Home Work #SideHustle The Best Education is Self-Education

Chapter 9 of The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide is called “The Best Education is Self-Education.” Rather than review this chapter in detail, I’m going to explain why I strongly agree with the general concept that the best education is self-education.

If you want to be a doctor, a psychologist, an attorney, a high-level consultant, or you need to get your masters in education as a job requirement, then my theory about not going back to school doesn’t apply to you.

Before you consider stopping your life, adding to your pile of debt, and taking on extra degrees, please answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Are you using an additional degree to delay working in the real world for a few more years?
  • If getting a masters is crucial to your career situation, could you save money pursuing an online masters degree rather than a traditional program?
  • Have you calculated what your monthly student loan payments will be once you graduate? Can you really afford them on that starting salary that will inevitably be lower than you had hoped?
  • Are you using the recession as an excuse and telling yourself “well, there are no jobs out there so I might as well go back to school”?
  • Are you waiting for Corporate America to save you?

If some of these questions left you scratching your head, then it’s time to get real about self-education. Here are some crucial steps:

Step 1: Assess what you want. Do you even know? If not, start searching. It may take 4 years. Accept it and push yourself to keep searching every day.

Step 2: Read a LOT of books and blogs about things that interest you. A few of my entrepreneurial MUST READS are Gary Vaynerchuk‘s “Crush It” and “The Millionaire Mind.” Study how these people think and experiment with their suggestions.

Step 3: Talk to people all the time, find career idols and watch them. What do they like about their career, what do they dislike? What would they have done differently if they were 25 again? Think of yourself as a news reporter, always trying to gather information to build your story.

Step 4: “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.” This is my personal motto for 2010. If you keep doing the same things you’re going to get the same results, right? Well then you might as well try something different.

School is a funny place. Contrary to common belief, school was not designed to make decisions for you. It was not designed to solve your career uncertainty issues. School is meant to give you tools so you can go out and find the information you need on your own.

  • What do YOU think? Is going back to school for graduate degrees crucial to career survival today?
  • Do you think entrepreneurs should go out and get their MBA’s before trying their hand at owning a business?
  • Do you feel that Gen Y uses advanced degrees as a career crutch?
  • Do you know successful entrepreneurs who have made it without advanced schooling?

Please share your thoughts.

30 replies to this post
  1. In Response to Step 2 Above: This may seem silly to some, but I highly recommend the topical books the “For Dummies” series provides. I read the Economics and Investing just to gather the basics about said topics. This didn’t lead to a career change, but it did open my eyes and give me a better understanding of how money works. I would recommend that if you are contemplating a career move, or thinking of heading back to school, investing 6 hours of your time in checking out of these books.

    • The “Blogging for Dummies” book is what got me started on this very blog! I also have “WordPress for Dummies” and “Investing for Dummies.” The exploration process requires scratching the surface of several topics and seeing what sticks. Satisfy that curiousity!

      • I bought a couple books from Barnes and Noble this weekend and one of them was actually Blogging for Dummies, however, I don’t have that on my calendar to read until next week….stay tuned!!! Oh, and how to I change that icon that so inaccurately depics me and my comments? ;) I need something a little more guyish.

        • In order for your picture to show up on your comments here, you need to create a free wordpress account at wordpress.com. It takes about 3.6 seconds. You can upload a picture there, which will show up on your comments from now on (instead of this totally adorable cartoon lady!) :)

  2. Nicole,
    Glad that I found you because of Corn on the Job! I am working on a post that is almost exactly like this right now and I am glad you shared… This topic is something to be questioned right now and I would love to talk with you more about it. I just launched my site thesquab.com 2 weeks ago and I am currently writing an ebook about careers. Would you be will to take a look at the email and possibly join in?

    Rock on!
    -Shane Mac

  3. Hey Nicole. First of all, nice digs! I love what you’ve done with the place… :)

    Second – this is SO spot on, I couldn’t agree more – I’m going to keep my comment somewhat short and sweet because your brilliance has inspired me to write a post along these same lines. But, to illustrate, see everything around you? This fancy new design? All self taught in less than a year. I didn’t know a single thing about web design this time last year and now, it’s led me to working with amazing people such as yourself.

    We tell ourselves we CAN’T do things all the time, but in reality, anything you want to do can be done, and usually done without higher education. It takes a lot of initiative, determination, and trial and error – but once your willing to put yourself out there, the sky’s the limit.

    Follow up post in my neck of the woods coming tomorrow. I can tell you and I are going to do some big things (hopefully a few together) here in Chicago!

    • Matt,

      I have very strong opinions about self-education becasue of my family background. My grandparents are Italian immigrants who came here without knwoing the language, and have become extremley successful. My parents are also successful entrepreneurs who have found their niche and excelled at it with no college degrees. All of this is because they adopted the principal of self-education and then applied it.

