I grew up rural America, knowing not much more than what I saw and experienced with the people around me. By sheer luck, I gained access to the internet at the age of 9 and my curiosity led me to the world outside of just rural America. I traded baseball cards online, learned the basics of economics, used my dad’s credit card to open an eBay account, and shared a bank account with my brother. Through enjoying the hobby of baseball card trading, combined with the power of the internet in connecting people, I learned the basics of money, business, and economics.
As time went on, I went through traditional school as assumed like any other kid from rural America. Go to school, do well enough to get into college, and graduate and get a good job, meaning a job that pays the bills and interests you. I didn’t particular enjoy school, though I understood it’s value and had parental pressure to succeed. Again by sheer luck, I had the mindset that if I’m going to wake bright an early every morning to take a bus to school, spend most of my day at the school, and then bus back, I might as well make it worth it. As a result, along with parental and sibling pressure, I tried quite hard to do well, meaning get good grades.
Naturally, after graduating high school and following the cultural and societal pressures of Western society, I went to college. It was fun and challenging and met a lot of great people, but the big downside was the hefty bill it came with. At the age of 18, it’s very easy to sign a loan for $20,000 with little understanding of what it really is, and with the feeling that it is totally normal. Don’t get me wrong, having the loan enabled me to attend college and without it I wouldn’t have been able to go. Because of this fact, most people in the world never get the chance to attend college. As I write this in 2018, there is $1.48 trillion in student loan debt in the US, held by 44.2 million Americans (?). Consumer debt is at an all time high, even though the US stock market is at an all time high. The US government is in debt is over $21 trillion. Even with the economy soaring over the last few years and wars have winded down, the US government has only gone further into debt. How is this possible you may ask?
What I’ve seen regarding higher education in America is this: in the past, say 40 years ago, a college education was very valuable, meaning you gained a big advantage on society by having the degree, and at the same time, the cost was relatively cheap. Fast forward to today, the value of a college education has dropped (meaning it doesn’t give you a big advantage on the rest of the society), and the cost has skyrocketed. This has resulted in two key general trends: 1) students are graduating after going massively into debt and not being able to get a job (ie. society doesn’t value the degree) and 2) because of this, people begin to question whether going to college is worth it since going into debt and not being able to get a job is risky.
One of the reasons I think we’ve come to this point in history is due to the way we look at work. Instead of looking at work as getting a nice resume and applying to various companies who like the resume you have, the question should be asked: what can I do to benefit society? What skills do I have or can I acquire which will benefit society? If people asked these questions, and then followed through in acquiring these skills, I’d argue society would not only be better off but far less people would be struggling to find work.
With all of these stats about record high student loan debt, record high credit card debt, record highs in consumer debt, there is perhaps more opportunity than ever to create wealth in the world today. And not just create wealth, but acquire the skills needed to benefit the world in whatever way you see fit. I feel for the people who are struggling to find work, but it is important to look at a society more objectively. As I heard recently, if it feels like the world is fucked up, maybe it’s not the world that’s fucked up but you that’s fucked up. Not to say there is bad luck, and bad timing which leads to these situations, but the world is what you perceive of it. To think that the world is awful is purely an illusion in our own heads, as in another’s mind it is absolute bliss. The key takeaway here is to be careful how to interpret the world, because it becomes your world. And in times of crisis in life it’s easy to misinterpret the world you’re living in.
There was a guy I came across maybe 4 years ago who just graduated from college and was traveling around Asia building websites on the internet, learning as many skills as possible along the way. He decided to build a site about connecting digital nomads and finding the best places to live and work in the world. Today, just a few years later, the site is making $30,000+/month passively. People pay to use his site because it’s valuable to them – it connects like-minded people traveling outside their home countries. He also decided to build out a single index.php site for people to post remote jobs, and that site at present is making nearly $20,000+/month, again passively. And this story is becoming a common one. The point of this isn’t to cherry pick a success, but to demonstrate the sheer amount of opportunity and potential in the world today, just on the internet alone. While so many struggle in the West to get work, others are creating incredible websites, pieces of software, and movements which benefit society, and in turn make a lot of money.
Sure, I’m biased towards the internet as it’s what I’ve spent most of my life studying and working on, but it is something that is available in many places in the world, has more collective human knowledge than human kind has ever seen, and enables anyone in the world interested or motivated enough to acquire skills, create movements, to build things that benefit society, and to share their voices. The opportunity is without a doubt there, it’s just a matter of seizing it.
The point being is that instead of looking at work as a resume and applying to companies, look at work as acquiring skills and building things that society values. This way you’re a valuable asset to society and in turn will be rewarded for it.