Did I go to Harvard? Did You? Can We Still Succeed?

“Did you go to Harvard?”  What a complimentary question, right?  I had a wonderful conversation and connection with a lady I met a while back. I had to admit I never made it to college.

When I decided a did want a degree a years ago and signed up for correspondence classes… I lasted a few weeks, one and a half classes, and quit.  I was far too busy with life, family and business to add one more thing (and I was a bit annoyed at “learning” what I already knew–as I suppose many students are).  So technically I’m a college drop out.

Is there value in a degree?  Assuming you stay awake in valuable classes and put in the effort to learn, I’m sure there is.  If you’ve got one in the area of your business you’ve got a jump start in the right direction.

I would love to be able to say I’ve got all sorts of letters after my name. But I don’t. I survived high school, then got married and had three beautiful children.

And you know what? I’ve still built a successful, growing business.  Degrees are optional. Determination and seeking out education aren’t.

When you see me write about creating your own business from home and say that if I can do it, you can, too, I’m not just telling you what you want to hear or trying to sell you on anything.

I don’t have a degree. I read voraciously and I am constantly working to pick up new skills and areas of competence directly related to my business. And it’s working for me.

So while I’m extremely flattered someone would think I’ve been through a prestigious school, the only “school” advice I can share is that whatever you need to learn, there’s a book, website, or teacher you can learn it from, it’s just a matter of investing the time and energy to do it. So do it!

Let’s Chat!  Leave a comment and tell me..

  • If you’ve got a degree, how has it been most helpful in your business/entrepreneurial ventures?
  • If you don’t have a degree, what classes would you love to take if you could?
  • What are your favorite continuing learning resources?

Photo Credit: Cap/Diploma by marygober; Books by lusi

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37 Comments

  1. I have a degree in Accounting and business Administration. And I often wonder why I chose that degree because the only thing I truly love about accounting is the data entry part and figuring out how to make the numbers match. Then my creative mind screams to make something. Often wonder what I would go back to school for if given the opportunity. Because my favorite thing is to do is to learn.
    Jennifer Radtke recently posted… Where I’ve been all weekend.
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    1. That’s the part of school I’d love, too, Jennifer. Just learning. :)

      I can see where an accounting degree would be super helpful every year around April…
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Weekend Inspiration: Listen & RelaxMy Profile

  2. I have often told my kids you don’t need a degree to get somewhere in life, and I know it takes persistence, determination and a love for what you are doing to keep you going. I love learning too.. and read, take courses, and immerse myself in the thing I love the most. It is amazing how much learning can take place when you just make the intention and set your mind to learning as much as you can.

    A few years ago I took a course to be certified in 4 different areas, it was stuff I already knew.. but the letters, I figured, and the ‘papers’ would help other people take me more seriously.

    It may look better on my bio. but it doesn’t change who I am because I have those letters. :)

    peace and light
    Elissa Joy
    Elissa Joy recently posted… Money MagicMy Profile

    1. That’s one of the reasons I enrolled in classes. I got really tired of answering the question of why I didn’t have a degree. People do seem to take others more seriously when they’ve got those letters behind their name. But when I realized I was wasting time proving what I already knew just to satisfy people who probably would just look for more letters once I got some, and whom I’d never be able to prove myself to, it didn’t seem worth the energy. Maybe in the future though. I’d still like to prove to myself I could do it.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Weekend Fun: Twitterize YourselfMy Profile

  3. I have a bachelors in political science from the University of Michigan. It was the pre-law path back then. After working for lawyers for 4-5 years, I found myself not really wanting to go to law school. I was getting ready to take the LSAT and found out I had chronic fatigue and Epstein–Barr virus in 1998. It made me go on a healing journey for myself. I studied massage therapy and was in that profession a bit, but it led me to studying energy work, holistic medicine, and other body/mind/spirit things. Later, I reclaimed my psychic side from childhood and became a professional psychic. I’m still reinventing myself, working on developing a life coaching site separate from my psychic work. College taught me how to think, write, and research, and also, I found myself. I met my husband there too. That’s about it. I’ve read thousands of books, spend thousands on classes, healing, coaching, etc. True education comes from experience and self-directed learning. The wisdom is gained that way, in my opinion. In hindsight, I should have followed my heart and majored in music and creative writing. I returned to being a musician about 4-5 years ago and writing keeps coming up as part of my purpose. I resonate with your post very much.
    Lisa recently posted… Why Facebook Challenges Me and Google+ Rocks!My Profile

    1. That sounds like quite an amazing journey, Lisa. :)

      Wisdom vs. knowledge… there’s a great topic to think about.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Did I go to Harvard? Did You? Can We Still Succeed?My Profile

      1. Thanks :) A bit of a skewed journey–heehee! :)
        Lisa recently posted… Why Facebook Challenges Me and Google+ Rocks!My Profile

