The Advantage of Being a Misfit


Learn Anything: Hacking Your Education


Lesson Info

The Advantage of Being a Misfit

Now we're going to take a little bit of a step back and think about what it is that makes us misfits because we're all misfits by default of being here to start with ah and how we can use that to our advantage both in terms of building extended networks and building the community people around us I want to start a little bit uh talking about um my talking more about my doctor and as a nun schooler like I said earlier I left when I was twelve and didn't go to middle school or high school yeah that's a picture of me when I was twelve um I dressed like that every day um and being outside of school made me different andi I got really used to defending that choice, explaining why I had chosen to leave school and so being outside of the system really forced me to be uh okay with myself and figure out what it was that made me happy and satisfied what success meant because they didn't meet uh society's expectations of what success was right um and stepping outside the system was was really qui...

te scary as I said my my parents or pretty traditional people my mom was actually public school teacher at the time that I left school night might have been engineers so both both people who believed in the system who had allowed that to guide their their careers on dh while they spent many sleepless nights wondering whether or not I would succeed outside of school, they eventually said, hey it's your life you might as well make your own decisions and unschooling was really a philosophy that's about learning for your own sake and it was interesting because on schooling is not something that's new the term was coined in the nineteenth is there going to john holt, who had been, um, a teacher in new york state for a very long time and um really, uh, I had tried to improve public education from inside the system and donald the sorts of normal things of trying to make class sizes smaller and reduce the focus on tests and all also sort of things that you hear normally with respect to two reform in schools, and he eventually came to the conclusion that that that wasn't going anywhere that if you wanted to make a real change in unity, stop and take a step back and think about what it was that school is actually supposed to provide was school a vehicle for learning? Was it a place to find mentors? Was it a place to get content? Were you there to make friends was entirely a social experience and then take a step back and think about with those goals in mind? What is actually the best way to achieve those goals isn't necessarily going to a school or might it be some other type of warning experience? And his conclusion was that whether school is meant to be a social experience and whether you meant it to gain knowledge going to a classroom environment where everyone was doing exactly the same thing and learning in exactly the same right wasn't actually the most effective way to get if you wanted to learn how to be socializing, interact with other people should just go play with other kids on the playground during recess and that would be far more effective in doing that you actually wanted to gain knowledge reading books and interacting with mentors would be more effective than trying to get everyone to do the same thing at exactly the same time on. So he started a magazine called growing without schooling there was published throughout the sixties and seventies and there's a small, small tribhuvan schools that started in different places around the states. Andi was interesting because the friends that I have that grew up in the first cohort of scholars recall the magazine being delivered to their homes in a paper bag as though the contents of a a magazine called going without schooling would be as objectionable to the postmaster is pornography or something not going to school is that controversial? And it was it was interesting to see this group of people who grew up without teachers without tests without grades, with how curriculum without without the ringing of bells to guide their day it's interesting t think about holtzman a lot of time holden and diligent and others spent a lot of time thinking about what are the what are the things that were actually teaching with these different mechanisms that are not explicit you know are we teaching people to get to class on time hearing bells or are we teaching people that they should conform to authority right? Are we teaching people that you know is our our tests have been way too violent people or are we teaching people that that their entire self worth should be caught up in one piece of paper on these air is they're interesting questions to think about? I think one one really important distinction to make is that home schooling is not the same thing as unschooling. This is I say this because when I specifically when I when I talk abroad um you know in europe people are like, well, you know, did you learn about evolution which is a fair question to ask and the answer is yes, I did um unschooling is not about um it is not about excluding parts of parts of knowledge that's about giving people the freedom to learn how where and when they want to this is this is a picture of some of the self directed a collaborative learning groups that I had as a kid, this is a music group, as I mentioned earlier, I spend time building library, I've got to, I've got to go to conferences and silicon valley. I even worked a startup called cinch, which kind of, ironically, helps people get into college. Before I went to college, I lived in france for half a year, and the end of that experience side, um, I had I learned everything that I would have had I gone to a traditional high school, I just hadn't actually stopped within the walls of the classroom on that was a it was an interesting experience, and I made sure that I learned everything that I would have had on the high school because I was going to go to college and assumed that I would want to know all those things, that I was going to get into a good institution. Um, and at the end of the day, I really said that actually didn't matter at all, because what what mattered more was that I knew myself very well, and I knew what I wanted. I knew what I wanted to learn, and that had very little to do with the average, the average amount of knowledge, or the the standard set of curriculum that anyone had gone through throughout the course of high school thing is that these the being outside the system may be a total miss it and it got me really used to, uh really used t defending myself and explained people why it wass that I had made this decision I mean and to me it really didn't didn't feel like a decision it felt like school was smothering me on dh