Archives For Education

June 14, 2012

School does a poor job of teaching us patience in life. In fact, one school year equals approximately 7-10 “real life years”. What does this mean?

We’re impatient. We want instant access to everything, and if it’s not instant, it’s not fast enough! We rage on the road because others slow us down, jockey for position in the airport security line in hopes of being the first to be molested by TSA, and try every get rich scheme that’s out there.

I didn’t blame our impatience on school until I talked to my friend’s father. He used to be impatient, but now he’s a millionaire… so I listened to him!

If you see him now, you would never know that he went through the same money and life fulfillment struggles as some of us. He is very successful and has recently made a couple of multi-million dollar donations. We talked about some of his struggles when he was younger and he introduced me to theory about school teaching us impatience.

His theory is that school life does a poor job of preparing us for the real world because it conditions us to believe success can happen very quickly.

Just like when I said early school does a poor job of teaching us some things, the case holds true here even though I don’t believe it’s intentional. It happens because schools are set up with a short duration between “levels” of school, both high school and college.

Life as a freshman in either high school or college can be difficult. You’re at the bottom rung, everything is new, and oftentimes it feels like you’re intentionally stepped on by the upperclassmen. I think I was literally stepped on a few times as I had three older brothers, and it was my mission to pester their friends; in return they made me pay!

Now, look what happens as you move to your sophomore year. You’re no longer at the bottom. Sure, you still have upperclassmen that keep you in check, but now you have freshman that look up to you. Life is better.

One short year later and you’re a junior. At this point, you can see the top and you probably have friends that are seniors – so you’re officially associated with the top rather than the bottom. It might have felt like a long time, but it was only two years!

You get through your junior year and suddenly you’re a senior. You rule the roost and are looked up to (sometimes forcibly) by all of the underclassmen. In a matter of three years you’ve gone from the bottom to the top.

Everyone goes through the progression but some really take advantage of it. In the case of my friend’s father, he started out not knowing anyone at his university as he came from a very small town. He got involved in different organizations on campus and was elected to some leadership roles.

By the time he was a senior, he was at the top of his game and held many leadership positions including student body President of a large university!

I related with this because I followed a similar path and was involved with campus leadership. He went on to tell me that school does a poor job of preparing us for real life because we get conditioned to expect that instant gratification. We expect that we can be at something for a few years and already move up to the very top! It was one of those ‘ah-ha!’ moments for me because I can definitely relate.

Of course, real life isn’t that easy. If you work for almost any business or corporation, there are plenty of people who have been there for 15-25 years that are vying for the leadership positions that you might have your eye on. We always hear about the Zuckerbergs of the world who were able to make it to the top very quickly, but that won’t happen with most of us.

It will be a long road of persistence in toil while knowing that it can someday happen. He is now in his mid-50s and said he feels like the “junior” level equivalent of how he felt in college. This is right according to the math (30/10 = 3 school years, which would put him somewhere between a junior and senior).

It’s amazing to think that because he is very successful and the head of multiple companies, but I heard this was straight from his mouth!

I’ll keep working on my patience and not be upset when my company doesn’t make my CEO right away… besides, I’m not sure I want to! What do you think of his theory?

 

May 24, 2012

As we discussed last week, kids cost a lot of money; this got me thinking about what I’d tell my kids (if I had kids, and I actually had the guts to be mean). I probably wouldn’t really tell them this, but…

1. You can’t be anything you want to be

If you could be anything you want to be, don’t you think all adults would be doing something way cooler than what they are doing now? Why the hell do we have trash men and accountants if we all could be what we wanted to be?! Seriously, do you think I wanted to be a Consultant when I was a kid? No, I wanted to play ball like Jordan or rock like Ozzy.

If you want to excel at anything, you’re going to have to put a crapload of time into it and stop whining about it being hard.

2. Sometimes it’s ok to lie

Remember when our neighbor asked if it was our dog pooping in their yard and I said no? Well, sometimes it’s ok to lie. Most adults do it, they just don’t fess up to it. Lying is essential to keep harmony in our society. You just have to be careful about getting caught because then people won’t trust you.

3. Most adults are full of it, don’t listen to them

Earlier I told you most adults lie; this brings me to my next point… don’t trust adults. Don’t trust the experts that tell you coffee is good for you and then days later change their mind. Any time sometime tells you, “I had it so rough as a kid”, tell them to stop their whining and get a life.

4. Your friend’s dad isn’t on “vacation”

That’s right, they’re liars too. His parents hate each other and would rather pay for two homes than spend one more second around each other. In fact, if it wasn’t for your friend (which they had on accident) there’s no way they would be together. American’s suck at picking potential spouses. Be smart like me and pick a great woman like your Mother (and I’m not a liar).

