Experiments and explorations on building a career from scratch.
Study hard, get good grades, get a degree, and you’ll get a job. We’ve heard this story for decades, and it’s no longer true. Degrees are overpriced and they don’t match up to real-world experience.
We need a better story.
In this podcast, I show you that better story. Every week, I interview explorers, creators, and dropouts who are taking the leap into the real world and building a life and career on their own terms. Most of them are not wildly successful household names (yet). They are human. They have the same insecurities that you and I have, and they fail just as often, if not more.
Take a listen as we discuss self-education, entrepreneurship, building a career from scratch, dropping out of college, and tons more with some of the most innovative young people out there. Hopefully you can learn as much from them as I have.
This week I talk with Derek Magill, the Director of Marketing for Praxis. Derek helps countless young people jump-start their careers by encouraging them to sidestep traditional education paths and get creative about providing value.
People who take his advice typically end up going from bored college student to valuable asset doing meaningful work at a startup – often in a matter of weeks. Here is a recent example.
Derek and I cover everything from high school to building a personal brand to the best investment he ever made.
We had a few technical difficulties and got a late start, so the interview didn’t last as long as I had hoped. I plan to bring him on again for a more in-depth conversation in the coming months.
Check out Derek’s blog, you’ll be glad you did!
Andrew Goldsmith’s company, Outfit Good, printed my infamous t-shirts back in the Spring of 2016.
He had a $50,000 salary at 19. When he was laid off, Andrew told himself it was because he didn’t have a degree. He then spent 7 years working hard in school, and ended up starting his own shirt printing business, not using his degree or much of what he learned in those 7 years.
This is the classic story of someone who fell into the trap of playing the school game, and realized it 7 years too late.
This is why I do these podcasts. To help you realize that you don’t need college to do what you want to do. You just need to do it and correct course along the way.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
This is something I wish I learned much earlier than I did. It’s a secret your school teachers and college professors don’t want you to know. Quite honestly, a lot of them probably don’t realize it themselves.
Knowing this sooner would have saved me years upon years and thousands upon thousands of dollars that I spent on things I didn’t care about.
The secret is this:
All you need to do to begin your career is to start.
You don’t need any more lectures. You don’t need more debt to get another credential or degree. You don’t need any more tests. You don’t need permission. You don’t even need any experience.
All you need is to start.
One of my good friends once said: Try trying.
Give an honest effort. You will learn along the way.
Want to write a book?
Don’t spend $60,000 on an English degree. Just start writing the book. You’ll correct course along the way. Nobody said it will be perfect. An imperfect reality is better than a perfect fantasy. It’s your book. You are creating it. You imagined it in the first place. It’s only fitting that it is brought into reality on your terms.
Want to start a business?
Start the business. Don’t know how? Find someone who does, and ask them for help. If they say no, find somebody else. There is no shortage of people in the world. Will you mess up? Yes. Will it take a while? Yes. Just like the book, it won’t be perfect. That’s okay. At least it’s real.
Obviously writing a book and starting a business both require a lot of thought, planning and action. There’s much more to it than just starting, and it’s not that easy.
But you don’t need to know all of that right now. It doesn’t matter until you get there. Football players don’t plan out the 4th quarter during the pregame warmups. They focus on the first possession.
Take the first step first. Once you move forward, even if it’s in the wrong direction, you’ll be able to look at your problem from an entirely new spot. Then you’ll know what to do next, plus you’ll have a bit of momentum.
This is called learning. It can be done through creation, and it’s more powerful that way.
Learning isn’t a prerequisite.
It’s so easy to revert to passivism. We have been raised in a classroom and taught to wait until we’re “ready” before we try something. You will never feel ready.You don’t need to learn how to do something before you do it.
The act of trying something is what shows you how to do it.
Stop waiting until you’re ready. Start starting before you’re ready.
In his book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss wrote:
““Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”
The truth is, your college professors need you more than you need them. But they don’t want you to know that. They would lose their jobs.
Until then, the problem grows.
It’s up to you to fix it.
Alex and I go way back. I met him at Ohio State while he was running two entrepreneurial/programming clubs on campus. He started coding in high school, and 8 years later he dropped out of school to work full time at Pillar Technologies, a Columbus tech company, making a nice salary and learning a ton through experience (something most college grads yearn for).
