It’s the holidays, which means plenty of family gatherings to attend, and that means, plenty of questions to answer from relatives. People usually ask me, where do you go to school? What are you studying? And I say, “I decided to take a different path. My first year out of high school I traveled to Bali to teach English, then San Francisco for a self directed learning program, then to Toronto for a graphic design course. Now, I’m in a program called Praxis which is a 3 month online bootcamp followed by a paid internship at a startup.”
They usually ask, and how did you pay for all of that? And I say, “I used the money I would be spending on a college education and decided to pave my own path.” They act as if it was just for fun, and it was a waste of money, not an investment toward my future.
They will say, “But you’re so smart! You don’t want to study something?” And I answer, “I love to learn, but I don’t like the way school crams information into my head and asks to fill out a test or quiz a week later. I study things I want to study, I listen to podcasts about entrepreneurship, I read design articles daily, and I love watching documentaries. With the internet, I can learn from the best, and usually for free.”
Then they will say, “But don’t you need a degree? No one will want to hire you unless you have a degree!” I answer, “I’ve talked to recruiters in Toronto, San Francisco, and a few other cities. I ask them what makes them want to hire someone and they always say they want someone who creates value, can work well in a team and has experience. They’ve told me they don’t care about GPAs or degrees, only talent. I’ve chosen to work on the skills businesses want, and in a few years, I will be able to check all their boxes. Besides, I just had a job interview last week at a very exciting company.”
Sometimes people ask, “But what about the college years? Those are good times. Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on that experience?” I reply, “If I want to go to college and party, I’ll visit some friends in college and party. Besides, I think college kids are missing out on all the exciting places I’ve been to and people I have gotten to meet.”
People usually default to traditional paths instead of being open to change, or something new. I wish people would listen intently and try to understand the viewpoint of people who choose nontraditional paths.
Does everyone doubt my path after I explain it to them? No. In fact, more people respond with, "That's amazing! I think you're doing the right thing!"
6 Foot 7 Foot is one of my favorite workout songs. There’s this one line Lil Wayne says, “I think you stand under me if you don’t understand me.” This is something I keep in mind when people still doubt me after I’ve answered all their questions. I took this path because I believe in it. I know I’ll be successful, I know I’ll figure it out, and I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far. I don’t need anyone else to validate what I do.