Hacking Your Education Q&A
So this is the book that I just finished it's called hacking your education on day it's all about howto learn outside of school, I didn't go to middle school or high school on dh instead found mentors and build businesses and it internships and was really able to engage with my education in ways they never would've been able to have been in the classroom. And so when I left college two years ago, I said out to write this book, and it really became a fun exercise in thinking about what it was that I had done the one I left school because it it wasn't that I left school and had no systems, it was that I had to figure out how to build systems for myself, of how to keep myself accountable, how to keep myself on track on how to keep myself interested in learning when I was outside of a system and didn't have teachers giving me assignments or grades or telling me what to do or watching over me all the time. And I ended up interviewing about fifty or so people who have done fastening an aweso...
me things with their lives without relying on formal education on they've gone on to do everything from become doctors, toe lawyers, toe entrepreneurs, toe architects to djs some of them went to school, some of them went to college, some didn't some dropped out but the common thread is that what they learned and what they do are two different things to get where they are now. They did not rely on their formal education inside the classroom, and for me, the motivation in writing the book was really about helping will make informed decisions about how to educate themselves were in a really scary time when twenty two and a half percent of college gods in the states under twenty five with college degrees are unemployed and another twenty percent or working jobs that don't require their degree it's a really tough decision to decide to spend four years of your life and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when when the chances of you getting a job that actually use your college degree air are less than half right, particularly when the average college student credits with twenty seven thousand dollars in debt, which is just astronomical in a huge amount of debt to start off life in the world with, um and ah, the amount of credit card debt has knows the amount of student loan debt is no surpassed credit card debt more than a trillion dollars in the states um, I think the thing that's really scary or still though, is that student loan default rates are on the rise, andre were up two percent you're over a year to eleven percent by the end of two thousand twelve on dh continue to rise and the thing is the the thing that makes student loan debt different than, say, people defaulting on their mortgages is that at least with a house there's something of a bank can repossess was an actual physical asset, right? I mean the bank that has given you a loan on your on your on your education could theoretically take back your diploma but it's not really have used to anybody else and it's kind of hard to prove that that has value to anyone else. So it's um it's definitely a really, really scary place to be and I think a question of whether or not going to college is a good investment that's really worth asking newsday's we'll have a couple questions for you about the book they'll of course of you go to your website or different, you know place reviewer wrote written op eds know that fun stuff there live different myths about dale stephens and a ncaa college is all about self. So for the record is dale stephens against university life and in college I'm against people making decisions without thinking about them. If you want to go to college or university because you've made a choice that how you are to be there because you want to work with a certain professor or working a certain laboratory because you want to enter, you know, get a certain certificate then more power to you but it's about making that decision for yourself it's not about whether or not you go to school from the middle I think it's further just a follow up on that how much of course it's an individual decision how I'm gonna hack my own education but it sounds like it's really important have certain people support network support network available as well and you had your parents so the people you interviewed where they fortunate to have like awesome parents around them are some of them just figure it out on their own it depended I mean it was some people had parents around to support them, others did it it was really a question of making that decision for themselves most people that I interviewed who decided to leave school knew that they really fundamentally we're not happy or healthy in a college environment and knew that have they stayed in that college environment they wouldn't have able tio they wouldn't have been able to have survived really? Um yeah I think it's a it's a it's it's a really controversial subject because it's school is something that ninety nine percent of people have gone through right and it's something that's that's aspirational everyone tells us from our parents to our teachers to our counselors that college is something to aspire to particularly if if maybe you're on you're your own parents having gone to college um but it's it's one it's it's something that's aspirational not because anyone has decided that it that it is aspirational for any particular reason, but rather because that's what everybody does, um, and what everybody does something that seems like a particularly bad reason to do something to me. And what would you say you found in terms of individuals you interviewed even yourself? When it comes to structure, some people like to know they have to be somewhere at eight o'clock or nine o'clock and and schedules like you have saying, a traditional university or college system are all these people extremely detailed