I’ll begin by asking people to take a few minutes to either watch or read Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you finish.
Done? Good. Now there’s a lot to be said about what Steve Jobs talked about. It sounds fantastic and idealistic to be able to disregard the future and simply chase your passions. Let the future figure out how all the dots connect together, your job is to provide the dots so that there is something to connect in the future. Sounds easy enough right? I mean, it’s so easy to look back and say “This is how everything connects”when you’ve created something as successful as Apple and Pixar. For a lot of people, they simply want to know what about everyone else who failed to become Steve Jobs? All of the people who chased their “dreams” and ended up failures with nothing to show but their titanic debts.
Well I would start by stating that it’s not as simple as “chasing your dreams.” For most people who chase their “dreams,” it usually entails some type of quick rich scheme. People borrow loans and take huge risks in order to purchase the next “hot stock” or the next “amazing investment.” Then before they know it, they’ve lost it all to some scammer or to the sheer ignorance of what they were doing. There’s a conventional saying in people who are smart investors, “If you are trying to get in the market when the masses are saying you should get in, it’s probably time to get out.”
Once we’ve cut out the “quick rich” population, we’re much closer to the people with actual dreams. I know that a lot of people won’t like the fact that being rich can’t be considered a dream in my dictionary, but it’s not. Rich means so many different things to so many different things. For example, rich to me might mean being able to travel for 2 weeks every year to wherever I wanted without breaking the bank. Maybe being rich to someone else means being able to eat at 5 star restaurants all the time and never cooking. All I can say is, while money ties into many of our goals, the sheer goal of “being” rich lacks the same specificity that I discussed in my post about crafting a vision.
And now, we’re left with people with the true dreams. At this point, the difference between those who chase after their dreams and those who don’t is the willingness to take the plunge and fight for what they want. People who fight for their dream are those who end up being the exception. The ones who face adversity with a smile and move forward. These are the very people who have the inner strength necessary to rise to greatness. After all, true inner strength comes from the ability to continue onward when the rest of the world is trying to block your way.
It’s true. Some of the fighters fall along the way to their pursuit of their dream. Life can be so unfair at times. To these people, I hold you in the highest regard for taking charge of your own life and fighting to change the hand dealt to you. To everyone else who is afraid of this: wouldn’t the chance of achieving self-fulfillment and happiness be worth the dive?
So dream big. Fight on. Give nothing less than your all. Remember that the people stuck in the norm will always try and drag you back down. You can be the exception if you have a clear vision and the will to fight. And with more and more people breaking the norm, I’m sure that more and more of us will begin to be the change this world so desperately needs.
This post is written in response to an influx of comments I received on my Xanga.
So I apologize for not responding to everyone via individual comments, but I thought it would be best for me to address some of the issues brought up in the awesome responses I received.
- For all of you who are paying off, waiting for, or watching someone pay off debt, I totally understand the feeling. I’m right there with you with a $15,000 grad school loan waiting for me very soon. I’m not looking forward to it… and in fact I probably have more debt coming my way… but more on that another time.
- I know that this topic may not seem controversial to some. It seems black and white right? Either you value education or you don’t. Well my rebuttal to that would be that most people have no idea what they want to do. I know there’s a point in saying that people figure it out when they go to school, but I would very quickly argue that that point is moot due to the fact that a majority of people get caught up in the social life of college and rarely if ever truly figure it out. If anything, they get thrown on some random direction with debt and no job prospects. Going to school to try and figure things out can be a huge financial risk if you’re footing the bill, especially if you get caught up with the norm. I know it’s how a lot of people try and approach college, but I think that times have changed and that method isn’t for everyone anymore.