there was no other way to go there was no other place to be if I'd stayed in school, I would have been terribly unhappy with mentally unhealthy probably it would not have been a safe or a good environment I mean, as I got older, I realized that the that I realized that that being a missed it is a drop that was just was just one way that I was missing there were there were other things that maybe I missed but a swell on dh those were those were all things, uh, I guess this is now now I've realised um now I realize that things are things that have really allowed me to form bonds, start conversations, build communities and, uh, use really used to my advantage on, but they haven't they haven't held me back in any way, shape or form, but rather they've been things of that they've given me power and have allowed me to to do things and have opportunities they would not have been able to connect with otherwise s o that that starts with with, you know, with with being a dropout, someone who wasn't part of the system and then I didn't have a tv growing up on realize that, you know, now that, like missing the nineties has become part of my identity. Andi, I get along really well with people who also, like don't get pop culture and don't watch tv on that's been something that, like, starts a conversation. I'm the same thing with being an atheist to the same thing with being gay or being from a very small farm town, israel, common experiences and that's not to say that they're that they're the only thing that I, you know, connect people from like, I don't have a proper friends. They're like on lee from farm towns we only talk about, like milking cows, right? Like that's, not the case, but it allows it starts a conversation on dh can be something that you use to build upon your experiences and allow you to connect and get deeper with someone faster than you might normally if you just meet them at like, a random networking about or something it's really interesting to think about how these things have worked to my advantage because they really have, and I'll go into some some details later, but I first started thinking about this this last summer after after I had this is a dinner party that we had when I when I finished the first draft of the second draft of my book um and the guy I was going out with at the time said said this to me afterwards they said being gay wouldn't be the thing that they his most about himself because they contain quit school on dropped out and then cannot this guy and it really hit me like, wow to him, being gay was a worse than being in that kind of failure on dh made me think about the extent to which, like I had never realized that being a dropout was something that was like, this must be bad, like I just thought that was good, like I just that's just like it's a good thing, right? Like it's cool. You got to learn to just do whatever you want. Like you could still have lots of free time like I just so been so out of the mindset of, you know, wanting to have validation from a teacher or a test or a grade that I just I just hadn't comprehended that, um, and I think it's it's so important that as self directed learners, we understand that you have to be proud of what makes you different on that, you know, allows people to stick together and to understand that really the act of self learning that you no reason that the fact that you've chosen to be here or chosen to watch this makes you not normal right on it's cool to be not normal um so some specific examples of how uh being a miss it has worked to my advantage um I first started talking with a friend um I guess this was sometime this fall um about how about how being a dropout and how being gay had worked his advantage and he referenced what's known in hollywood as the velvet mafia the network of powerful gay people in media and entertainment that rule the world supposedly and that got me thinking about sort of the network that I had built around dropouts in the process of writing my book basically what I do just like I went and curator of the network people whose main common value a self direction right on who are now you know all forty or fifty of which are now part of this book on got to be part of that book because they made a choice educate themselves um and then I started thinking about other networks that have grown due to common experiences right? So maybe that's something like the paypal mafia that people who all once worked at paypal and I found him to start or invest in numerous other companies may be its world of warcraft players are maybe it was red heads of celeste suggested yesterday you know, whatever it is it doesn't matter what it is they're different things that can um they can allow you to sort of conversation and build something where there might not have been anything that I was talking with tiffany who you'll need after this this fall um because I gave a talk about this that ted expresses this fall about how you khun how how being a mystic can work to your advantage and I was recalling that something that she said when I interviewed her my book which is that the things that made her different being a woman and technology being a single mother being a dropout had all worked to her advantage and along the way is part of her journey which I'm sure she'll she'll share more in depth with you it was those things that, uh that people who had those similar common experiences reached out and helped her and were able to help him push and propel her along the way. And so maybe it's made a year an introvert or an atheist or dyslexic or someone who hates rock music or like whatever it is but these are things that you can use to start a conversation to form a bond I think it's it's really important that we have a responsibility to be visible is being awesomely weird lets other people know that it's ok to be whoever you are s o I what I want to do is take a couple minutes to think about what makes you on this that and there should be multiple things that make you I miss and for those watching online I want you to think about this as well on after we I grew up with the studio audience we'll check back in online um but if any of you have anything that often out of your head makes you a misfit let me know what I want to jot it down on the board I only started going to school and when I was in fifth grade okay, that makes you miss that for sure on lee started school in fifth grade I grew up mormon afraid to write them bigger people online can see thank you I'm being about about this I'm sorry all right a woman's going huge every week I do public speaking with the toastmasters organization I really love bingo, bingo or gambling in general just go people like boxing crap benji photo says I'm not athletic I think this is an interesting place where there's