There are no excuses any longer, not that there were many acceptable ones before. We have all been conditioned to believe there is one path to success:
Good grades in High School
Good grades in College
Good job in the corporate world
That game has changed. As someone who HAS deviated from this classic path laid out by society, our families, and those around us, I can vouch for the fact that there is more than one way to attain success. As we are all aware, the definitions of success vary greatly, so let’s define what mine is and how I got there. Over the course of my life, the definition of thing I wanted to achieve has changed greatly; in teens and twenties I wanted to be rich and famous, with the world’s adoration as a key performance indicator. Now in my early fifties it is the opposite, I want to be financially comfortable but as anonymous as possible.
Because of COVID19, the world has learned to function reasonably well in a totally new format. Thank goodness the technology was already in place to do so. I finished school through an online program at University of Phoenix in the early 2000’s, and relied heavily on ZOOM for my job in the past 9 years. I developed the ability to close deals virtually, without having to travel nationwide and incur costs. Even locally, I slowly but surely reduced the amount of time I spent out of the office, and focused on honing the skills that made me ultra-efficient in terms of time management. I closed more deals with less drive time, and far less air travel. It was better for the company (financially) and easier for me (short, overnight trips for business can suck the life out of you). I became successful in my world in the most efficient manner possible.
Since so much of the world functions in this manner now that I truly believe we have entered a new area of life. The COVID pandemic experience has created a reset in our society in my opinion; some people missed the hustle and bustle of working in an office, constant activity around them at all times. But many have come to realize that their job absorbed too much of their daily life, and now that they have tasted a new way to live they do not want to go back. In April of 2021, 4 million people quit their jobs. For many, a better lifestyle was the goal. Sitting in traffic for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening just to get to work, and then deal with the rigors that office work “supplies” like incessant interruptions and meetings for the simple reason of having meetings wears on you. Many wanted out, and a bunch of people took the leap to escape.
In some ways I have avoided the corporate world all of my life, seeing the rigors of the suit-and-tie world and not thinking this would be the right fit for me. I got to pursue an athletic opportunity until age 30 before retiring and “getting a real job”. Even then, I went a different route, willing to trade money for more free time than most had. I was after a lifestyle that only recently has become fashionable. The problem with this approach is that eventually you realize that a certain amount of money becomes necessary to do things that I wanted to do. Finding a balance in anything is always difficult, but well worth the pursuit.
Because I had left college to pursue my Pro Racquetball career, I had some unfinished business to tend to. I went back to school through UoP and finished my Business degree online, thinking that I absolutely had to have a degree to be afforded certain opportunities. In retrospect, I am not convinced this is true, but hindsight is 20/20. Maybe I would not have gotten certain job opportunities without that degree, but I am not sure. Keep in mind that this was 20 years ago, and things have changed quite a bit in that time. Nowadays, it is possible to have a “degree” through many different online resources. Many refer to this as YouTube University; there is so much material online to be had for free that you’d need multiple lifetimes to absorb it all. Is this viewed the same as a degree program from a major university? I don’t think so just yet, but it has closed that gap noticeably in the past two decades.
For example, Jordan Peterson had been posting all of his lectures from his classes at the University of Toronto for years. This is highly intellectual stuff, ranging from dissertations on the Bible to myths and fables as learning tools for life lessons, and all of it very, very good stuff. If I had a college professor that taught with the knowledge and passion he does, I would have been a much better student. No one outside of University of Toronto knew who he was for a long time, only the kids that attended his class benefitted from his intellectual prowess. But in today’s world, anyone anywhere on the planet (with internet access) can learn from him and many others. It is an amazing time to be alive. In addition, some of the major Ivy League schools are posting entire skills courses online for free. Does this mean that you’ll end up with a degree in psychology like Dr. Peterson has? No, of course not, but you will have a lot of knowledge at your disposal that will be of great assistance.
While I am not advocating for dropping out of school now, or avoiding college altogether, I do think that there is a chance for EVERYONE to round out their own life experiences and knowledge base outside of what is the forced compliance program that you enroll in at college. Playing a sport for as long as I did was a great life learning experience for me, and I firmly believe that I learned more from this that prepared me for the real world than anything else did. I got a degree to make sure my resume wasn’t separated out of the pile from the jump, but the rest I was able to handle on my own. And believe me when I tell you that being able to share with someone that I rose to the top in a chosen endeavor ALWAYS stood out. But your endeavor can be anything, you just need a talking point and something that shows you have what it takes to excel.
I guess the moral of this story is that you need to find a way to differentiate yourself in the working world to give yourself a chance of success. Unfortunately some of that is dependent upon you getting a foot in the door somewhere, and that is what I am talking about. From there, you’ll have to slowly navigate your life and your career path. Plan on working really hard in your twenties and thirties so that you can choose to pull back later on. I don’t think the opposite works nearly as well, but don’t forget to live a life along the way. Do your best to model out a life that makes you happy and financially comfortable, by your definition and not anyone else’s.