There has been so much talk about colleges and universities being too expensive at the moment. I tend to agree; according to a chart provided on the website USNews.com, between August 2003 and August 2013, the college tuition price index has outpaced housing, food/beverage, and even healthcare from a cost increase perspective!
This is certainly an alarming trend. Luckily the study also shows college tuition growth slowing but it seems the damage is already done; I do not expect tuition to be cut as doing so will be a sign of ‘desperation’ by universities everywhere.
I give kudos to the universities for creating such a strong brand recognition. The common understanding goes something like this:
You go to college = you get a good desk job.
You do not go to college = you get a menial labor job.
This is a strong incentive for many students to go to college, even if a traditional four year university might not be the right life choice for them. I can see where students run into a conundrum: if I do not go to this expensive four year university, I will not get a good job (or maybe not even get a job in the first place).
So what are students to do? Simply forgo the college experience altogether?
Definitely not. I am a big supporter of higher institutions of learning and I believe students should prioritize attending a four year university, especially if the career field they desire to get into has a college degree as a pre-requisite.
However, I do not think students should blindly choose a four year university because ‘everyone else is doing it’. The tuition you pay needs to be in line with what you are receiving in return.
If you graduate with $100k in student loans but are only able to secure a $30-40,000/yr. position, to me this is a potential losing proposition as the outlay does not justify the upfront costs.
If college is too expensive, then what do I advocate?
A great option that I am seeing out there right now is learning from the School of Life.
The School Of Life
Think about your own life for a moment – how many of the things that you currently know how to do came about from actually doing those things rather than just learning about them? I would say the learning base is a very important starting point but at the end of the day it is about taking action and just getting started.
Most of my best learnings came about through study on my own then implementing what I learned. School helped prepare me in many ways, but I would also argue that I did not achieve success until I began doing the thing instead of simply learning about it.
My Own School of Life
Right now I am on an entrepreneurial journey. I have not done something like this for a long while and I can tell that some of my business development skills have atrophied. But those muscles and skill sets are still there, I just need to dig a little deeper to get at them.
In this School of Life journey that I am currently on at there are only two outcomes: Failure or Success. There are certainly degrees in between but at the end of the day it comes down to this: either you are able to make it or you are not.
The principle of having success measured by whether or not the market deems your services worthy of paying ‘X’ amount for is one of the greatest lessons an entrepreneur can learn. How many of us suffer from the “Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim” approach to building a business (1)? The ‘aim, aim, aim’ approach says “I am not quite ready yet so I must plan and prepare just a little bit more.”
I would say too many of us – myself included.
So on my current journey, I am working towards implementing ‘Radical Action’ on a daily basis (2). This means getting out there, getting ideas implemented, and seeing how the marketplace values my goods and services.
The more and more I see this choice of action – the School of Life – the more appealing it is to me.
On on hand, there is the option of paying $40,000 to go back to school to get an MBA to work for someone else. It can be lucrative and is a decent option.
Then there is the option to start up my own business and potentially make $40,000 and invest that on the side. This alternative is very lucrative in that if you can make it work, the sky is the limit.
The MBA portion is very easy for a lot of people to do. The starting up of a business is much harder and therefore chosen by very few. Why is this?
Guided vs. Unguided
It all comes down to directionality. When you enroll in an MBA course, things are quite simple – not easy mind you – but simple.
You are assigned a certain amount of courses you must complete, you enroll in a certain amount of courses per semester, and in these courses you are taught by a professor who provides you a syllabus which is your guided path through the course.
While the actual learning of MBA is not easy, the idea of how to earn the MBA is very easy in practice. As a student, you have your instructor telling you what to do and how to achieve success along the way. If you do the steps listed on the syllabus, your chance at getting a higher grade are greatly enhanced.
Contrast this with the idea of starting a business: when you start a business, no one provides you a road map of how to begin. You are not given a grading system of any type and there is no syllabus to show you which way you need to go to achieve success.
Granted there are mentors and materials you can find to help you along the way, but largely you are on your own in the sense of figuring out what to do to make your business work. Even the idea you have for starting a business – whether it is a product or service – is entirely up to you.
I find that this lack of structure and guidance has been the most challenging piece of my entrepreneurial journey. This idea that I can wake up tomorrow and implement an idea but not see if that idea will be successful is a frightening predicament to find myself in.
The only true test of success in the world of business is this: will the marketplace value my service enough to pay me money for my time and efforts? If so, then there is a welcomed future waiting for me; if not, then I must act quickly and pivot to an idea that will work.
Reasons for Non-Action (and the Resulting Failure)
I am seeing that I currently have a few reasons that are holding me back from achieving my dream of being an entrepreneur and working for myself. By continually telling myself these stories, reasons, and excuses, I am setting myself up for failure. Let’s dissect and discuss each one in detail.
Right now I am giving myself a myriad of excuses to not do the thing. I can see that these excuses are nothing more than rationalizations to procrastinate and delay in getting started.
Each excuse contains its own unique lies and omissions of truth. What makes these excuses so dangerous is that they are not flat out lies but contain a semblance of truth which makes them more justifiable in my mind.