a lot of like not things right? Um it's it's really it's often really easy to like find groups so I identify with that are like positive affirmations right now when it's like I didn't go to school or like not athletic often it's harder to find people who uh who are not that because the positive version of that has so many people who are bound to bind together right jordan has been five years is as a stay at home dad I like that lisbeth said only five we are live coming in go ahead um I'm like really told like really tall or just really um and then another one I put like I I'm kind of an oncology guy right like I believe in form like different types of education again not everyone believes that so yeah we also have another guest who is really short so tall or short and someone mentioned their income bracket and being ah being poor rainy day store says he or she is dyslexic but at the age of five was doing algebra and watch out for this one right here relaxed now says they are a misfit because they watch creative la what now genius somebody else says shy like it ordinance being introvert may be right if center jim's who is a vegan you guys of others is your phone here from benji cooper I am the only person I know in the uk who loves the united states based country music music that one's very specific very I'm not going to write that one out would take three lines I'm left handed conversations this is kind of weird but like I have like like an over amount of morals people have trouble with sometimes how should I say first that like to mature conscientious friend everyone else is good I always had a better time talking to adults than piers up until about very simply might that just because he because he appears have finally caught up to the adults maybe I can't stick out my tongue having had he bonded over I want the people who write her challenge but not as not to the level that I am I think we need to see that well tango dancing enjoy that yeah tango being super early overly ambitious I think some people really don't you make these things sound as if they're negative well, I don't think I don't think being overly ambitious or overly conscientious is a negative thing but like you stand out kind of yeah for sure around you for sure I mean I'm just saying we should we should change the wording so it sounds positive, right? Like that's what's so interesting about what's going on here is all these people who are saying things yeah, that appeared to be negative or that you think are negative even though other people would see them as total strength so interesting it goes that goes down really, really deep way see ourselves that means it's it's so reflected in the language that we use right? They keep coming so I don't know how long you wantto waken keep bringing him off if you want yeah let's fill up the border lou stay all right but there's more religious ones I grew up around pentecostals or I saw someone that said I was baptised so kind of going along with it I grew up mormon one individual says they have o c d going right here uh are making file can't wink I got us some can't week we haven't node white count's I can't wait either I really you know you have a friend can't link someone here was a married young at nineteen years old and is proud to say that they are still married congratulations and maybe it's just that you can't link with one eye on the link with two eyes probably saw a mohawk so different types of hair so dreadlocks as well you mentioned you used to have a block e think one thing that's interesting about that is that you know, it's something that it's something that you can't hide right? Like if you have a mohawk, you have a mohawk and a lot of these things are things that you can't necessarily tell by looking at someone I mean, I think that's why it's think that that's, why it's important to be to the public and to talk about it because you will never discover that someone else can't stick out their tongue if you don't also do that with its many about example but if you don't talk about growing up mormon or whatever it isthe no one else is ever going to know that about you and it's never going to provide the opportunity to maybe formed the basis of some sort of connection do we have more we do we have someone has I grew up with the schizophrenic mother ok yeah it's kind of random but maybe some of the people in line could relate but a sister with I was addicted to drugs now call it sibling or whatever anything else roland don't there's um some fun ones and e I don't eat pizza I don't know that's being a misfit or not sure I think I think food I mean we have taken up that right anything food allergies count I cannae clinton for example I don't know how you put this one up there dale but I think about myself one thing is that I moved a lot as a child is very much informed me now I go about life so I don't know how we define that but moving away which you said you did as well the term for that I've heard his third tck third culture kids I heard that people who moved around a lot and I don't have an identity it's tied to a certain place at least that's the that's the term that I've heard for that that's definitely something people really to anything else core? Um, yeah, I mean, anything that provides a relief, you know, that's, like thirty different things, um, that in certain contexts would be totally normal, right? Um, but outside of a community or environment where everyone shares that common trait, these things become this become things that make us miss the misfits and become things that allow us to her to form connections in form bonds. So thinking about that, um, and think about how these, how these things about us have informs the communities that we've built, I'm I'm wondering what the what the common values off of your means of friends are one of the things that bind your groups of friends together, anyone feel for the people who are intentional, people who are intentional, like like one of the one of the intentional about it doesn't really matter to me, but like friends of mine have things they're passionate about, things they think are important and do that rather than just kind of drifting intention all of my friends has very like the same sense of humor, like very witty and sarcastic that binds us together, okay, you're like my friends like we love to laugh and stuff I mean that's like a big part of, like how you do things and communicate it's like through laughter and music to actually is a big thing commonality between on life friends is we're all just like really in the music among my friends, my best friends or those that are open with their mistakes and I like hearing about those and telling them my mistakes yeah, I kind of think that that the common part of it you depends on which group of