- To those who are under the impression that it’s stupid that people are in debt for liberal art degrees, I see why you say what you do. It seems clear cut that people would take classes part time and slowly work their way up to the degree, but we all know that’s not the majority. First of all, being able to take classes part time without taking a loan out implies that you have a job (which is frankly not in ready supply anymore). Second, there is the assumption that people have the ability to take their time taking classes. I mean, what about graduate school and other prospects? After all, a bachelors is not the end all be all. Third, subsidized loans are gone. This means that students can no longer take out loans without worrying about paying back interest while in school. Can you imagine what will happen when all these students need jobs to help pay off school while they are in school? It is already hard enough on those who didn’t have the financial means to begin with, now the waters will be filled with students grasping for life.
- There was a comment about how scholarships are automatically given out if you have a 3.0 GPA? I’m not sure what colleges you are talking about, but last I checked it’s not even CLOSE to that simple. Now if you have SAT scores that are in the 95+ percentile, maybe you have a point. But again, that’s no help to the majority.
Be on the lookout for my next post: Crafting Your Vision!
In the last post, I talked about the first problem with people getting a degree “just to get a degree.” And I’ll reiterate for those who forgot what it was:
“Problem #1. First and foremost, a lot of people go to school simply “to go to school.” They are getting a college education because they think that’s what they should do.”
Now let me clarify, getting a degree is a big achievement. I am not trying to undermine that in any way, shape, or form. However, the only time it is reasonable for a person to get a degree for the sole achievement of obtaining a degree is when there is minimal risk against the person (e.g., they already have jobs or have the means to pay off their tuition without going into tremendous debt). Otherwise, please be cautious.
Now in regards to the solution, in my last post I stated that it was:
“Solution – People should NEVER do things simply because they “should” or because it’s what is done.” Instead, a vision is required for such an endeavor to be worth taking.
So how does one craft a vision for themselves?
To craft a vision, one needs to be able to answer this question: “Why do I want to get a degree?”
The biggest issue that people face with this question is ambiguity. No. Your answer cannot be “to get a job” or “because “that’s what my parents told me to do” (although in this scenario your parents may be paying for your tuition so I have less to say on that matter). Your answer has to be as specific as possible. For example, even though you may want to become a lawyer, it would be in your best interest to try and pint point what kind of lawyer you want to be (e.g., environmental, corporate, etc.).
Now some people will say that there’s no way they can predict what kind of lawyer they become. And you’re absolutely right, except that I asked to try and pin point (not predict) what kind of lawyer you think you would want to be. The reason for this is because even having a basic grasp of these specifics can play an important role in how you approach your education. For example, while a normal person might blow their electives taking random crap that frankly doesn’t matter, a person who has crafted a specific vision might take the time to take classes in the field they are considering (e.g., Law in Environmental Sustainability if you wanted to become an environmental lawyer). I mean, after all, you’re paying for your education dammit! Make the best of your time and your money.
Unfortunately, most people probably may even come up with blank with the first question posed above. To these people, I will then ask a very charged question that may stay on your noggin for quite awhile: “If you could do anything you wanted as a career, without risk of failure, what would you do?”
The reason why I say this is question is a head scratcher is because most people have no idea what they would want to do. That question is phrased in a lot of different ways today: “What are you passionate about in life?”, “What do you enjoy doing?”, etc., etc… And with this question, I’m pretty sure I’m right if I stated that most of people come up with zip. I mean sure, you have some people saying “I’d be a famous celebrity/musician/actor/actress,” but trust me, those people don’t actually want to be that. It’s not really quite as glamorous as they think.
If you’re having issues with this question as well, then try and answer this question: “In the course of my life, what do I find myself doing for free without really realizing it?” And by this I don’t mean hanging out with friends, but different projects that you find yourself associating with even though you may not necessarily be getting paid or gaining any real monetary/professional benefit from. In other words, “What do you do for you?”
So with that, I leave you with three questions for you to answer based on your understanding of yourself.
- Why do I want a degree?
- If I could do anything I wanted as a career, without risk of failure, what would I do?
- In the course of my life, what do I find myself doing for free without really realizing it? In other words, what do I do for me?