        1. That’s the most interesting kind of journey. :)
          Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  4. Great post! I so agree. Letters after your name usually mean you are good at memorizing and parroting back info–well, if those letters come from a university of some sort. Wisdom comes from life experience.
    When I used to give parenting advice (I wrote 4 books on parenting) I gave a talk about why college is not fro everyone. I do not encourage kids to go to college unless they are in a field that requires skills you only get in college.
    Anyway, what I found in life is the best counselors I know have no degrees, In fact, my former colleagues in psychotherapy and those with whom I went to school—I would not go to any of them for advice You don’t learn people skills from books!
    A handful of people today tell me I should tell people I am a retired psychotherapist because it gives me credibility. Nah, I don’t think I want to work with people who think that is truth.
    So far no one has ever stropped me on the street to ask me about my degrees. I do have them from good schools. So what? What I know and use in life didn’t come from any class in school. I am and have always been a perpetual student. I usually listen to and watch educational material and am always reading at least two books at a time.
    If people think I am weird well, maybe those are the people with whom I choose not to share m life.
    Ali Bierman recently posted… Intuition: Never Ignore the PromptingMy Profile

    1. That’s a great point, Ali, that it is a way to weed out whom we want to work with.

      I also agree college isn’t the answer for every kid — it really depends on the kid and their career choice.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Who’s Following You? Do You Need a Tribe?My Profile

  5. LOVE this article and have had this discussion so many times with “academic snobs”. Yes, I did go to University (I am an ex-Criminal Psychologist) and have a degree and advanced degree/studies also. But it doesn’t represent who I am anymore. I read somewhere (can’t remember where) you never see a rich academic (think about it). Some of the most foolish people I know went to University, and some of the most intelligent I know went to the “University of Life!”

    1. That is interesting, Vanessa. I’m trying to think of the mentors I follow who are successful financially and I’m going to have to go see whose got degrees (especially which ones have degrees that are related to what they’re doing now and what field they’re working in).
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The #1 Way to Keep Hackers Out of Your BlogMy Profile

    2. The “academic snobs” are typically those who either wonder how they got their pedigree or are only interested in using connections for their advancement. That is very different from “intellectual snobs” who avoid folks who can’t communicate…
      Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. recently posted… The end of an era? What it really means!My Profile

      1. Interesting difference. That’s something to think about. While I don’t want to be a snob of any type, I’d have to say basic communication skills are pretty important. :)
        Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  6. I just got another Master’s Degree because I felt like my education was extremely lacking and due to my fundamentalist upbringing I not only didn’t know where to start, but didn’t have enough science base to even build off of. Now that I have learned about what seems like common knowledge (at least where I currently live), I have more confidence and self-esteem. While I think about going into a career in that field, I actually want to just read Tarot and write for a living. It is only by getting this science-based degree that I finally feel somehow “worthy” enough to be able to do this. My metaphysical degree didn’t give me as much confidence (I already knew a lot of those things) – I guess I was just too programmed to need an advanced degree from a school I had to get up and go to every day and spend 17 hours a day reading and writing!
    Amethyst recently posted… More Choices, but Do They Really Matter?My Profile

    1. College can definitely help fill in gaps in our education. :) That’s an interesting note about self-esteem and confidence. I would bet that for many of us that would be a big motivating factor in wanting a degree–we feel like it helps prove we deserve to succeed in whatever field we want to.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Weekend Inspiration: Listen & RelaxMy Profile

  7. As the most probably professional student in the bunch, I will share my thoughts.
    1. As a young child (8), I knew what I wanted to do. And, i did it before I finished college. In spite of the fact that it involved a sophisticated medical product. So, the college degree- and the advanced degrees (I have a wall full of them)- were not necessary.
    2. I was lucky to have been named the “Samuel Ruben Scholar of Chemical Engineering” that covered my primary BS degree That is not meant to boast, but to honor and thank Samuel Ruben for his generosity. Oh, he did not go to college. And, he invented the dry cell battery. And, he helped me- plenty by paying for my education. Thank you- may your memory be incentive to others.
    3 I did NOT go to graduate school for any one other than my own desires. Yes, it was a union card ticket to teach. But, I wanted that. And, to be honest, I expected a lightning bolt to drop from heaven (euphemistically) to let me know “when I arrived”. Trust me. It didn’t. Unless you count a notification from a government official telling me I was done…
    4. I have a slew of clients who have PhDs, MDs, MBAs- and a slew of clients who have high school diplomas. For those that are running companies or self-employed, the ones who have a clear mission and vision- and follow though with goals are the ones who are successful.
    Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. recently posted… The end of an era? What it really means!My Profile

    1. I love how you put this part, Roy: “the ones who have a clear mission and vision–and follow though with goals are the ones who are successful.”

