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How The Education of Millionaires Can Bring Hope to an Ailing Nation
By Anthony Mychal
Stuck under student debt? Can’t find a job? Regret your decision to attend college? There’s good news: It’s not too late. At least, that’s the thinking of Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late. Whether you’re a teenager with collegiate ambitions, a jobless twenty-something living in your parent’s basement, or a thirty year old touring third world countries to lower the cost of living, The Education of Millionaires is a must read.
The title, Education of Millionaires, does little justice to Ellsberg’s work. Don’t be fooled. It isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It’s not even in the same ballpark. The book is simply about how select millionaires and billionaires made it big. The catch? They aren’t your ordinary millionaires and billionaires. They are the ones that never finished college.
It’s filled with detailed interviews and insights from notable entrepreneurs and personalities such as Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal), Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook), and Marc Ecko (founder of Marc Eckō Enterprises). But make no mistake; Education of Millionaires is more than a conglomeration of interviews. And Ellsberg realizes that not everyone wants to be, or will succeed as, an entrepreneur. So don’t get discouraged if that’s not your thing, as there is plenty of valuable information for all interests.
Perhaps the best way to describe the book is with a phrase echoed long ago by Mark Twain: “I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.” Do you remember sitting through four years of high school and asking yourself, “What am I going to use this information for when I grow up?” And then sitting through two years of undergraduate school and asking yourself, “Isn’t this the same stuff that I’m not going to use after I graduate?” And then surviving those last two years of undergrad and asking yourself, “Will I even use this?”
Ellsberg remembers those years. And it’s safe to say Education of Millionaires contains what schools should be teaching. It’s the education you never had, but always wanted. And it’s boiled into seven success skills—all equally unlikely to appear in the public schooling curriculum. These seven skills are what separate the self made from those that fade. The self made realized—somehow, someway—that “street smarts” were more valuable than “book smarts,” and they went out and learned for themselves. See that? They learned. Even without school. What a crazy concept.
Ellsberg says that the traditional picture of people dropping out of school, having no career options, and living in a garbage can simply isn’t true. And he backs this up by differentiating between dropping out of school and dropping out of learning.
Seth Godin, bestselling author and genius of all things marketing, says that average is for losers. Yet the idea of primary, secondary, and higher education is rooted in building average people willing to do average things for average pay. And we willingly accept this fate. We’re told to go to school, get a secure job, start a family, and live a happy life behind a picket fence. We go to college in hopes of not upsetting the world. Whatever happened to wanting to make a difference? Wanting to change the world?
What they don’t tell you is that you will remortgage your house, sell your picket fence, and feed Spot scraps for dinner just to keep up with your bills. And they don’t tell you because they can’t. Their concept of life is formulated having lived during the industrial age. But the industrial age is over.
Although Ma and Pa just want you healthy and happy with a stable job and a pension waiting, this just is no longer reality. The rules have changed. Student loan sums and interest rates are climbing, and the twenty-three year old college graduate isn’t walking into executive positions anymore. Hell, they’re not even walking into entry level positions. They’re barristaing at Starbucks, living in their parent’s basement, and working to mitigate student debt.
Millions of students that make it through the once touted higher education system are coming out at the bottom, realizing that—by law—student debt is a life sentence. Hardly civil in a world where a fifty year old can accumulate credit card debt with vain and materialistic purchases, only to have the debt absolved in a bankruptcy settlement.
Big money companies like Sallie Mae are trapping the youth, forcing them to sign documents that are knowingly beyond their comprehension that essentially say this: as long as you’re alive, you will be indebted to me.
So how can a rational fifty year old that overindulges on materialistic things have an escape route when a eighteen year old kid, fulfilling society’s expectations and hoping to be rewarded with numerous career possibilities, be stuck for the rest of his or her life? Especially when accumulating the debt isn’t living up to the purported reward?