This post is written for my friend Bianca.
So something that we all are well aware of is that it seems that education => higher pay. Okay… so simple logic would deduce that in order for a person to obtain a higher paying job, they will need to obtain higher education. Basic positive correlation right? Yeah… unfortunately it’s just not that simple.
The average 4-year college tuition (including room and board) these days can range from anywhere from $60,000 – $200,000. And let me reiterate that this assumes that the student manages to actually complete a full degree within four years. For those who have been bombarded by the incorrect social media, the average student takes 4.5 years to complete a bachelors, NOT 4 years.
That being said, let’s set aside people with full rides (which are very much a rarity these days), a majority of their tuition paid, or have parents to pay off their educations. With those people aside, we are left with the majority of students who have to take out MONSTROUS loans. Now some people might argue, “I have some scholarships and stuff, I’m only taking $30,000 in loans for school.” Erm… yeah…. so $30,000 sounds a lot better than $200,000… I get that. But let’s phrase that in a way that’s simple for us to understand.
If someone were to work at a job that paid $10.00 an hour, and let’s assume that you get to keep all of it (which we all know is an utter lie), you would need to work 3,000 hours = 125 days = 17.86 weeks to pay that off. And that’s JUST the actual loan for TUITION, ROOM, & BOARD, which means we haven’t calculated compound interest (which just KILLS you) and the fact that you’d probably like to have a life as well. I would get more into how badly interest slaughters us, but that would diverge from this post’s purpose.
So here’s something that I’m not sure people are quite aware of… but because it’s so critical, I’m going to state this as clearly as I possibly can.
STUDENTS LOANS WILL NEVER GO AWAY.
Are we clear? This means that even if you try to declare bankruptcy, you’re still obligated to pay back your loans. Something to keep in mind.
Now that we have all that established… let’s talk about what I like to call “The Education Controversy.”
As we stated before, there is research and a widely held belief that if you obtain higher education, you will have a better paying job and a better life. That was true for the majority before Generation Y’s time. Nowadays, I would say that obtaining higher education is actually a risk. It is a risk that too many people take without realizing they are taking it. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out.
Problem #1. First and foremost, a lot of people go to school simply “to go to school.” They are getting a college education because they think that’s what they should do. After all, society seems to ostracize anyone who takes the highroad and avoid college and labels them as failures. Two names to them: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Moving on.
Solution – People should NEVER do things simply because they “should” or because it’s what is done. Now people are going to cry blasphemy and say, “So what are you saying? I should just become a self-certified doctor and skip college, MCATs, stressful med applications, and so on?” Wrong. In fact, that statement right there illustrates the one point that is the solution. The VISION of being a doctor is the X factor that makes all the difference. And no, to those naysayers who say that getting a “degree” is a vision…. unless you are guaranteed a job/pay raise once you get X degree, you’re wrong. And actually, you’re still wrong in that exception because the job/pay raise is the vision. That being said, if you’re wondering how to craft the vision I’m talking about, be on the lookout for my next post. Although I will say that getting a degree can definitely be an achievement and a milestone that people want to hit, but again I must reiterate that it’s not something that simply “should” be done.
Problem #2. Education is a double edged sword that people try to wield and end up stabbing themselves in the gut themselves more often then ever. Although education could provide a gateway to a better job and better life, it also comes with the possibility of BURIED ALIVE in DEBT.
Solution – To those who cry bloody mary to my statement in Problem #1 about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates about them being the exception, I would say you’re partially right; but at the same time, you’re mostly wrong. It’s true, breaking norms does not equate a corporation that controls a part of the world; but what makes Steve Jobs and Bill Gates successes is that they were fighters. That’s right. The solution to avoid stabbing yourself by your own sword is being a FIGHTER. If you’re going to try and wield this mighty weapon, I would hope that you have the spirit to go to war with a ferocious battle cry and a never ending desire to keep fighting no matter how difficult the odds may seem. And in continuance with the vision post, I’ll write more on this as well.
