Once upon a time, I was an International Baccalaureate student. This was an elite group of students within my high school. We had more homework, read more advanced books, and were held to a higher academic standard than the rest of the students.

While I despised the schoolwork, I quite enjoyed the social atmosphere of it – this was ultimately what made it bearable.

In high school, I got to goof off with my friends during the day. In college, the dorm experience is unmatched when it comes to socializing and making new friends. It was fun.

I had fun in school because I put most of my energy during the day towards things other than schoolwork. I would study social dynamics and behavior of the people around me for fun, something that is very transparent in a high school. I observed, and learned a lot about how people interact, why drama is created, and what to do about it. I would talk my friends through their problems and I enjoyed giving rational advice because I understood the situation from an objective point of view.

I remember the day I stopped trying in school.

It was 8th grade, and I had a crush on a girl. We were in math class together. As a 13 year-old, it got me a lot of attention when I pretended like I didn’t care about school, and that’s one thing I cared about: getting that girl’s attention.

That day, we were all supposed to be quietly working on our math problems. Instead, I would give her looks and mess around, showing that I don’t care about working on my math problems even though that’s what the teacher said we were supposed to do. I really felt like a badass.

Over time, avoiding schoolwork became a habit, even after the girl was gone.

But I’m convinced this habit wasn’t a product of the girl. It was inevitable. I never really tried in school up to this point. I had been a straight-A student because the assignments were easy and I was generally a bright kid.

Eventually it was clear to me that I couldn’t stand it. Most of the time I either didn’t do the work and accepted a 0 on the assignment, or found a way to complete it without actually doing it.

I remember one time I had a 4000-word extended-essay that I had known about for over a year. Some kids started a year early. Some started 6 months early. I started 2 days before it was due, and stayed up all night cranking it out. This was the biggest writing assignment of my high school career. I honestly couldn’t tell you the topic. That’s how little I cared about that assignment.

Deep down I never cared about school. The stuff I was supposed to be learning didn’t matter to me. It didn’t excite me in the slightest. Out of the 20+ books I was supposed to read in high school, I probably actually read 4 or 5. And I look back on those ones fondly, because I was genuinely interested in them. I wasn’t able to bring myself to spend my time reading the other ones because I didn’t care.

No teacher could make me care. My parents couldn’t make my care. The threat of not getting into a good college couldn’t make me care (I was confident I could figure that out when I got there).

Sometimes I was able to will myself to give a solid effort, but only out of respect for the teachers I liked, and the effort came in rare, short bursts.

Having the drive to excel is completely unsustainable when the thing you’re putting your energy into isn’t returning excitement or motivation.

My modus operandi in school was not learning my subjects, but figuring out how to get good enough grades to pass. That’s the goal, right? I was pretty good at it.

I even got my IB diploma, something not everybody earns even after going through the program. I barely got it based off my test scores, but scraping by had worked for me up until this point. It was a game.

A’s are better than B’s which are better than C’s, right? But why? If I got a C, I still passed the class. My life went on as normal. Sure, my GPA would drop, but I didn’t feel any immediate effects from that, and quite frankly, I was totally content with having 2.something.

I went through the motions for the entirety of high school feeling like an impostor every day. I never brought this up to anyone. My own self-confidence was damaged because of it.

Every day I felt like I was digging myself into a deeper hole. Every day it got harder to bring it up to anyone. Suggesting the idea that school was hurting me more than helping me would be utterly ridiculous. So I kept quiet and plugged along, treating my entire life the same way as I treated my school assignments – the only way I knew how to treat anything: half-heartedly.

I was a smart kid. I had a lot of common sense. I was well-spoken, well-written, and I had big aspirations. I had a strong work ethic, just like the other elite International Baccalaureate students. But my attitude towards academia was the same as that of the druggies who smoked cigs in the corner of the school parking lot.

In either group I was an impostor.

This attitude was wrong by all the standards I had grown up with, and those of everyone around me, so I had a looming sense of guilt for it. But this didn’t change the way I acted. No amount of guilt could change my true inner values.

School told me that I should be studying math, science, reading, government, history, and writing. School told me that I can pick from electives like psychology or economics. School told me what I should like. How I should act. What goals to have, and what I’m supposed to do to get there.

School never asked me what I wanted. School never encouraged me to do something exciting. It only made me feel guilty for not being excited about what everyone else was supposed to be excited about.

This ultimately lasted 3 semesters into college, where, yet again, I had a blast with the social scene, and avoided schoolwork at all costs. I skipped class most days because there wasn’t a point in me going. I knew that even if I went, I would find a way to be distracted and I wouldn’t really gain value out of it, so why waste the time walking there when I could read a book I enjoy or hang out with my friends?

The 3rd semester, I failed 3 out of my 5 classes. The only ones I passed were Psychology and Philosophy, with a C in both.

This was the last straw. My student loans were piling up, and it seemed like I was getting worse and worse at school. I had a lot of ground to make up if I was going to stick with it.

I had finally found something that excited me – entrepreneurship. I ran a house painting business over the summer and felt the highs of making sales, the lows of screwing up the production of those deals, and I made it out alive with a valuable skillset backed by an exciting story.

I finally got to apply my mind to something real, in a practical way. I felt my own success, and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel like an impostor.

So I went back to college for a 4th semester, and resolved to put that new-found energy back into my college courses.

Remember what I said earlier?

“Having the drive to excel is completely unsustainable when the thing you’re putting your energy into isn’t returning excitement or motivation.”

I lasted 3 days, then I dropped out. This was undoubtedly the most liberating decision I’ve ever made, and it’s lead to my proudest moments as a leader, author, and entrepreneur.