      Without knowing what we’re after and being willing to work hard to get there, we won’t get much of anywhere, degree or not.

      I remember one time a coach asked me when I’d consider myself an expert on a particular subject–and went on to tell me basically that the same lightening bolt you were looking for, wasn’t going to hit me and suddenly tell me I was an expert. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  8. Great post! I am a 38 year old mom and full-time employee of a corporation. I want to work at home, be my own businesswoman, and would love to work online all the time! I have been in the business field for 18 years and never finished my degree. My company pays for schooling 100% and I felt it would be foolish to pass it up. So after many years of school I will be graduating next month with a Business Degree ad emphasis in Accounting. Do I want to be in business, yes! Do I wan to be an accountant, no! Will accounting knowledge help me with any business I own, Yes! I consider myself a life-long learner as well. I read all the time and until I figure out how to be succesful on my own without my corporate job I am happy to have a small extra thing to add to my resume just in case.

    1. Accounting will definitely come in handy. I took a semester of it in high school and wish I had more knowledge in that area.

      Building your resume is always a smart step. Especially if you’ve got help with expenses. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  9. I hope this doesnt come over as me knocking people who have had a paid education but I work as a supervisor in a large law firm. When I need to train people I find that people with “good” education take much longer to perform and think for themselves.

    I think it comes down to them been spoon fed what they need to know until they get to a position where people are no longer willing to do that.
    danika recently posted… Recycle Mobile Phones For CashMy Profile

    1. I wonder sometimes how many high school and college grads really don’t know how to learn, but only how to pass tests. I think our educational system is failing in many ways. Individual thinking doesn’t seem to be valued… that worries me.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Who’s Following You? Do You Need a Tribe?My Profile

  10. I completely agree with you Michelle. I spent ridiculous amounts of money on 4 years of university but how much of that do you think I remember? How much do I use today? Sure, some of it, but not as much as I paid for it that is for sure.

    The bulk of value learning that I have done has been self-taught via websites, ebooks, and online mentorship.
    Danielle McGaw recently posted… Have You Decided to Make Google+ Your Prime Networking Center?My Profile

    1. That’s where my learning has come from as well. There’s so much out there, I think we could end up with the equivalent of a degree given enough time.

      It is expensive! I know so many who’ve got huge student loans they’re working hard to pay off while in a job not at all related to their area of expertise.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  11. I have a degree and am quite proud of it because it helped me get out of a job I HATED! I was a single mom working full time and the only way out was to further my education. It took me a long time to finish as I took it through distance education and like I said, I was a single mom working full time. It was a lot of work! I didn’t have any support. If there were the same options available then (almost 30 years ago) I’m not sure I would have pursued a University degree. Having said this, I learned many lessons that have contributed to my success an an entrepreneur: determination, persistence, having a vision, setting goals, time management, belief, hard work, never give up, expect success and too many other character building skills. I am a life-long learner. I do agree that an education doesn’t guarantee employment. It’s important to find work that brings you joy and will allow you to have a lifestyle. For this reason, I opted out of the job and embraced entrepreneurship, and there is no going back! Thanks Michelle.
    Julie Henderson recently posted… WANT TO MANIFEST A MIRACLE?My Profile

    1. That had to be a huge challenge, Julie. Definitely something to be proud of. :)

      We do have so many fantastic opportunities available now that weren’t available even 10 or 15 years ago. I can only imagine what it will be like when my kids hit adulthood.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  12. I along with the string of others love the debate of this post. Because I didn’t have a 4-year degree, the piece of paper that said I spent years getting an education with a formal school, I had been ousted out of my 21-year career at one of the top airlines in the country. Never mind that I excelled in every job held, moved up in each department, was awarded new positions due to my credentials, work history, and work ethic, and WAS GOOD AT MY JOB. Oh, and I also sat, conversed, and commiserated with the CEO, VPs, and the Union heads discussing the future of our company. I truly mean it when I say it was the happiest day of my life when I got my walking papers because I no longer had to prove my smarts to anyone any more. I could now do what I wanted.
    One story I like to tell when first working at the airlines is when we would train new-hires. Certain days there wasn’t much work, so we stuffed envelopes (I began in the finance department). We had many college graduates come into our area. One in particular decided stuffing envelopes was way beneath the education she paid for and never returned from lunch!
    In job interviews the question often asked is where do you want to be in 5 years? So maybe that’s the question that’s needed when a person is applying for college because so much can change within that time.
    Or maybe the real question should be what Lisa said above: What do you dream of doing for the rest of your life?
    Why didn’t I go to college? I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now I do and college is not any part of my dream.

    1. To me, that’s one of the craziest things about the educational perspectives. Hire the best person for the job, regardless of what papers they’ve got. If someone proves they can do a job well, that should be what matters. For some jobs the degree might be absolutely necessary (brain surgeon) but for others experience counts more.