He’s a crazy guy with all sorts of unique perspectives. Alex keeps things interesting. We discuss a lot, listed below, but there was one thing we forgot to cover…
Hack City was an online IOS development course that he and I attempted to start together, but never got off the ground because we had too much focus on building the product and not enough on acquiring customers. We both learned a ton from it. I’ll probably write a post going deeper into this experience at some point.
Also, there is another audio interruption this episode, in addition to the slightly too quiet sound (still learning this whole audio engineering thing). See if you can find it.
Topics we discuss:
Reading a book/week
10 dark years
Building your skill and portfolio
Divergent thinking and how schools kill creativity
Ready, fire, aim approach to figuring out what you’re interested in
Cognitive biases, rewiring your brain
Value first mindset
Building habits over time
Brilliant video by Ken Robinson on How Schools Kill Creativity
Ken Robinson’s book, The Element
Isaac Morehouse and Mitchell Earl, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate
You can reach out to Alex on his website.
Ep 3 – Alex Cwiakala discusses quitting his job, buying a house, and starting a business in the same week
In this interview, Alex (left) talks about how he utilized college as a resource to find better opportunities to supplement his classroom education.
When Alex was 24, he co-headed a division with Young Entrepreneurs Across America, bringing in over $1M revenue in his first year (which is typically unheard of).
He went on to start a real estate company, CC Solutions, that is growing faster than expected. Alex is a fun-loving entrepreneur with a big work ethic, and I learn something every time I talk with him.
During the conversation, my phone beeps at me a couple times from calls. So far I’m 3/3 for some type of audible interruption in these podcasts. I’m thinking about planning it next time and making it a regular thing. It could be like Where’s Waldo, except you have to pick out the sound that wasn’t meant to be there.
Topics we discuss:
Surrounding yourself with the right people
Choosing opportunities based on your comfort zone
Utilizing college as a resource
Starting a real-estate business
Investing in self-education
Pros and cons of having a business partner
The 70/30 rule
Asana – Team tasks software
Check out Alex’s Blog, or reach out to him at email@example.com.
I tried college. All I got from sitting in classrooms for two years was a substantial amount of student debt.
After dropping my classes, I did everything I could to take risks and try exciting things in the real world. I experienced real freedom by being intentional and proactive about my life and career—something I never would have found in Hitchcock Hall’s lecture room.
Since dropping out, it has been my mission to build an alternative to college. To give kids like me a better option. One that inspires creativity and work ethic, not obedience and binge drinking. One that places value on actual results, not B.S. credentials (see what I did there?).
The problem is: I had no idea how to build a program like the one I imagine. I didn’t know where to start. I tried to attack this from a few different angles, but to no avail. In fact, the biggest thing I learned through this process was that I lack the necessary experience. It’s hard to start a new company in a new industry with no direction, a budding network, and limited industry experience. As much as I wish I naturally knew what to do to create my own solution, I’m more of a hands-on learner and I thrive in existing systems.
This was a humbling conclusion to come to. I followed the advice from books like The Magic of Thinking Big and Think and Grow Rich, and I thought big. I told myself I could figure it out if I tried hard enough, if I had the right mindset.
Don’t get me wrong, mindset is important – but mindset alone won’t give you a solid, effective plan of action. For that, you need experience and direction.
Then I heard about Praxis. An existing startup that provides apprenticeships to kids who want a better option. They inspire creativity and work ethic. They place value on actual results. Sound familiar?
So I decided to try to work for them. They’re tackling the exact problem I want to work on, and they’re good at it.
As Derek Magill’s blog posts discuss, the best way to get a job from scratch is to provide value for the company before you’re expected to.
This becomes tricky if you don’t have the experience to know what would be valuable for them.
I started following their blogs, podcasts, and I reached out to past and current participants in their program, learning as much as I could about the business, the industry, and the program itself.
I even went out on a limb and spoke in some college classes, in an attempt to recruit applicants for them. My efforts were ineffective and inefficient because I was targeting the wrong market.
Luckily, Praxis is a program for people who want to jump-start their careers. They place participants in apprenticeships with startups, giving them the experience to do what they want to do with their career.
So here I am, going through the application process with a goal of doing Praxis…on Praxis.
We’ll see where this goes. I’ll keep you updated.
Photo cred: Boz Nobel