Yesterday’s post resonated with a lot of readers including a few who cheerfully sent me a couple of nasty emails. For the record, I went to college in the early 80’s and there were no personal finance classes, no interviewing classes, and no time management classes. Today, things are different on many campuses.
As I said in yesterday’s post, college didn’t prepare me for real life. But there were many positive things that resulted from my first foray into the world on my own back during Reagan’s first term. Where were you in the early 80’s?
1. I learned the ins and outs of business valuation. My college education prepared me to understand the fundamentals of what makes a business tick. I learned marketing, strategic management, corporate finance, and human resource management. I was able to put those skills to good use later in life when I started two different companies.
2. I learned, first hand, that no one will do any work for me. I held down three jobs while taking 18 hours of classes. At each one of those jobs, I observed some incredibly lazy co-workers. Fortunately, my father and mother taught me a strong work ethic and that was the single most important factor in my getting ahead later in life.
3. I discovered how to study a subject, though I learned it late in my college career. My personal studying system helped me get good grades when I went on to finish my degree and go on to graduate school.
4. I realized that procrastination never pays. There is never enough time to get everything done, but there’s always enough time to do the important things. There was nothing like the feeling of setting my own deadline for a term paper — two weeks before it was actually due.
5. I learned to cook! My mother had taught me to cook a few things when I was in high school, but when I went to college, I got a lot of practice, especially when the meal card ran out (11 meals/week just didn’t cut it). Cooking kept me from dining out and lining the pockets of restaurant owners.
6. I found that I could do without a car if I had to. My sophomore year I had no car. That’s kind of difficult when your girlfriend (my future wife) went to a college three hours away. But I learned to overcome and adapt (and beg). If you think living without a car is no big deal, try living in a small town with only 60,000 people and no public transportation. Now, you have to get to another town 200 miles away to go to a sorority formal … The good thing about not having a car was that I also had no car payment.
7. I learned that having a goal isn’t enough. You must have a plan to hit that goal. You have to have a plan for after the plan, and a backup plan just in case.
8. I gained valuable computer skills. But I didn’t learn them in class, I learned them at a local Kinko’s. They had a new IBM PC with a 286 processor and it was so fast it was smokin’! A student could use it for one dollar per fifteen minutes. I spent five hours one Saturday, teaching myself Lotus 1-2-3 and Corel Word Perfect. At the end of the day, I was pretty much proficient with basic spreadsheets and word processing.
9. I learned that get rich quick and multi-level marketing schemes don’t work. Ah, let the flames begin. I lost thousands of hard earned money “chasing a dream.” Not only that, but I came close to ruining some long friendships. Thanks to learning this lesson in college, I’ve saved countless thousands more by not falling into the “become a millionaire in 2 to 5 years by following this simple sequence of steps.” Contrary to those wanting you to buy chocolate, travel, soap, insurance, vitamins, or makeup, and promising an easy life, it ain’t gonna happen.
10. I was taught to build homes from the ground up. One of my parent’s friends asked me to help build his personal home over the summer. We worked 15+ hours per day, 6 days per week, in 100 degree heat. Just him and me, building a 2,500 square foot home from the bottom up. Later, when I went to work for a national lumber and building materials company, I was able to speak our customer’s language, understanding their questions and concerns, and was quickly promoted.
What does yesterday’s post and this one have in common? They both revolved around what I did and did not do. What happened to make me poor in college was the result of my own lack of education and experience and gullibility. What happened to make me rich in college (though not necessarily with money), was the result of my own initiative and drive and how I didn’t abandon the way I was raised.
When it all boils down, everything in life is just a matter of your own personal choices. Choose wisely.