friends you know, I mean, I have friends that I've known since you know, since I was a little kid, I'm still really good friends with and I'm you know and we've kind of gone different ways but you know, but we have some attachment that we had back when we're little kids that we can still relate to and then but you know, friends and I have now you know, we do something entirely different, different activities or whatever I think what it really comes down to is just the respectively after each other really respect um and when you when you go about finding new friends or adding people to hear how do you go about doing that, like how do you go about assessing whether or not someone is the same intention of the same musical interests you ask them? Do you put them in this situation but, you know, allows you to evaluate that how do you go about doing that I kind of joked about that a lot in college because you get to this place where you don't know anyone it's kind of like friend dating like you scope each other out here like I saw you last week in this really cool then you're in one of my classes they kind of like walk up and say hi and then maybe you get coffee with me, but I think for me I kind of like, look out for people that I think are interesting and then like, go say hi and see how it goes I would say the way that we like when I'm in class or something just the way that we both approach and communicate um different like, if we both see something comment on it like that banter like the natural banter that you have and that's how it my french is kind of develop is just through like natural random conversation I always like we don't have to go to seo I always try to pick up on like people's energy and like that's like I don't know if people believe in that, but like I don't know like it's, I just like tell when I meet someone kind of like if I would vibe with them, you know what I mean? And then I kind of analyze them a bit and then I decide is there value to both our lives kind of like not with every person I meet like with the people I really want to be friends with and then from that I'll say, you know, you put that investment that time? Sure, yeah e think it's definitely worthwhile to sit down and think about what? What are the common values that bind your community together? And for me I think it's I think it's sort of love and freedom and openness are the things that the people in my community share I think that I think the reason it's important to understand that is because, um, knowing knowing what those values are makes it easier to assess whether or not it's someone that you want to invite into your community, I think it's it's, it's really easy, you know t be part of a larger network right toe like making business contact, you know, or someone who's going to help you develop your mobile fashion airstream right? Like it's? Easy to say like, oh, you have experience doing this, they've you've run a shop or something, but figuring out whether or not they fit as part of the community that has the same sense of humor um, there's a lot more difficult unless you unless you can define and know what that is, um, one of the one of the blood I interviewed for my book took a really interesting approach to doing this. Her name is megan gephardt, and she sort of a project called fifty two cups I wanted that fifty two cups dot com on dh she she decided that she wanted to to explore what the values of her community were by having coffee every week for a year with a different person and then running an essay about what she learned from that it was a really interesting, fascinating journey for that took her to multiple countries two different people on every week, she'd ask ask the president she had coffee with who she should have coffee with next and sort of by by starting off of people close to her she got recommendations of other people to add to that network and then eventually community, and I thought that that was a really great example of figuring out a spare, specific way to to consciously take time to build that community for yourself. One of the other things that I've that I've seen commonly done and I've done myself is to take the time tio to host events, whether that's getting a couple friends together for coffee or whether that's cooking dinner for some friends oh, or whether that's hosting a larger party but asking, asking the friends that you invite to bring along someone that you don't know but you they think you would get along with is a really great way to start building that committee on that network as well um for me I think this is it's for me and for everyone who's being self corrected and operating outside of the system I think that this is really important because you don't necessarily have the credentials of a college degree to fall back upon and not to say that those are incredibly valuable these days with twenty two and a half percent of college grads unemployed another twenty two percent working jobs that don't require their degree um but more and more if you if you want to get a job if you want to be successful even therefore thing of success just as getting a job and being able to pay her rent and have a place to sleep it requires relying upon the people in your in your community in in your network to help you find jobs to make recommendations on dh it's often by word of mouth and their their credibility which is far more important and then any credentials that euro ever have um and it's it's on lee if you if you are intentional about building communities and building the network ah that you're going to get to a place where you have people who are willing to make recommendations for you to put themselves on the line on dh to help you along the way um I want to take the last time for break to think about um think about what success means for each of us and we can we'll start here in the studio and then go online anyone before we do this I want to specifically plant the seed that this is really about the difference between um internal success and extra all success on and I bring this up because um unschooling is really not just about not going to school or bigger economic is not just about being outside the system but it's really about understanding um understanding how to define success for yourself right because you're by definition not going to meet society's definition of success you're not going to get straight a's you're not going to be part of a classroom you're really not going to get a traditional job you're you're an investment bank could be graduating from harvard whenever it isthe I've been so learning learning how to be okay with that to define success for yourself I think is um a really big challenge um and also incredibly important if you're going to be happy with yourself and satisfied