Here are some of the prime excuses I am currently using:
Excuse #1: I have a lot going on in my life at the moment such as selling my house, completing my MBA, my personal finance blog, and general life happenings, so I do not have the time to do the thing.
Excuse #2: I am not quite ready yet so I will work on preparing myself.
And Excuse #3: This will not work so what is the use in trying.
It is easier for me to wake up and say to myself that I need to prioritize selling the house or that I need to prioritize my social life or that I need to prioritize this over that whatever it may be. This process of excuse-making is really just the process of procrastination at work.
In reality, I know what I need to do to make my business ideas work but the fact remains that if I continue to make excuses instead of pursuing radical action, my business will be non-existent.
- Top Six Items Daily – I will make a list of the top six life changing items to do each day and accomplish those daily.
- Put the Lie to the Excuse – ‘I don’t have enough time’ becomes ‘I make time’. I then prioritize where I need to put my time to get where I need to go.
Another area that is holding me back in my entrepreneurial journey right now are the belief systems that I have in place.
While I am a very self-confident individual in many areas of my life, I can tell that around the area of building a business I lack confidence. And this makes sense, as I have not yet had the type of success that is commensurate to considering myself an accomplished individual.
The end result: I do not get started on some ideas because my belief systems tell me those ideas are not possible. Much of what I think at the moment is subconscious; my goal is to battle against those thoughts each day and come up with the power of positivity.
- Affirmations – the first step is in the belief that the thing can and will happen. Affirmations help reinforce this.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – A more powerful technique is challenging thoughts. If my thought is ‘this won’t work’, I begin to challenge that and say, ‘why not? I bet I can make this work.’
- Small Steps (i.e just get started) – Simple enough. Just do the thing.
- Adopt and Build the ‘Brick by brick’ Mentality – One of my hurdles has been to want everything done right away. Instead of saying ‘I will do just one thing today’ I say, ‘I need to do everything. I am working towards taking the process one step at a time!
Lack of Clear Focus
Another area that is holding me back from building my entrepreneurial ventures is lack of focus.
I am currently lacking self-discipline in the area of time management. This makes sense to me because one of my highest values is having time freedom.
Time freedom to me is being able to do what I want when I want. This is one of the main reasons why building up a passive income stream is so appealing to me; the idea that eventually I will be at a point where I can work when I want and where I want is something that I hold as a high value in my life.
Because I hold time freedom as such a high value in my life it has been a challenge for me to schedule my time and stick to that schedule. I see being overly scheduled as a cage of sorts and the need to escape from that cage is alive and well.
The ‘very important yet non-urgent items (VINI)’ are the areas where I am not prioritizing my time. These VINIs are items in my life that if done routinely, will fundamentally change my life forever.
Some examples of ‘very important items yet not urgent’ are writing, building a dividend investment series, investing capital, and making calls for my Consulting business. Instead of locked in focus on these items, I am allowing myself to be at the whims of my day-to-day life through a lack of clear focus and spreading my efforts across too many areas.
Countermeasures for Lack of Focus
- Start small – Breaking things down into the smallest parts is a key for success. This is the process of creating ‘ladder’ goals. One small step leads to another until the steps add up to one huge leap.
- Action before motivation – Getting started is half the battle.
- Scale back efforts – This one is the most challenging as I like to do so much. But rather than start two businesses at once, I will focus on building one and once that is going, then look to build the other.
- Block action – Setting up time for efforts and sticking to it. (i.e. today I will write for three 1 hr blocks).
- Minimize distractions – Reduce and eliminate times that I check email/twitter/text, etc. during block time.
Another area where I am struggling around entrepreneurism is by having and allowing too many distractions in my life. This has been challenging to break, as a value that I hold very high in my life is quick communication.
This always-on mentality has led to high levels of success in my career field, but I can see that this is a mentality that I will have to change, in particular when I am in the creative process. The ‘always-on’ mentality is also one that does not work with the block schedule method.
The ‘always on’ mentality is also causing me to not write as clearly and concisely as it is stopping my train of thought while deep in the creative process.
- Smaller increments of focus with quick breaks – I find that 1 hr blocks of time for a task are perfect for me. Anything longer than that and I quickly lose resolve. My goal is to work for an hour, take a 10-15 break, then get back at it.
- Changing the value structure – This one is interesting in that I want to change how I view work; not as something I have to do but that I want to do. This will mean staying balanced in regards to time and energy levels (which can be a challenge).
Should You Choose the School of Life?
The School of Life is not for everyone but it might just be for you. If you have always wondered what life would be like if you started your own venture, if you built that business, or wrote that book, it might just be time for you to spread your wings and fly.
I find that while the School of Life is very difficult, it has been well worth the journey. Stay diligent my friends!
(2) Ralph Smart – Infinite Waters advocates ‘Radical Action’ as part of his program on life. It is well worth checking out his YouTube channel.
Disclaimer: (1) All the information above is not a recommendation for or against any investment vehicle or money management strategy. It should not be construed as advice and each individual that invests needs to take up any decision with the utmost care and diligence. Please seek the advice of a competent business professional before making any financial decision.
(2) This website may contain affiliate links. My goal is to continue to provide you free content and to do so, I may market affiliates from time-to-time. I would appreciate you supporting the sponsors of MoneyByRamey.com as they keep me in business!