oriented? They have the calendars mark up every single day or some kind of go with the flow, and I'm curious how your experience has been. Have you been really structured or you kind of just you stay, you wake up and figure things out? I tend to be a fairly structured individual myself. I I love calendars and making plans and scheduling and so on and so forth. But there many people that they interviewed for the book, who followed much more looser structures or found ways to implement structure for themselves that wasn't wasn't the same level of college system one person I interviewed, for example, I decided that he was going t o wake up at a certain time and convinced a number of his friends to do the same, and each morning at six a m they'd call each other to ensure they all got up, um and could start start learning at the same time every day question about thie how how you looked at this internationally like what are the differences and hacking or education here in the u s where we are versus what's going on around the world with so many people who are joining us from different parts of the world, it various at what level we're talking about and that at the primary level were schooling us compulsory and most of the world under the age of sixteen it's some things much easier to do in the states and much easier even to do on the west coast. And it is on the east coast in america standards about home schooling, which is what unschooling legally looks like are addicted on a state by state level. And so in new york, for example, to home school your parents have to have a master's degree will in california, parents just need to have a high school diploma where is in most of europe, home schooling is just flat out illegal and just impossible to do once you get to the higher levels of looking at how hacking education beyond your eighteen beyond being eighteen, it has more to do with, um more to do with how you're able to access opportunities and jobs than the legality of it and I think that that's something that because because hacking education is still a fairly fringe topic it has less to do with any particular geographic location I think there might be a concentration of people in silicon valley for example who who who value meritocracy and who value people what people know and what they've done more than their degrees but they're definitely pockets of those particularly people who work in startups in technology in different places all over the world. Dale you work specifically on college campuses and universities have been extremely controversial what has been some of the feedback you've received from educators and needham at university administrators, professors and the like what has been their once a jab at you and have you responded to it? I've been I've been less surprised by the responses of educators and edmund shares and mohr more surprised by their responses of students and educators and administrators are generally generally aware that the school system needs to change their generally supportive of school becoming more self directed right? They they want their students to be engaged they want their students to be learning it's mostly students who feel like feel like they're being told that that their life choices being devalued you know that they buy a car and they drive it off the lot of you know you get up and tell them that it's just work, you know, lost five thousand dollars in value like, oh, that wasn't worth it. Um, it's definitely it's, it's, it's definitely challenging, though on dh while I can totally empathize with that. I mean, I can it would be really hard for someone to tell me that, you know, what I'm doing is is maybe not the best investment of time, I think it's something that we need to consider, andi, I'm not saying that in a self interested way, but because half of the world's population is under thirty on dh, if you want to be ableto to find a way to navigate the world and that even sixteen, but maybe even get a job and able to support yourself, it would be challenging to do that if the only place that you ever learned is inside a college classroom. Listen, questions coming in from the internet and one from in the fireplace. You know, if he's inside our fireplace here, how would you talk about a ncaa college ing to more conservative parents? I mean, it depends. I think the most successful appeals that I've seen to parents who are very set on their kids going to college is to really appeal to their child's happiness, um most parents generally want their children to be happy. They want them to be successful, and if a child is genuinely unhappy and unsatisfied and really feeling terrible in the school environment, it's pretty hard for parents to say, we'll stick it out, even if it makes you feel terrible, absolutely awful, and hate yourself. There's, a really great book called the teenage liberation handbook, written by a woman in grace llewellyn in the early nineteen nineties that has, ah, whole step by step guide to how to talk to your parents about leaving school on dh, outlines a number of different arguments that can be useful when one talking with parents who share a different point of view. So I had been created to that that listening to check that book out, we have not a great questions from online. This is from steve whitmore, eighty one is a really good, practical question. Is the book deal? Is it a narrative of your experiences and end of your life, or is it a more practical book for readers? The book uses my experience as a narrative basis, and, you know, there's one or two pages of that that starts out every chapter, but it's, pretty practical, the fifty or so people that I interviewed, I took their stories, I turned them into practical exercises and at the end of every chapter there's something that you can do to build on those experiences and start making changes in your own life whether