and not constantly feeling like you're missing out on something so well I erase the board take a minute to think about what success means to you how do you define success? Um I would say that success for me is being content with where I'm at in the current moment and not wanting to be anywhere else being content with the current moment, what else I'd say even going for me, going a step further than being content is doing what I want to do on my own terms. Do we have anything from are my nuts? We absolutely do, isabelle define success for self freedom to travel, be creative and be financially secure. That's really long? I might not write that down, but there are a couple elements in there that I wantto pick up on. Is that there's there's a couple things in there that they're they're still very externally motivated, right? Um, I think freedom is a really awesome internal value that you can you can assess for yourself, um, but things like troubling right are still things that are very externally dependent on dependent upon a lot of extra all things you might only be able to travel if you have the money to do so. And still, money is a very external thing, and I think it's I think it's important to get to a place where our definition of success doesn't actually include money. Um, where it's, for we can be content with ourselves, even if we don't necessarily have the means to travel, I would say doing something that you're proud to talk about, newbie eleven says impacting others lives for the better what success means I think that's that's that's one that I want oh, I want to think about a little bit of well does does that still seem externally motivated to you guys? Because I think quite a few these air definitely have the external kind of motivations on there so for example, isabel says success for for her is freedom to travel, be creative and then be financially secure how might we and and while while wanting to impact others lives and measure your success in terms of is terribly altruistic right? How many how might we be ableto think about that in a way that is more internally motivated than externally? I don't think it's entirely altruistic so I know for me like when I'm living in service, others I'm super or did and I really like what I'm doing and I'm fulfilled by it and so yes, I'm impacting other people and that's great, but I also feel really good about it, you know a bit about myself I was like internalize it to like being inspirational rather than like maybe yeah, I want to inspire people because, like, what if you didn't not because I didn't want it enough, but you feel like, oh no, right, exactly because you think you can decide for yourself whether or not you're being inspirational yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense there's what there's one here that I think from a gentleman that you actually know he's quoting someone organic so else that he thinks michael ellsberg puts it best and mark wahlberg is the author of the education of millionaires it's balancing safety with making a difference in the world I think safety is something that you can definitely decide on for yourself at least in terms of like your level of comfort um but still like making a difference for others is still very externally motivated what if you what if they don't think you're making a difference right um I think the point that you brought up is interesting I mean it's it's definitely eyesight I didn't I definitely agree that there's a lot of self interest in altruism by definition, right? Like it feels really good to help other people and like that's why people do things like this right? Like um but it's I guess I meant it that that goal seems much more admirable to me than like defining success by like, how many people's dreams I squash right? I don't think that's a good goal what else do we have? Our money right gets more laura mcphee is quoting a garth brooks sweat sure way to get a light switch your uh success isn't happiness happiness is a success I think happiness is a great definition of six us uh the mine d a less success means for me to be proud of me having a job I love have people in the chance of having a job that I love and have the chance to live my life as I would love to live it we were missing someone right usual you said you did you know uh maybe I didn't um yeah like minds a lot about happiness and about just having people around me that I really like love I care about and they love and care about me so that this is a this is a very a very mature group maybe to my short as you pointed out earlier I mean usually usually people like I want to like make a million dollars or whatever it is how did you how did you come to the conclusion that what you want to be has more to do with yourself from the world? Because I think if you go after um stuff like a monetary you know I want to make a million dollars it's just like you're going you're jumping to the final step instead of like the stepping stones to get there so it's like you got a think in terms of like the bigger picture which is yourself which will lead you to that bigger picture stuff which is making a million bucks if you you know I mean I think I think that if you if you define success in any other way that internally you're setting yourself up for failure right? Because there's always the risk that you might not reach what you're doing andi in order to be able to be functioning your best, you need to be able to set yourself up for success and success is defined internally and you know what it is that you want to do you don't have to worry about all the stuff that happens outside the environment anything else that that could happen I just thought about with monetary goals and implies that you're not happy until you get that right exactly how do you even know if getting it is enough once you have it right, you don't I mean you're setting yourself up to fail yeah, yeah for sure I think this is a a really important conversation to have for self learners because where you are outside the system for the most part and even for people who are who were inside the system, I think this is a really important conversation to have to understand that just just because you get that degree or your phd doesn't mean that you've achieved success of that hopefully you've been happy and successful before that and will continue to be so afterwards yeah kind of like on that I've met a lot of people that have master's degrees and all this stuff and they aren't that happy right, no, I mean, and it's, like you should have maybe looked into yourself, right? Yeah, for sure. On then they're like, but we could get a second one that'll make it better, which, of course, doesn't right I mean it. It gives you another master's degree, but says nothing about your internal state.