5. You’re going to get old, enjoy it now!

I’d take three months off every summer and enjoy a nap every day if I could too. Trust me, just because I can drive a car and can lift you over my head doesn’t mean my life is awesome. Treasure never having to do anything for yourself.

You can fall out a tree and be fine or sprint from a standing position without pulling a muscle. Treasure it. Seriously, I tore my Achilles playing kickball!! Don’t even get me started on not having to buy anything yourself.

6. People are crazy

Do you know why our neighbor has 27 plastic and ceramic squirrels of various sizes outside of his house? Well, neither do I… sometimes people are just crazy. Don’t think it has anything to do with you or that you can help them. Oh no, all you should do is avoid contact with him but occasionally hide his squirrels so he has reason to believe everyone is ‘out to get him’.

Besides that, enjoy life… it’s going to be great!

Which country is the smartest

Have you ever wondered which countries in the world are the smartest?  Well, I know some really dumb people who went to college, but comparing by college degree attainment is one way to rate them!  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 40% of the adult population in the US are college graduates.

I was actually surprised because I didn’t realize that many people graduated from college!  When compared to the rest of the world, we are fourth behind Canada, New Zealand, and Japan.

Canada, eh?  Canada has managed to jump way ahead of the rest of the world in degree attainment at roughly 48%.  This can probably be attributed to socialized healthcare and the cold, which prevents people from going outside as much.   Trust me, I have a minor in Economics.

Another interesting part is the US has a degree attainment rate of over 5% above most European countries.  I figured the Scandinavian countries would be higher than they are, and I bet the UK isn’t happy to be at the same level as Ireland.

I thought Japan was a lot smarter than us as a whole as well, but their degree attainment isn’t that much higher.  I was surprised to see Korea so high, but I suppose the “Republic” of Korea doesn’t include North Korea.

Just in case you were wondering how much a college degree is worth in the United States, check out my previous article where I dig through the numbers.  Basically, it is worth it to go to college if you can avoid major debt.

There you have it… now you can amaze your friends with this new knowledge!

 

Formal schooling is missing some key points in our education… find out the five things formal schooling doesn’t teach us.

 

Before you send me any mean emails, I do believe there is much wisdom gained through age, and this is more of a cautionary article.  Enjoy!

At first glance, my slowing mental faculties could be easily blamed on a variety of things.  Inhaling too many chemicals while renovating our house, living in New Orleans (and enjoying all of the New Orleans type things), or simply age.  However, there could be something more at play.

In fact, I’m going to make a crazy statement and say I was smartest at birth!  Hear me out… it is only then the mind isn’t walled off and contained by the ‘truths’ that we learn.  As John Taylor Gatto said, “Invention is the providence of youthful insight.”

Children ask ‘why’ to discover more about the world and attempt to define their limits.  Unfortunately, these attempts are too often answered by assuming adults and usually translated by the asker into the final word.

As we grow up, we are taught the lessons of life from our social circle; including our families, friends, teachers, and other adult influences. We are taught what they know and believe. I’ve already pointed out five things we don’t learn in school – I’m sure you could do more.

We’re taught what to expect from life, how to handle money, and what constitutes a good job. Their challenges and biases in life are imprinted in our own minds, and we learn to approach life the same way.

Their racism becomes our racism, and their hate becomes our hate. Why else would such a close-minded thing such as racism continue? It’s not passed down in our genes.

It’s not all hopeless as we are able to break free of these thoughts if we put effort into it. We are all unique and our social circle doesn’t influence everything. In fact, their loves don’t always become our loves and that’s one of the hardest parts to comprehend. We are all unique and have different personalities and passions.

Sometimes I can’t understand why people don’t love crunching numbers in Excel or reading books about genes! The answer is usually they aren’t nerds like me, so I’ll just learn to appreciate that!

We can have our own passions, but minds get closed with the assistance of those around us and the more we learn the dumber we sometimes become. The ironic part is that we get dumber while thinking we get smarter.

We use sayings such as: “This is the way it’s always been” and “because I said so” to act as if we’re an authority on the subject. We also learn to accept these answers from others and not question them. Don’t get me wrong, there are advantages to learning from others, and we can get far in life by listening to the right ones.

