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Land Your Dream Job: Ditch School and Get a Library Card

Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead; follow him on twitter.

What if you could do what you love for a living and make a great income at it? On top of that, what if you didn’t have to go to school, spend hundreds of hours in a classroom and end up with a mountain of debt when you finally earn your degree? Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

It’s true that the average college graduate earns more than someone without a bachelor’s degree. However, a good chunk of the biggest innovators and multimillionaires in the world were either high school or college drop outs. (See: Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Johnny Depp, Bill Gates and Quinten Tarantino.)

So how did they do it?

Is it really possible to make as good of a living being self-taught, as someone with an expensive degree? Each path has their unique benefits and drawbacks, and I’m not trying to convince you one way or another. I’m just pointing out that the playing field has changed a lot in the past decade, and it’s more possible than ever to trail blaze your own path. The biggest point is to determine what works best for you.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I never graduated from high school. At the beginning of my sophomore year I just stopped having an interest in going to class. The work was too easy for me and I felt I was being forced to learn about things that I had no interest in. I felt like I had no participation in my own education. So I stopped going.

A few years later I ended up attending a community college. I never finished that either, but I did like it a lot better than high school. I didn’t choose a set major; I just took whatever classes interested me. I had no desire to actually obtain a degree, I only wanted to learn about the things that interested me.

Honestly, I think taking classes that you find interesting should be a greater focus in college, because too much emphasis is being placed on partying and fulfilling course requirements. College is your chance to study the things you care about. Who cares if they don’t apply to your major? I didn’t.

In case you’re wondering what kind of options are out there, here are a few career opportunities that don’t require a college degree:

The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Most of the skills needed for these pursuits can be learned with a simple library card and self teaching. You can obviously study most of these career paths in a formal setting as well, but it’s not necessarily required.

It’s my opinion that over the course of the next decade, we’ll see a lot more people on the scene of the self starting career path. The amount of free information and self educations resources is exploding. Places like Wikipedia and Personal MBA are changing the playing field. Not only that, but it’s becoming easier to establish yourself as an expert and build your network than ever before. Things like blogging and online content publishing platforms can allow you to demonstrate your expertise without decades of climbing your way up the corporate ladder. Social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn can allow you to cut out the middle man and build direct, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you need to know.

Despite how romantic this all sounds, this path isn’t always bed of roses. There are some qualities you need in order to be a self-made renegade:

I’m not claiming that the traditional path doesn’t have any value. There are benefits and disadvantages to each side. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a college graduate vs. the self educated person.

College degree pros:

College degree cons:

Self educated pros:

Self education cons:

So if you’re thinking about the DIY path, here are some good resources to get you started:

Closing thoughts

If you’re looking to become a chemist, anthropologist, a doctor or a lawyer, the self-educated path is probably not the best choice for you. If you’re looking for a career in technology, social media, writing or starting your own business, self teaching is probably your best bet. It all depends on what you want out of life. You can obviously have a hybrid of both, too.

In the end, what really mattersĀ  is real world experience, something no library, classroom or teacher can offer.

This article was written by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind. To learn more about how to live without limits, grab a subscription to Illuminated Mind.

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