I thought about writing about more problems with education, but I think that these two are the crux that too many people fail to recognize (not to mention this post is getting a bit long and I don’t want to bore any of you). So although I wasn’t aware of it when I started this post, I hope you enjoyed the first post in a destined series on this blog, “The Educational Controversy” (TEC). As always, I welcome any contrary views or insightful comments!
For those who read the Finance post, it’s been withdrawn put on the back burner. Switching topics already? Yup. We’re jumping from the finance ship to pursuing meaning in our careers. Why am I doing this? Well, I figure that there are tons of blogs out there talking about getting out of debt. And well… I thought this area would be more pertinent to those reading this. So with that out of the way, it’s time we talked about the discrepancies between the norms and what pioneers in the new generation are doing.
It wasn’t too long ago where the equation was as follows: High School Degree –> College –> Job –> Retirement. I mean, you just had to walk out of college with a degree and you were pretty much handed a degree. Not only did you get a job, but people back then were content with just about any job and stayed with it the rest of the years because it simply “paid the bills.”
These types of jobs would fall into the category I call “Railroad Track Careers” (RTC). Like a railroad track, the course is set in motion and there is little question as to whether or not you’ll go completely off course. I mean sure, sometimes the train runs off the rails and freak accidents happen; but for the most part, people on this career are going in some general direction. Other RTCs include people who have the capability to become the professionals we are all so familiar with: doctors, lawyers, engineers, and so on.
Not too many people end up falling in that category however. I mean think about it, did you ever wonder how people become “Director of Undergraduate Admissions” or a “Program Coordinator for Student Government Association?” I mean surely, these people didn’t run around as kids pretending to be these kind of positions did they? Most would say no if I’m not mistaken, which means the REST of the jobs fall into what I call “Wild West Careers” (WWC). These are the careers that people fall into (whether on purpose or by accident) as they go about life. There is no set path, but simply a test of the survival of the fittest.
Now people might be like, what about like artists and musicians? They technically have known all their lives that they want to do those things. So aren’t they technically RTCs? I would argue that with the exception of the few who are groomed from birth and have celebrities guiding them throughout, that is not the case. There is a certain mystery about how people manage to end up in the roles they are in. Some say luck, others say fate. Either way, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make sense of it all.
Now am I saying there’s anything wrong with RTCs? Absolutely not. It works for some people, but at the same time I know there are a lot of people like me who don’t really make the cut for the professional positions nor want to settle for some job they landed out of college. I mean seriously…. let’s take a look at the facts shall we?
- People aren’t just handed out jobs when they get out of college anymore. This is now more of the exception than the norm. There are those who manage to get internships and are converted over to full time, but with the economy the way it is, sometimes budgetary constraints don’t permit that conversion even though the hiring manager would honestly like to hire the student.
- For the first time in a while, students and graduates alike no longer have this set confined path. In the past, deviating from simply accepting a job and moving onto the other milestones in life (e.g., marriage, kids, etc) was far from the norm. In today’s time though, the tough economy has left a lot of students and graduates with the question, “What the hell do I do now that the system has failed?”
- The much explored job market has now become the wild west, and is no longer the railroad track it used to be. While the job market may be saturated with overly qualified candidates who are vying for positions like secretary and administrative assistants, many people are starting to come up with new and novel ways to make money. In other words, a fresh new wave of entrepreneurs and self-drive people are going out to truly make their own living. With the lack of a system and/or equation handing us careers, how can we fulfill our financial obligations while staying true to who we are?
So in regards to figuring out how to go about breaking the norm, I think it’s important to explain a particular idiosyncrasy of mine since I think it will help to put some things in perspective in the future.
