Thursday, May 15, 2008

Education for Living

My Dad who passed away 10 years ago after a very full life, used to lecture me all during my high school years about what he considered a big regret in his life, not getting a degree.

Well, I ignored his advice, sort of. When I was 16 I was working at a radio station, and knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. And the way to advance in radio was experience, not a degree.

Now this was 30 years ago and the opportunities have changed in the radio business. These days, there are fewer on air jobs to be had. My high school had their own station which I helped launch and that's what gave me my first job on my resume, which led to others.

Education can come in many forms. These days, my youngest Abby, my stepdaughter is home after a fantastic freshman year at Purdue. Also in school is my son Josh, who has gone to Indiana State, Rose Hullman and is currently in Maine finishing up his degree next year at the College of the Atlantic.

What did I do as far as post high school education?

Classes in Computers from Ivy Tech, in 1980. Classes in Computer Software 15 years later. Seminars in Detroit, Fort Wayne, Philadelphia, Miami, and Columbus, Ohio over the years.
Dale Carnegie classes too. But most important, was I took responsibility for my own learning and have viewed the various experiences and connections as ways to add to my education.

My two daughters Rachael and Tiffany both started college but left before getting a degree. They are both doing well, and whatever limitations they might have because of not getting their degree, they have and will overcome. Or they will get a degree.

Some of the most famous and successful people in the world are not working in the field they studied.

Overall, I urge folks to do what it takes to follow their dreams. Take the classes, get the knowledge, get the experience, and keep learning until you take your last breath.

And if you are looking at college, take a look at this article that came in my email this week:

8 College Courses That Will Make You Rich

Posted: 13 May 2008 07:24 AM CDT

Written on 5/13/2008 by Robert, owner of

Is it common knowledge that school doesn't prepare you well for the real world?

Sure, you can get a good degree, find a well-paying job, work until you're in your 60s, and then retire to enjoy the life you've deferred for 40+ years. However, that may not prove to be a successful life, a secure life, a financially sound life. A lot will depend on your outlook and your goals but know this: School doesn't prepare you well for achieving wealth or becoming an entrepreneur and it downright fails at teaching you how to be rich.

Nevertheless, school is here to stay. For now. Thus, it helps to identify which classes are the most relevant and helpful for those of us looking to become rich entrepreneurs. There are, in fact, several courses that contain critical information and instruction that, if used correctly, will put you on your path to riches.

If you're in college, about to start college, or looking to take some classes, here is a list of college courses that could help make you rich. (I focused on college because (a) college provides the most variety in course selection, and (b) college is generally the time when individuals realize what they want to do with their lives.)
  • Accounting
    Although this list is in no particular order, I think Accounting is, by far, the most important course to take if you want to succeed financially. Today's "credit crunch" illustrates that there are too many people who do not understand a balance sheet. Someone who walks into Best Buy and pays for a 47-inch plasma television with a credit card does not comprehend the difference between an asset and a liability.

    Learning the difference between assets and liabilities, as well as concepts like inventory and cash flow, is essential if you intend on keeping your finances in order. Moreover, these concepts are crucial if you want to start your own business. The health of a business is reflected in its balance sheet and financial statement. As those numbers go, so does the business. Accounting will help you understand that cash flow is what helps a business succeed, and it is what helps you as an individual succeed.

  • Marketing
    If you intend on making money from selling something (which, incidentally, is how any business makes money), then you need to learn how to find the right product. Marketing, in and of itself, is not selling. However, it helps you learn how to promote certain products and services. By taking Marketing, you can understand the process involved in figuring out what consumers want, focusing on a product that satisfies those desires, and the attempt at moving consumers toward that product.

    Too often, products fail because their creators didn't bother to learn whether a market existed for that product. This process involves research and time, but, in the end, it can save a business thousands, if not millions, of dollars. As an entrepreneur, it can also save you valuable time and money. Find the market first, and then develop the product.

  • Economics
    I regret never taking Economics in college. Understanding the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services is essential if you want to take a big picture approach to business and investing. The current state of the U.S. economy is a combination of various factors (i.e., consumer over-spending, speculative real estate investing, fragile lending practices, a weakening dollar, low supply of oil, etc.).

    If you understand how the economy got to the point where it is today, it helps you identify where your money should be. You can pick out the right investments and turn away from the bad ones. You can identify which direction your business should go in, including whether to take advantage of certain trends or cut out excess inventory.

    Economics is a vital ingredient in a person's financial education. The world is now a global marketplace, and the supply and demand of goods and services operate at that level.

  • Finance
    It's tax season, and several people you know are probably receiving refund checks in the mail from the Internal Revenue Service. If you're excited about receiving a refund check, you probably never took a finance course. Receiving a refund is a way for you to lose money. The government withheld money from your paychecks and held that money for a year without paying you any interest. It's like giving someone an interest-free loan. Thus, your money sat in the government's hand and lost value during that time.

    Finance helps you understand how the time value of money works and how various investment vehicles operate. One of the keys to becoming rich is comprehending how money works when it's not in your hands. A finance course (preferably one geared towards entrepreneurship) will teach you what you need to know to reach this level of understanding. There might be some math involved, but it won't kill you. It'll just make you a stronger and more savvy investor.

  • Any American History Course
    History can be boring. But if you look at history from a different viewpoint, it can open doors for you. The most valuable aspect of history is its ability to convey to us the mistakes of others. Studying history helps you learn from others mistakes so that, hopefully, you won't commit the same mistakes.

    American history is filled with mishaps, wrong turns, and terrible decision-making, both at the national political level and at the business level. Look at these errors, and figure out how a better decision could have been made. Then, apply that realization to today's world and to your own trajectory. How can you apply what you learned from these mistakes to your own entrepreneurial experiences?

  • Writing and Composition
    Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires that you be able to express yourself and your ideas. Whether it involves pitching an idea to an investor, writing a press release, or composing a business plan, entrepreneurs need to communicate. More often than not, this communication is done in writing. Basic composition and grammar skills can do wonders for your ability to convey your ideas and your mindset.

    Just glance around at the number of blogs across the Internet and you will see a lot of bad writing. It's an instant turnoff and preempts any evaluation of the content of your writing. Good writing, on the other hand, draws in a reader, and it gives you a shot at selling someone on your content. In other words, it helps you get in the door.

  • Any Literature Course
    Literature, like history, contains valuable lessons that emanate from years of experience and wisdom. Why not draw on these sources of information? There is no limit to the topics covered by novels. Ernest Hemingway's books are full of inspirational messages. Oscar Wilde provides brilliant business advice. Henry David Thoreau is the master of teaching self-reliance. These books and others provide timeless principles of personal development and, just as important, wealth creation.

  • Management
    One of the problems with "bosses" is that they don't know how to manage people. If you want to own and run a business, you need to manage that business effectively and efficiently. This process requires dealing and communicating with people and delegating tasks and decisions to employees. An understanding of management concepts and learning different techniques and skills will not only make you likable, but they will also help you make more money.

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