Why Skipping Traditional Education May Be Your Best Chance at Self-Made Success
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Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs. Michael Dell.
What do these men have in common besides wealth, entrepreneurship, and knowledge about computers? None of them have a college degree. They never completed their classes, but still managed to change the world of technology and business forever.
But they’re not the only successful school dropouts. Other people like Oprah Winfrey, Soichiro Honda, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, Mary Kay Ash, Avril Lavigne, Muhammad Ali, and Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made millionaire, never received a college degree.
For most of America’s history, college degrees have been the traditional path toward education. If you wanted to make it in the world, you needed to get an education.
However, the costs of colleges keep rising, and students find themselves in a never-ending cycle of student debt. College tuition increased by 8% a year on average, which is much higher than the standard inflation rate. This number means that tuition effectively doubles every nine years.
The average student owes $32,731 in loans – a total of $1.56 trillion.
What’s it all worth in the end? A study from The Association of American Colleges & Universities found that 58% of employers believe that universities aren’t preparing students for entry-level jobs. Similarly, one-third of business leaders also think that schools aren’t giving graduates the necessary job skills, according to a 2013 Gallup poll.
With all this in mind, is college still worth it? Is there another way out?
Most people think college dropouts end up becoming poor people who work low-skill and minimum wage jobs. They’re derided as having no ambition, money, or talent.
Yet, there are plenty of successful people proving this idea wrong every single day.
Take Rasmus and Christian Mikkelsen, for example. These identical twins had no ambition throughout high school. They spent most of their time watching YouTube and playing video games. After they graduated high school, they took up part-time jobs to help pay for their one-bedroom apartment.
“If people from my high school were to see where we are right now, no one would believe it,” said Rasmus. “No exaggeration; we were the most invisible and insignificant kids through high school.”
It was one night when reality hit Rasmus like lightning. He wondered how people would react if he died. Who would miss him? Would anyone even notice?
The Twins both decided this worry wouldn’t become their reality. They immediately decided to enroll in college and get straight A’s. They spent almost every waking moment studying or working. They wanted to prove to themselves that it was possible, so they made it happen.
But then another sobering thought hit them: entering the workforce. That’s what was waiting for them at the end of the road – working a tedious nine-to-five corporate job until age 65.
“When we were 21, and we looked into the future envisioning what life would be like if we stuck with the traditional college to corporate job path, it was terrifying,” said Christian. “If that’s the life I am going to live the rest of my life, I might as well be dead. The thought of a future like that was so painful that there was no way we would ever put up with that.”
The Mikkelsen Twins made another major decision: they dropped out of college to start a business. They experimented with a few different business ideas until one landed: self-publishing books on Amazon.
Their business model is simple: find a niche where demand is higher than supply. Then, create a book for people looking for that subject matter.
The Twins started out writing the books themselves since they didn’t have any money. Rasmus wrote about fitness, and Christian wrote about becoming a 4.0 student.
“Amazon’s incredible print-on-demand system allows you to publish a print version of your book,” said Rasmus, “When anyone buys it, Amazon will print the book and ship it to the customer without you having to lift a finger. It all happens on its own. Any customer support, delivery, or printing issues are handled entirely by Amazon. And because it’s print-on-demand, they never run out of stock.”
Fast forward a few years later, and the Mikkelsen Twins are on top of the world. They spend a lot of their time traveling worldwide to places like Japan, Spain, Bali, Mexico, and Hawaii. They hire a handful of remote workers to write, proofread, and edit, while Amazon takes care of the rest.
“I think the things that are most important to be successful in life aren’t taught in school,” said Rasmus. “For example, one foundation of achieving anything great has strong habits that you consistently follow every day for years. I think people need to be taught what valuable habits look like and how to stick to them. If you really want to set people up to be successful and productive, teach them that. But it’s rarely ever discussed throughout a child’s education.”
Once the Mikkelsen Twins discovered they didn’t need a traditional college education, they sought new ways to educate a younger generation. If they could make an empire without a college degree, so too can others.
They founded PublishingLife, an online platform aimed at teaching students about how to replicate the Mikkelsens’ successful publishing business. Their flagship product is Audiobook Income Academy 2.0, which offers a comprehensive step-by-step course on publishing and selling e-books, print books and audiobooks.
This course isn’t just any course, though. The Twins poured their heart and soul into it. They put everything they knew into AIA, knowing that their knowledge would benefit anyone who watched it.
To the Mikkelsen Twins, quality is the most crucial aspect of any business venture. They ensure that every book they publish is top-notch and error-free. Their online course is the same way.
“Instead of creating four different courses as some people have suggested, we have remade the same course four times in two years,” said Rasmus. “Every time we remake it, it is truly ten times better than the previous version. The only way a competitor could create a program as good as ours is by remaking it four times.”
The idea of non-traditional education is daunting to most people. Most Americans believe that merely getting a college degree will ensure future success, yet many graduates remain underemployed and underpaid. Perhaps it’s time for more young people to break the mold and try something radically different.
“It is the alternative education in the form of online self-education and traveling that has really changed our life,” said Rasmus. “The impact has been a hundred times that of what I learned in 15 years of school.”