that's things that you want to do to help start building a portfolio or building your network or building your community or building your mentors they're all those sorts of exercises that are built into the book I'm to try and get readers set on their own track whether they're in school or one of their outside of it a question from chris who says in your book do you talk at all about how to go about finding opportunities abroad like you did I want to study spanish in a spanish speaking country and I don't even know where to begin? The last chapter is all about learning from traveling how do you about finding those experiences? How to go about setting yourself up so that you know what you want to learn and then can evaluate yourself down the line on dh there's stories from I think five or six people in that chapter from people who went all over the world from india to israel to australia to malaysia tio uh somewhere in latin america go of all I think, um that has been on dh the strategy is that they used unemployed to find their opportunities as well as the biggest the biggest learnings that they took away from that experience is your question you're coming in from kelly j did you find anyone who had a very traditional jobs such as a lawyer or professor who achieved that profession without a college degree? Yeah there's a lawyer there's an architect who's one of the academy of american architects there's a there's a guy who's a vice president at uh at shell oil some very traditional jobs on dh people who got there in the same way it's I think it's definitely easy to assume that people who are self directed or sort of predisposed to being being artists or entrepreneurs theirs you know, freelance writers and filmmakers or something that's that's a very independent but they're numerous examples of people who you know went on to work in major corporations despite coming from very nontraditional background have a question for you know, what was the most surprising thing that you learned from one of your interviewers interviewees I know it's pretty pretty generic it learned about myself or learned about oh, I think I was thinking like what surprised you the most that you I mean, I think I think the thing that surprised me the most was that, um people always say, well, this is only for four very self motivated people, right um and I think the thing that surprised me the most is that most of the people that I interviewed are pretty lazy um and for them, that meant that not that they didn't do work, but that they always went to look for the highest value leverage opportunities. So they ended up doing less work, but they did work in more meaningful places, but they may not have worked as hard as someone who was going and writing for page in english papers every week. The interesting question here from eric philips says in the book, is there a ranking of locations that you feel having environment that foster learning better or worse, and others I know you live in san francisco right now? He found that certain geographic regions are like, you know, this is where you need to be to be academic there's not ranking specifically about the learning environment, there is a couple of pages of discussion about how different locations can be, uh, can be a minimal two different things, right? The fact that if you want to go into technology, san francisco might be a good place to be. But if you want to go into fashion, you know, maybe you want to consider a little living in in new york or london, you know, if you want to be in in media, entertainment should probably move to l a if you're really into cars like detroit might be a good place, right, um the fact that you know there are different industries that are centered in different places around the world and if you are interested in pursuing a certain thing it probably makes sense to, uh to move to that geographic location a statistic that people point to when they talk about say, the un college movement or hacking education is you look at statistics over the years poor economy student loan that over a trillion dollars people are coming out and I getting jobs moving back in the parents you go on and all the statistics right? We'll flip fly they say that the unemployment rate for people without college degrees is substantially higher then those with college degrees doesn't like the weird double edged sword to have an opinion on that fat on that on that number the delis barely were and statistics number on people who who are unemployed without college degrees is for people over twenty five and for people under twenty five uh I'm mohr now have college experience um more people have spent time in college than have not and I think that that that's indicative that that things are changing and that the last number is probably going to t still be biased in favor of college graduates for another couple of years until you know the next three years in that class of people catches up but I have a hard time believing that that it'll stay the same do you have? Ah, great example in the book that you found of someone right now? We're talking specifically about young people, recent college graduates, but someone who say in there and still the young age of the thirties like I am the thirties or say the forties or fifties aside, is actor education after having a traditional career in any great examples of people who did that after, say, living a more traditional experience, I'm a not that I can think of there in the book, necessarily, but I get I get dozens of e mails every week from people who are who are in that specific place, who are who have, who have done something interesting and corrective, what their lives that feel like they want to do something different on wantto continue learning if I think of a specific example, I'll call back to it later, but I don't want on top top top my head, any questions here in our