      Half the battle is jumping in head first, being uncomfortable, asking a shit ton of questions (umm you know I do this to you all the time), reading constantly, and keeping at it. I too barely knew what a blog or twitter was a year ago, and I just learn a little bit at a time.

      I also think that some people think a degree or company is going to make all of their dreams come true. Others believe they can make their own dreams come true.

      Can’t wait to read your post tomorrow!


    • I have to second Matt on the self taught idea. I’m a huge fan of learning by doing. If you want to learn how to drywall a basement, go drywall somebody’s basement. You’ll learn more actually doing it than reading how-to books at the library.

      Most of my technical skills in web development and video production/post-production are self taught. I taught myself how to edit in high school and gradually learned more and more over time by simply editing things I shot. Same thing with building websites.

      Four years ago I had no idea how to set up a dancing Christmas lights display. I just went ahead and did it. Four years later, I’ve learned a ton, by simply doing it!

      You’re going to learn things from school, you’re going to learn things from other people, but it’s up to you to apply what you’ve learned and expand upon it.

      • Tim- Completely agree. It goes back to my motto “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Being uncomfortable gets easier and easier the more you indulge in it.

        I must also note that I’m honored you chose to read this blog!


  4. I completely agree. I think too many Gen Yers are jumping into further education – and further debt – without trying harder to find jobs.

    I actually wrote an article about this topic for my Universities paper a few months ago and the consensus of experts was generally that experience is better than multiple degrees. Besides, there are SO MANY other ways to learn – reading books, travel etc. Great post!

    • I’d love to see the article you wrote as this topic really hits home for me. Send over the link!

      I read a lot about Gen Y and I think this rush to go back to school without having a destination in mind is one of the factors that contributes to Gen Y’ers having a less than stellar reputation.

  5. I so agree with you on this! It seems like may Gen Yers are trying to “find themselves” by going back to school. With some exceptions, of course, this just postpones finding out how you fit in the post-school world.

    Why would you go into debt to “find yourself” at school when you can get a job and get paid while you’re figuring out who you are in your spare time. Not to mention that your graduate degree makes you more of a specialist, which can actually make it harder to find a job in a competitive economy, depending on your field and your career desires. More school is safe and feels easy, but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for everyone.

    • On this whole topic of finding ourselves-

      Do you think that Gen Y struggles more with finding ourselves than generations past did? It’s a huge topic among our age group and I’m assuming it is because we have a lot more information, technology and choices than perhaps our own parents did.

      Also, many of us delay marriage and kids in order to find ourselves first which leaves us a lot more time to think about our career path than our parents and grandparents had. Thoughts?

  6. Nicole,

    Couldn’t agree more about self- education being the best way to learn. In fact, that concept is called “autodidacticism.” I wish their were a friendlier word for it!

    That concept is the whole basis for my own blog site… and I recently wrote an article, “What is an Autodidactic, and Why Should I Care?” which may be of worth to your readers. (see: http://bit.ly/4w6wYu)

    Like your site…going to add it to my reader. Thanks so much.

  7. I couldn’t agree more either. This article pretty much sums up my own philosophy of education, and it’s actually the very topic I blog about.

    Many students are too dependent on their schools which makes it impossible for them to make meaningful decisions about their future. And if one thing is missing from the school’s curriculum, they complain about their school’s inability to teach them anything.

    It’s unfortunate, but I believe it’s also partly due to the fact that most students haven’t been taught what education really is about. It can be difficult to grasp what it means to be provided with “a set of tools”. What does it really mean for the students? The skills? The diploma? The experience? The community? Or is it just an introduction to a certain profession? Can you really acquire a profession in 4 years when you’re mostly reading theory?

    • ewww that is THE WORST- when people bitch about their school not teaching them anything. It reminds me of those who complain that McDonalds is making them fat- umm hello, don’t eat it then!

      And if you want to learn more about something, go freaking buy a book or connect with the expert of that subject matter online and build a relationship with him or her. It is not other peoples or institutions jobs to satisfy every detail of your needs and wants. There’s something called FREE WILL and initiative.

  8. Nicole, love that I found this site! May I also recommend the free podcasts & lectures on iTunes. Harvard Business lectures for free? Yes, please!

    Will definitely keep reading; your writing is great help for those just starting a business (like myself – fair trade fashion out of Central America!). Looking forward to making some contributions in the future.


  9. I totally agree with you.
    Self Education is obviously the best education. A person can just be anything he/she wants to.
    School is for them who can’t educate themselves by own!
    I believe I can educate myself on my own :)
    It’s very flexible and I can do it in my own life style.

  10. I can totally see why doing the same thing for too long would get old.

    I imagine that learning purely because you WANT to would increase your retention, your depth of understanding and even your classroom performance on the subject. I think that internships and co-ops should be integrated into college graduation requirements.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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