College Would Have Ruined Me

Don’t worry. I’m not here to bash your career path. I’m certainly not going to make a case that you should quit school and go do your own thing.

I’m just saying, it would have royally screwed me up.

Listen, I drank the public school Kool-Aid. Get good grades, do what you are told, go to college, and settle into a job. It sounds so safe and it was. I learned how to game the system. It’s easy to follow someone else’s rules. You can learn how to get the maximum return on the minimum effort.

It made me lazy.

With school there was a maximum return. 100% is all you can get. And when a 90 gets the same letter as a 100, why shoot towards the top? The effort to get there doesn’t bring any additional reward. Pointless. So I just did what I had to.

The problem here is just doing the minimum only lowers the standard. Once less than is ok, less than that becomes ok too. Slippery slope.

Lucky for me, God had other plans and decided to bless some of my bad behavior with a life changer. At 19 I became a dad.

There is something about facing the realization that life is never going to be the same that will force you in one direction or the other. Go for it or forget it. These were my choices.

I went for it. I had to provide for my new family.

The first step was quit college and find work. Criticism was abundant, but I kept my focus forward. Real estate lured me in with it’s promise of exponential return on production. Work better. Earn better.

It was liberating (and terrifying) to set my own path. Nobody was setting the bar for me. No one was looking over my shoulder and keeping me on track.

I screwed up a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. I tried to cold call someone, froze and hung up. I kept my eyes forward. I got better. I sold more. I learned more about sales in 6 months of trial and error than I would have in a semester of core classes.

Eventually I crashed along side the housing market. I watched deals that were practically in the bank turn into nothing. I couldn’t pay my mortgage or feed my family. Eventually I had to learn one of the most valuable skills a person can learn. I had to humble myslef and ask for help.

There are few things more painful to a man’s ego than to rely on someone else. Falling is hard. It hurts and people notice. They feel sorry for you. Some of it is empathy. Some of it is pity. None of if feels good. But it happens to everyone.

And when you are in that spot laying prone on the floor while everyone is watching, you have a choice to make. Lay there or get up.

I took a super crappy job selling replacement windows to poor people off a bait and switch add. I hated it. I would sit in these people’s houses and show them all of the bells and whistles, then drop a price tag down that was 1000% above their pricing expectations. My job was to convince them to go into debt on windows. I couldn’t do it. I imagined how I would feel sitting in their spot. It was easy to think about because I was broke too. I would tell them, “Don’t tell my boss I said this, but it’s a really bad idea for you. They are good windows, but they aren’t worth signing away $300 a month for the next 6 years.” Every now and the I would get a lead with someone who coild pay cash.

I promised myself I would never sell anything to anyone if I didn’t believe it would make their life better. For the first time in my life I realized that God provides no matter what, but it’s easier to accept His provision when I am doing the right thing.

And He does provide.

It was not long after that a family member needed help with his brand new company. I leveraged every skill I had picked up until that point. Soon, this small start up turned into a rapidly growing business. I loved the ride on the way up. I loved the feeling of “Holy crap! How did we get this opportunity, and how the heck are we going to pull this off?” It was intoxicating. And then after 6 years of doing it I wanted something more.

In some weird and twisted way, I missed the struggle. I missed the unknown. I missed the high highs and low lows.

So I left to start something all over again, and that’s where I am now.

College would have ruined me. It would have robbed from all of this. It would have put me on a track where I would be nestled into a cubicle doing the minimum to get the “A,” comfortable with a slipping level of expectations, ignorant to the feeling that adventure and risk and reward and failure and striving and success brings to me.

I believe life is better lived fully engaged, driving into the boundaries of our potential until they move, or until we fall, and then doing it again.