Ellsberg is adamant enough about this issue to print the following in full capital letters: “WHEN ARE WE GOING TO START GIVING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE BETTER CAREER ADVICE?” And my equally important question is, when are we going to start telling young people what to expect after college?
The system is broke. “It’s the end of the industrial age,” Seth Godin explains, “It lasted for eighty years. For eighty years you got a job, you did what you were told, and you retired. And good people could make above average pay for average work. And it ended. [The world is]…Totally unprepared. Absolutely. Because our schools, our systems, our retirement things, our taxes are all built around this notion of doing what you’re told.”
People are now realizing that following both orders and societal standards is landing them in an endless pile of debt without yielding tangible returns. Ellsberg claims that this can only go on for so long before something gives. The education bubble will burst.
What should I do? What jobs are there? How should I prepare? Which jobs should I prepare for? Is vocational school better? According to Ellsberg, this thinking is dysfunctional. The people that narrow themselves into one job—or even one field—won’t be suited to thrive because the very jobs that exist now won’t in five to ten years. “The courses in this book prepare you for success in any job,” Ellsberg explains, “Including jobs we can’t even imagine because they don’t exist yet. It is a completely adaptable set of personal and professional skills for life in the real world, applicable under any market conditions, any economic landscape, and any personal circumstances.”
Perhaps the most valuable skill, which appears as the seventh success skill in Education of Millionaires, isn’t much of a skill at all, but rather a mentality. Ellsberg differentiates between the employee mindset and the entrepreneurial mindset, saying that the employee mindset is poison. It subconsciously says things like: I went to school, I deserve a job. It’s not my fault for being unemployed. It’s not my job to do “x,” because I’m only “y.”
The entrepreneurial mindset, however, allows college drop outs to become millionaires. It takes responsibility for actions, regardless of fault. It works itself into promotions. It makes decisions, even without authority’s nod. But don’t get confused. The entrepreneurial mindset isn’t reserved for entrepreneurs. It’s a mindset, a way of approaching life. According to both Ellsberg and Godin, the public schooling system doesn’t teach the entrepreneurial mindset. It instead primes students for being an average cog in society that doesn’t question authority and embraces their role as a remedial worker. In other words, schools are teaching us how to fail.
The American Dream used to represent freedom and prosperity. Now, the American Dream is more so not having student loan payments. But the good news is that the true American Dream is as tangible as it has ever been. With the internet and plummeting cost of technology, businesses can start easier than ever. According to Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos, older businesses were more dependent on outside funding because internet and server costs could creep to $50,000 per month. Now, better servers and internet service can be had for a mere $50 per month.
The Age of Opportunity is upon us. Yet kids are still droned into higher education to get a “safe” job. But in 2009, Adobe Systems laid off 9% of its workers. Sprint Nextel laid off 2,500 workers. Microsoft laid off 8,500 workers. Cisco laid off 2,000 workers. Logitech cut 15% of salaried employees. In 2010, the US Postal Service cut 30,000 jobs. Verizon cut 13,000 employees. The Illinois Public School System cut 8,130 teachers. California fired over 20,000 of their teachers. In 2012, Pennsylvania cut more than 14,000 education jobs. Delta Air Lines bought out 2,000 workers. Research in Motion (creators of the Blackberry) cut 11% of its workforce. Pfizer cut 5,530 employees. Borders, 10,700.
Safety? Security? No. Quite the opposite. And it’s only a matter of time before the world realizes that the once safe, comfortable, and prestigious confine of higher education is now one of the riskiest endeavors for a student. But for those of us that already carry student debt around our belt, we owe it to future generations to tell them what truly waits after college. And we owe it to ourselves to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, positioning ourselves for success in the new economy. So no matter if you are in a little debt, in a lot of debt, comfortably paying off your debt, or a freshman not yet in debt, remember, it’s not too late.
Anthony Mychal is a writer and online fitness consultant from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can visit his personal website at http://anthonymychal.com. To contact him for questions and services, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.