Monthly Archives: June, 2013

Certificates and Success: Our narrow perception

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”- Jim Rohn

Formal education undoubtedly plays a great role in grooming students towards a successful future career but the present school system where everything is based on competition to achieve high grades is often counterproductive. The definition of our schools is very clear; race for the top positions otherwise your toil is rendered futile. The stigma is even worse if you failed to make it to the university. “Socially, people who don’t go to college are often regarded as weirdos.” Said John Carney in his Business Insider Article on successful drop outs.

When I talk about school degree not being the only way to success, I am not devaluating it. There are indeed people whose expertise could only be learned at the university. The problem is when everyone ignores other possibilities and narrows down his success route to school alone. That is the world we are living in now, with graduates staying idle for ages waiting for employment because they have a degree certificate. The point here is to induce a shift from that dogma; to let people understand that they can achieve success provided they have the ability. “The only way to overcome the college bias will be the widespread perception that many of our society’s most successful people do not have a college degree and don’t care about those who do”, asserted John Carney, who was referring to America’s numerous millionaires.

“From birth, we were taught that life is a race; run fast or you will be trampled.” Farhan Qureshi, one of the protagonists in the Bollywood movie, “3 Idiots”, said. According to him, the race started since one was conceived in his mother’s womb during which the spermatozoon destined to be him had to contest in a race with millions of other sperm cells. To make things more spirited, one’s parents had long decided what their son or daughter would be in the future. This, in many occasions becomes the child’s predisposed kismet.

Sometimes we see things not working in our own way but we still hold on. The drive is seldom our own heart which would naturally inspire us to try something different: Something our body is capable of. But we will keep reminding ourselves the expectation people have on us and we are ready to go to any length in order not to disappoint them. What we do forget is, when we indeed fail, no one would often be there to help us get up again.

Some writers and singers can be very hypocritical that taking everything they say seriously without comparing it with their real life is often detrimental. They could preach something while in reality they quite live its opposite. Keke Palmer for example said in one of her songs that, “There is nothing you cannot do when you believe in yourself.” Because of her success one may blindly assume that this young successful singer chose her career out of the blue and because she believed in herself, she was able to shine. Looking under the hood, one will discover that Palmer was born in a vaudevillian family and has pronounced her preference of English language to Mathematics during early school time. It is clear then what her career would probably be.

Similarly, Daniel Coyle’s approbation of deep practice in his book, “The Talent Code” is to a very great extent misleading. He advocates sole dependency of achieving talent on deep practice. He dismissed the contribution of natural talent and environment to becoming an expert and tried to convince the reader that success is around the corner in as much as he keeps trying. Here again I will ask, did Coyle choose writing profession out of the blue and became expert in it through deep practice? Though I was not able to find out what motivated him into journalism, but his life has been in the profession since after college.

It is important to mention few among these people who didn’t wait for a certificate to build their own careers but rather broke away along the way to try out what they believed they were good at. Nevertheless their success didn’t come without strings attached. They had something to start with and that is the bottom line. William Bill Gates and his childhood friend, Paul Allen are one such big example. They saw an opportunity to garner reputation for themselves when Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) Company issued a demonstration of their new computer. At that time, Gates was in his sophomore year at Harvard University while Paul had already dropped out from Washington State University. Gates initially deferred his studies but he was never to return to Harvard again. Together they started their company, Microsoft, same year they made that breakthrough with MITS. The secret here is that, this duo discovered what they were good at while in school and decided to give it a try out of the educational system.

Another inspiring success story of a university dropout is that of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation, the world’s second-largest software company. He is a two-time drop out from university of Illinois and the University of Chicago but never made it to graduation. Together with two other partners, Ellison initiated a company called Software Development Laboratories (SDL) with a capital of only $2,000. It was the company that was later renamed to Oracle.

As I have mentioned earlier, dropping out from school is not an option per se. It is worthy of consideration when someone has discovered in himself a talent that could land him to a great career path. Robert Zimmer asserted that, it has become commonplace to see young people who, drawing inspiration from billionaire entrepreneurs, consider dropping out of college as a fast track to business success. According to him, in order to be in the league, one should have similar exceptional skills already developed even before going to college. Such skills include: The ability to educate oneself, get a bank loan, and manage one’s time and money efficiently. Family and acquaintances may play a big role in supporting people with such desires.

Going back to the message conveyed in 3 Idiots, it was clear that Farhan had no iota of passion in engineering but he was left with no option aside pursuing the choice made by his parents. He was such a passionate and talented photographer who was even planning to contact an expert in the profession in order to chase that career but had to keep it to himself, for, his parents’ decision was final. He underwent the school for four good years with nothing to write home about. It was his close friend who rescued him after discovering a letter he wrote meant to be posted to his admired photographer. His friend secretly posted the letter for him and convinced him to open up his mind to his parent. That is how he was able to leave engineering to live the life he had long cherished.

I will finally like to remind ourselves what Maya Angelou once said “success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Grades we achieved in school are just some approximate way of measuring educational performance whose best place is merely some perishable papers. Instead of waiting for employers who offer jobs based on grades, why not use our ingenuity to create the opportunities ourselves. We shall not forget that the major architect of our success is us. The writing would only be on the wall for us when we cease to recognize our abilities.

Written by Sadah