Class Description

For most of us, getting a good education that prepares us for a satisfying, successful life and career means going to school and attending college. We pay our dues by sitting for hours in a classroom, doing the prescribed homework, and often paying tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of getting a degree from an institution of higher learning.

But that’s not the case for Dale Stephens, who decided at a young age that school and college weren’t for him. Instead, he embraced “unschooling,” which is self-directed learning based on curiosity, confidence and grit. Instead of blindly following what society and institutions say we must learn and how we should learn it, Stephens offers an alternative approach that is richer, more dynamic and geared to our unique interests.

Stephens is the author of “Hacking Your Education,” founder of, a highly sought-after speaker, and a successful investor and advisor. He and his special guest speakers will help you devise your own personal learning path, figure out your dreams and how to pursue them, learn to embrace your outsider status, and discover how to find meaning and purpose while also making a living.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create a personal learning plan that defines what you want to learn, why you want to learn it, and how you will learn it.
  • Keep yourself motivated when you don’t have the structures of school.
  • Identify what your goals and dreams are and what you need to learn to realize them.
  • Connect with mentors and advisors who can help you on your educational journey.
  • Build a community with other “hackademics” to help you learn anything you want.
  • Create a portfolio to communicate your talents rather than a traditional resume.
  • Find a well-paying, satisfying job using subversive job search techniques.


a Creativelive Student

I'm not able to afford this class now but I saw the live view on CL and want to thank you! So many things I have experienced recently it was nice to learn that I am not about filters, time managing as innovators, taking smaller steps instead of reaching for long goals...chunking. Great course!