To start off, anyone who knows me will be the first to tell you that I can get interested and extremely enthusiastic about practically anything. Now you might wonder, “So what? I know lots of people who get excited about lots of things.” The reason why I make a point to bring this up is because I not only get caught up in the excitement of the activity, but usually I end up tossing in a bit of money pursuing that activity as well. Still not sure what I mean by this? Let me illustrate a picture by showing all of the things I’ve gotten into in the past four years…
- A Cappella
- World of Warcraft
- Go (Weiqi/Baduk)
- Texas Hold’em
- Photography (DSLR and all)
- SanGuoSha (Asian equivalent of Bang)
- Magic: The Gathering
- And a random assortment of games here and there…
Now if anyone of you know anything about those activities, buying equipment or accessories can get pretty pricey. This holds true for expensive camera equipment, tennis racquet, paintball guns, etc. And so the question is: do I have ADHD? Well I’ve never been tested, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that I don’t. I’ve done a lot of introspection on this matter, and I think it stems back to two things that I internalized when I was a kid:
#1. Life is short. & #2. Walk in someone else’s moccasins.
For those who are completely clueless as to the second one, I read a book called “Walk Two Moons” that talked about living in someone else’s shoes (or in this case “moccasins”) in order to gain new perspective on life. With that in mind, what better way for me to explore people’s perspectives and gain various views on life than through the activities that people love so much?
I don’t know if anyone else has found this to be true, but I find that people light up in a special way when they teach and engage in an activity that they are genuinely excited and interested in. When I see someone so engaged and passionate like that, curiosity gets the better of me because I’m just dying to know what it is that they see that I don’t.
So the question ends up being… what do I genuinely like to do that I’m passionate about? You know what? Unfortunately, I’ve tried giving this a bit of thought lately and I can’t seem to come up with an answer. In fact, I can’t help but wonder what I do to make myself happy; but more on this at another time. Meanwhile, you now know the major idiosyncrasy in my life that seems to take me all kinds of directions at all times. Next time, a look at my finances!
So before we venture off into breaking norms, let’s start by talking a little bit about me and where I come from.
I’m a 23 year old grad student (getting a master’s in I/O Psychology) who recently graduated from undergrad in May 2010. Like most graduates in this time, the job hunt wasn’t going so well for me and grad school seemed like a way to postpone the issue while beefing up my resume.
Based on the general consensus of Google, I am a second generation Asian-American. In other words, my parents immigrated here (thus making them the first). And although I am the first born here in the US, I am the second.
That being said, let’s address the following preconceived notions that may arise:
Just because I’m Asian, this does not mean that…
1. My parents are wealthy and can afford my every whim and desire.
My parents are hard working people who have struggled through a lot to get to where they are today. It’s not that we’re poor or anything. In fact, I know that we are living comfortably compared to a lot of people out there. I use the term “comfortably” to mean that we have a nice roof over our heads, we’re not in any serious debt, we eat out occasionally, and we can afford to go on vacation every now and then. More on this topic later, but just know I don’t come from one of those families.
2. I am amazingly smart and awesome at math and science.
First off, I’m not trying to claim that I’m dumb by any means, but don’t get it in your head that I’m a typical Asian student who constantly destroyed the curve and got a 4.0 GPA even though he has hungover for every exam. In fact, I ended college with a 3.374 GPA. I’m not trying to dock my GPA as embarrassing or whatever, because I know that getting above a 3.0 GPA is a huge deal for some people. And in regards to the math and sciences, I understand the material well enough, but I’m certainly not going to find the cure for diabetes or discover the next mathematical revolution. More on the topic of my college struggle another time, but just know that I have had my fair share of all-nighters.
3. I am secretly a ninja that can climb walls and disappear into the night after going Bruce Lee + Jackie Chan + Jet Li on a group of troublemakers.
Well…. this is true.
Whew… glad to get that off my chest. I hope that this helps to put my ethnic background into perspective on this whole matter. And on Wednsday, we move on to a personality quirk that has been a huge factor in how my life has played out up to this point.