their farming. When my dad died at the age of 101, he had accumulated, through astute money management and investments, an estate that gave a substantial amount of money to all their heirs – children and grandchildren.

Perhaps the most valued inheritance for me was what I learned growing up: how to look at life, how to meet the challenges that come out of nowhere and how to move beyond and grow because of them. That inheritance was priceless.

Whatever your background, you can learn the basic skills needed to achieve and succeed in whatever field of endeavor you enter.

I will

Don’t just work – work with a purpose.

When things go wrong, stop and consider what, why and how.

  • What did or didn’t I do?
  • Why didn’t it work out?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • How could I accomplish my goals, original or revised, by trying again?
  • Can I define more accurately what I want and then identify the steps needed to accomplish it?

Regardless of your childhood, traditions, or upbringing, to succeed at anything requires planning, review, evaluating, and a willingness to try something different. It requires an “I won’t give up” attitude.

We can alter our goals, discard and make new ones. As we learn and appreciate ourselves more, we can better articulate what it is we want. Each of us has unique gifts, talents and skills, that, when applied, benefit both us and others.

A simple exercise

We have many wants and desires, but when they are not prioritized, we can get sidetracked.

Start writing down the things that are most important to you.

  • What turns you on?
  • What inspires you to keep going?
  • What do you need to make your dreams come true?

Next, list the necessary tasks you need to do each day. How can you work your new aspirations and goals into your daily routine?

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