studio audience about the book and how long did it take you to write it? It took about nine months to write and then about another six toe editor, so it was a long process, I think the it was it was fun to have the time to go back and thinking introspect and think about what I what it was that I had done it's a it's a it's a big undertaking I did definitely gave me a lot more respect for people who have written books so go ahead please. What advice did you get from people before he started the book? The advice that they got was mostly around you know the structure off the book of um you know whether this was something that should be structured and in aa you know thematically or whether it should be you know, done chronologically or you know, the best strategies for keeping your self on track whether I should, like, do all the interviews and then write or write a feat interviews as I went or commit to writing a certain number of words a day in the end, I sort of did did a mix of that um I tried to get my narrative down first and then I did a bunch of most of the interviews and then and then sort of incorporated that. So when when in cycles of researching versus writing I think the thing that here this's the thing that was most surprising thing that was most surprising to me that no one warned me about was the physical amount of time that I would spend thinking about writing and like actively thinking about writing but not actually writing like sitting in front of my computer and thinking, oh, you know, should this word go there there did that paragraph go there there? And it was not it was not wasted time because it was very active and active part of the writing process, but it felt really unproductive because it wasn't actually producing anything. The question online coming from steve whitmore, eighty one, and he says, how can employers embrace or take advantage of people who take this route toe learning employers are starting to recognize that, um, that what you can do means a lot more than the degree that you have, and we're particularly seeing innovation in, um in the area of technology, and I'll talk more about this this afternoon that a couple sites once called get hub once called be handsome called stack overflow that basically allowed people to demonstrate their knowledge, engage with the community and show off their skills and then get us get, um are ranking, comparing them to other people will see we're seeing all kinds of companies recruiting on these platforms from from big companies like hold a small start ups that you've never heard of. Um, one thing that's that I think is particularly interesting is that stack overflow started as a q and a site just for computer programmers but is now part of a larger network of ninety six different sites that cover everything from um from like plumbing to electrician's to nursing toe all sorts of different things so they're quickly and actively moving in the direction of expanding job beyond just the nature of technology what about the whole notion of college those air that the four for some people by six years that you learn about yourself and you kind of gain independence and you figure out how to be an adult and come into being I think you wrote about this a bit on on a college in your own college manifesto before this book came out. So what do you say to people that say college? All those four, five, twelve years are so important t grow up and become an adult I mean, I think the key emphasis there is on the four, five or six years and the fact that you're going to be more mature by the time you're twenty two or twenty three then by the time you're eighteen right um I think how you spend that time is more or less irrelevant I mean, in fact I think you'd think you'd grow up a lot faster if you took four years and went to live in india by yourself then you know, if you spent four years sitting inside a college classroom where your room and board is paid for someone's cleaning your bathroom and couldn your meals right that's ah it's a pretty it's a pretty nice way to live but it's not gonna help help you grow up cool, maybe we just have a couple more questions, you know, for sure because they continue to come in, but I think there are a couple people asking about how to demonstrate and show are learning to potential employers log eight documented what's best something we touched on yesterday but maybe as it relates to the book yeah, for sure the best way to do that is to create portfolios, which is which we're going to talk about in depth this afternoon and even go through a template of of what you should include in the steps that you need to take to create a portfolio. The beauty about the intern is that you can you can show off what you've done, not just talk about it right on a resume all all you can do is write down what you've done on online even you can put up photos you can put up videos you can link to the different projects you can show how you engage with other people and that's just far more meaningful on telling about your talents than a single piece of paper ever could be and were questions here and in the audience how did you decide what to put in and want to leave out of your books? I feel like it's harder it's easier to make like a five hundred page book the minutes to make it a one hundred page yeah for sure um I mean, a lot of that. A lot of that was helped by my editors that I have both my editor at penguin. Maria got galiano, and after that, I hired to help justin keenan. Um, I did a lot of a b testing of the book of bouncing it off of people. People who were part of the college community online got early versions and drafts to see what was relevant and what was helpful. Possibly. I wanted to make something that was readable. That wasn't a five hundred page tome. Um, that's, definitely it's, definitely easier to beaver, both, um, but, um, harder toe be concise.