I’ve been hitting the road lately giving talks at colleges. It’s a lot of fun to share my story with like-minded people close to my age. When you’ve got the hankering to open your own business, it’s always nice to see someone else who’s been there. I’m more than happy to be an example, especially with all the bumps I’ve hit along the way!
I try to make each presentation a bit different because every college has its own vibe, its own personality. But, I do make one notation in all my appearances: I went to community college and I dropped out.
Everyone has a different way of doing things and their own path to follow, but when you’re standing in front of a bunch of 20-somethings who are accepting they’re about to be riddled with debt for a degree, it’s a bit awkward to say, “Yeah, I’m successful because I gave university the big middle finger.”
Side-note: I am not successful because I didn’t go to college. I am successful despite not attending. B-I-G difference!
Of course I would have loved to attend a traditional 4-year school, but I never ended up having the grades or the drive. I wanted to go to Boston University or leave for Texas State University – I wanted to go abroad to Germany. Just like a college student dreaming about the day after graduation, I fantasized about what my life could have been like had I taken a different route.
But, here I am. No college degree and still kickin’.
It’s sometimes a bit weird when I’m driving home after a college visit. I’m filled with non-existent nostalgia. As someone who struggled committing to even the idea of college, I am often surprised that my audience can relate to me. After all, I’ve never lived in a dorm room, never rooted for a collegiate team and I’ve never spent a weekend hopping down – what do they call it? – Greek Row.
Yet, here I am at multiple colleges telling my story of hard work as a millennial. There are so many students that see themselves as their own boss one day or the inventor of the next big app. They look to me for advice, the kid who broke out in hives during Mathematics 101. And now I manage tens of thousands of dollars in inventory, purchasing, payroll, and sales projections.
Do I regret not going to college? No, but I do wish I had – just for the experience. The parties would have been nice and my friend group would have exploded. Plus, college is an amazing experience. It’s a good way to get to know yourself on a deeper level and hone in on the skills that will make you into the successful adult you eventually see yourself as. Higher education brings such depth to our society and it’s so awesome to see so many people take advantage of it. Maybe I would have discovered a passion for something new, like pottery or chemistry!
But I’ve already discovered that passion and it’s grown into something that only the real world could have taught me. The world of business is fast and unforgiving and while a few years of making connections would have been nice, it could have never prepared me for the reality of running a business!
I’ve still got plenty of living to do and nothing lasts forever (not even cupcakes), but memories and lessons learned certainly do. Everyone gets those a bit differently and I’m OK with that.