      Where do you want to be in 5 years is a great question. For many paths, college might not be necessary.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Weekend Inspiration: Listen & RelaxMy Profile

  13. Great post! Both my sisters went to away college and got degrees and have done well. I did two years at the local ‘technical’ college, got a snazzy diploma then got right into working (because my college had a work-study program in year 2 – yay!). I worked a little then followed my heart across the Atlantic all the way to California at the ripe old age of 21. I’ve played hard and worked hard and now am running my own business and am really happy. And the one thing I have always done and continue to do is read.

    My sisters always say I’ve had the exciting life, which never occurs to me. But hearing that makes me forget any tinges of regret about not having had the college dorm experience – funny thing, it seems that’s what I feel I missed out on, more than the college education!

    1. There are some experiences that seem to be unique to college–at least from what I hear. :)

      Maybe there’s something to be said for being intrigued by the path we didn’t choose.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  14. WOW! Lots of great discussion. I have several degrees. They all helped me to get to the place I am today. Do I use what I learned in college….very little. Was it worth the expense……For me …YES! It increased my self confidence and made me realize I could do a lot more than I had given myself credit for. I learned self discipline, work ethic, time management and many other things. I had a full time job prior to going to college and decided I didn’t want to continue what I was doing forever…..I wanted to go back to school to expand my opportunities. I worked full time night shift in a hospital and returned to school full time during the day to get my degree. I completed it in 3 years and worked my butt off with very little sleep. I don’t regret a minute of it.

    I went on and got my Master’s and then a specialized certificate. It opened many doors and provided many opportunities. Now I am embarking on a part-time blogging/speaking/coaching endeavor and I feel what I have learned through my education and the various positions I have held will help me. Do I feel I am better than those without the education? NO…..some of the smartest people I know do not have degrees. It is all a matter of whether you continue to learn or stagnate. Some people stop learning the day they graduate high school. For some it is college, and for others….we strive to learn all the time. The degree isn’t important it is the attitude toward learning. For me…I needed to attend college to open my mind to lifelong learning. For others….they figure it out on their own.

    Recently I debated whether to return to get my doctorate. Many of my peers encouraged me to go fo it. My expenses would be paid by my place of employment. But I have decided I want to focus my attention in another area. I will have a lot to learn and will need to read and do the work on my own to get to where I want to be. But I will most certainly be learning and getting an education.

    A college degree does not make or break you. It just opens some doors. A persons work ethic, determination, time management, and attitude towards life and learning are what makes the difference.
    Robin Smith recently posted… 7 Essential Sites for Beginning BloggersMy Profile

    1. Robin, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here: “A college degree does not make or break you. It just opens some doors. A persons work ethic, determination, time management, and attitude towards life and learning are what makes the difference.”

      It does open doors that can be tough to get opened otherwise.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  15. Hello Michelle. What a great article! You are living proof that you don’t have to have a degree to be very successful. You are a true inspiration that shows that if you put in the effort and are willing to self-educate, you can succeed.

    I do not have a degree either. If I could take some classes, I would focus on business and marketing. I think they would help to broaden my horizons and give me new ideas.

    1. I’d love to take some marketing classes, too. It’s fascinating. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… 50 Places to Find Inspiration for Your Next Blog Post IdeaMy Profile

  16. I have a degree in Emergency Medical Sciences. Sounds fancy and its a degree that has allowed me to become a paramedic. I have 29 years under my belt and I feel that the only thing my degree has done for me in internet marketing is give me a little knowledge if I am on a medical site. Other than that, I think its a learn as you go type of business.
    Jeremiah Johnson recently posted… Travelpro Crew 8My Profile

    1. That’s what I’ve found so far in internet marketing/online business building. There are so many great resources out there that we can learn anything we need if we just connect with the right teacher to learn from.

      As far as degrees go, I’d say EMS would be an important job to get a degree for. I prefer my paramedic know how to fix whatever’s wrong, at least on the ambulance ride. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Human Connection: Why I Love Social NetworkingMy Profile

  17. Michelle, you should connect with my Alaska friend and client Charles Hayes in Wasilla. He’s a self-educated guy who has written and published several books on self-education through his Autodidactic Press, http://www.autodidactic.com/ –he’s one of the world’s leading authorities on this. I particularly like his Beyond the American Dream, and I think you would as well.

    I personally was helped by my college education–some in the classroom, but especially the off-campus, real-world internships and not the degree itself. I went to a school that required six work periods in order to graduate, and that has given me great training in how to handle a new city and take full advantage of it.
    Shel Horowitz – Green/Ethical Marketing Expert recently posted… Japan’s Response to Fukushima: Censor the Negative News?My Profile

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