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Behavior, Robert Cialdini explains the genetic benefits of accepting this wisdom:

“Conforming to the dictates of authority figures has always had genuine practical advantages for us. Early on, these people (for example, parents teachers) knew more than we did, and we found that taking their advice proved beneficial – partly because of their greater wisdom and partly because they controlled our rewards and punishments. As adults, the same benefits persist for the same reasons, though the authority figures now appear as employers, judges, and government leaders. Because their positions speak of superior access to information and power, it makes great sense to comply with wishes of properly constituted authorities. It makes so much sense, in fact, that we often do so when it makes no sense at all.”

Listening to others to form our beliefs can make us lazy because we stop exploring for deeper answers outside of what we rely on from them. Life is easier that way. As we get older, we become even more set in our ways and refuse to question the “answers we already know.”

How can we combat assumptions becoming the end answer?

Many of the brilliant minds in the world got that way by breaking down their mental models and attempting to discover more. This is something Charlie Munger talks about a lot in my favorite book, Poor Charlie’s Almanack. He considers himself a learning machine and even believes learning is a moral duty.

Munger’s method is the typical Western world answer… digging deep and making new discoveries through reading and self assessment. You could also take the more Eastern philosophy route such as Buddhism or Hinduism which is done by observation and discovering the truths through discovering one’s self.

We must understand our current position and figure out how we got there. It is only then that we can begin to change and improve as needed. Take a look at your assumptions in life and begin to question them. Why do you think what you think?

There you go New Orleans, I’ve convinced myself that you’re not the sole reason I’m getting dumber. Good thing too, because Mardi Gras is just around the corner! What assumptions are holding you back? Will you challenge your current assumptions?

Avg Salary by Education Level

In the past, I’ve questioned whether college is worth it. It was mostly a subjective look at it, but now I’m going to review the numbers to try and validate my assumptions.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiled wages from the last five years to show salary averages by education type. At a high level, it’s clear higher education enables you to make a lot more money. However, what does it actually look like over the course of a life time?

First, let’s look at wage growth over the next 40 years. I’ll use a 3% wage growth just for comparison’s sake; some people will experience higher growth and some will experience lower. For workers with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, their salary would grow from $59,124 today to $187,247 in forty years. For workers with less than a high school diploma, their salary would go from $24,316 today to $77,010 in forty years.

Percentage growth is very deceptive because even though both groups of workers’ salaries are growing at 3%, the dollar amount between the two changes drastically. It’s easy to see how the middle class is disappearing when you compare these stats. They start at a gap of $34,308, and balloon to a gap of $110,237 after forty years.

Salary Growth by Education level

Next, we’ll look at total income earned over 40 years for each education demographic (adjusted at the same 3% wage growth). For workers with less than a high school diploma, their cumulative salaries equal $1.83 million. However, for workers with a Bachelor’s degree and higher, their cumulative salaries equal $4.45 million. That’s a difference of $2.6 million in wages over the forty year period.

Cumulative salary by education level

If you compare the cumulative salaries of high school graduates to college graduates, the divide narrows to $2 million. So that means a college degree is with $2 million more than a high school diploma, right? Well, it depends on how much you pay for your degree.

ALERT ALERT ALERT

Big stuff to follow… you won’t see this anywhere else…

If you assume $100,000 of debt to receive a college degree, it might be better just to borrow $100,000 and put the money in the stock market! Now, I still think it’s better to college, but this just an interesting experiment.

Initial investment: $100,000

Growth rate: 8%

Investment length: 40 years

Value after 40 years: $2,172,452

Remember before when I said the difference between a high school diploma and college degree was $2 million? Well, if you borrow $100,000 at the age of 20 at a low interest rate, and could guarantee an 8% return over the borrowed amount, and averaged the same cumulative wage as other high school grads, you could have just as much as a college grad in 40 years!!

No College degree

$100,000 Investment + high school salary

$2,454,462 (High school salary ) + $2,172,452 (investment return) = $4,626,914

College degree

$4,458,024 (Lifetime college salary)

The high school grad with a $100k investment wins!!! The next question would be who is more fulfilled, but I’ll save that for another time.

The experiment is very theoretical, but not too far out of the norm. There are some variables that have to be accounted for (such as borrowing the money at a low interest rate), but they’re possible. The point here is a college degree purchased fully with student loans may not be worth it. The average student loan debt was $23,000 in 2009, so it would only be the extreme debtors who might take this experiment serious.

This also reminds me of entrepreneur Peter Thiel who’s giving high school graduates $100,000 to bypass college and start a company. The whole point of this experiment is to question if a college degree is worth it.

As I discuss in an earlier post, there are many things we don’t learn from school. Even saying that, a college degree is still worth it for most young adults because they can make $2,000,000 more over their life time. However, if they’re going into deep debt to pursue it, I think they need to question if it’s really worth it. What do you think?