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How To Be Successful Without College And Get What You Want In Life

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    The idea that a college degree is the only path to success is a myth. While a college education can certainly open doors and provide valuable skills, it is by no means the only way to achieve success. In fact, there are many successful people who have never set foot on a college campus.

    Some of the happiest and most content individuals are non-college-educated people. And it is not just because they are free of a mountain of college loan-infused debt. It is because they don’t spend their time trying to impress others. They put their heads down and know the satisfaction of getting a hard day’s work done.

    But our world is not fully fair. Over the centuries has come to favor those with a college degree. More doors open up if you are a college graduate. Finding success without a college degree can be difficult for some.

    Finding true success is a complicated undertaking. If you follow the traditional advice on how to be successful without a college degree, you will find yourself stuck in the same place. Most approaches find some famous person who has made it big in life. They then backfit the story and look for characteristics or traits that the authors think have defined the success of this person.

    Chance and luck are something we have very little control over. However, when we understand that there is both a psychological and a statistical aspect to it, we can align ourselves to take the best advantage when a hot streak finally comes our way. And eventually, it will.

    Woman with brown hair wearing a black denim jacket sitting at a desk with a cell phone recording her.

    The Role Of Luck In Success

    Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, has a surprisingly candid but accurate take on the success stories of the famous. According to him, here’s what really predicts success:

    success = talent + luck

    great success = a little more talent + a lot of luck

    Never underestimate how much of a factor luck plays in the lives of people around us. Often, we forget that. We too look at successful people around us and blindly try to copy what we think has given them this success. In almost all cases, you will find an element of luck helping them out.

    The thing with luck is that it is fleeting. Where you have to give credit to people who have made it big is that they have taken advantage of the fortune that has come their way. And that brings us to the main point of this article. The most important set of skills to have are those that allow you to use the luck that comes your way to the fullest.

    Advantages Of Not Going To College

    There are some benefits to not having gone to college. To get ahead, you need to hammer home all of these advantages to succeed without a college degree.

    You won’t have college tuition debt. To be debt free is a huge plus for someone starting out as an entrepreneur. Most people who graduate from college only think about getting a job. So they can start paying off their loans. When you start off without owing the bank money, you can leverage your income only on yourself and a new business.

    Other advantages include being able to enter the workforce and start earning a salary sooner. Having more flexibility in terms of career choices and paths. And being able to gain real-world experience and skills in a chosen field through apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

    Girl in a checkered dress wearing a black cap graduating from college.

    What Is The Future Of College Education

    Brick-and-mortar colleges are a dying breed. With the availability of online resources, getting an education from one set of physical classrooms and professors cannot compare to the vast virtual learning available for free.

    To add to that, current US colleges are mostly a hot bed of left-wing ideology. Particularly in the humanities. They have stopped teaching students how to think. They only teach them what to think. Many parents and children are already staying away from the ultra-liberal ivy league schools. Why pay $75,000 a year for ideological indoctrination?

    Even Elon Musk does not think highly of university degrees. According to him, college is less about learning and more for enjoying your early adulthood with others your age. Here’s what else he had to say about college degrees:

    “I think colleges are basically for fun and to prove that you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning.”

    “You don’t need college to learn stuff. You can learn anything you want for free.”

    Elon Musk at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington DC.

    The hallowed higher education institutions are about one disruptive technology away from extinction.

    Girl with black hair wearing blue jeans sitting on a couch with one hand on her face and smiling.

    How To Succeed Without A College Degree

    Let’s agree that there are some entry-level jobs that require a bachelor’s degree. You won’t be able to get into a corporation that has this requirement. But there are many other paths to be successful that don’t require a college degree.

    The steps below will show you what you could do to find success. They will give you the ability to boost your chances of success on every venture you undertake. Eventually, with a bit of luck, this is a winning life strategy regardless of the degrees you lack or might have.

    1. Learn About Risk Management To Be Successful Without College

    Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing, and prioritizing potential risks to an organization or individual, and then implementing strategies to mitigate or manage those risks. The goal of risk management is to minimize the negative impact of potential risks on an organization’s operations, reputation, financial stability, and overall success.

    This is done by identifying potential risks, assessing their likelihood and potential impact, and then taking appropriate actions to minimize or eliminate those risks. It also encompasses the identification of opportunities and the balancing of the risk against the potential benefit.

    Cover page of the book Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

    By Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Random House, New York, NY 2004.

    One of the most eye-opening books you will read. Taleb shows how humans are probability-blind in most cases. They see patterns and causality where none exist.

    In “The Black Swan,” Nassim Taleb argues that traditional methods of risk management are ineffective in dealing with rare, high-impact events, which he calls “black swans.” These events can have a significant impact on markets and economies and can lead to severe losses for those who are unprepared.

    Taleb suggests that instead of relying on statistical models to predict and manage risk, individuals and organizations should focus on building robustness and resilience in order to better withstand the potential impact of black swans. This can be achieved through diversification, redundancy, and a focus on antifragility – the ability to not just withstand shocks, but to actually benefit from them.

    Taleb also criticizes the idea of “risk management” as the notion of measuring and managing risks is futile. Instead, he suggests the creation of an “anti-fragility” that can harness the benefits of randomness and uncertainty. He claims that anti-fragility is the opposite of fragility, which requires a different mindset and approach.

    “The Black Swan” challenges the traditional approach to risk management and provides a new perspective on how to prepare for and respond to rare, high-impact events. The book suggests that by focusing on building robustness and resilience, individuals and organizations can better withstand the potential impact of black swans, and even benefit from them.

    2. Try Out Many Things To Enhance Your Luck

    As we have seen earlier, luck can play a role in success by providing unexpected opportunities or by helping someone avoid unforeseeable obstacles. However, it is often said that luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Therefore, while luck may provide opportunities, it is ultimately up to you to be prepared and take advantage of them.

    Cover page of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    Thinking, Fast and Slow

    By Daniel Kahneman, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, NY 2011.

    Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 and this book shows you why. Here, he summarizes his research that he did with his colleague, Amos Tversky. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” will help you understand how people really think and make decisions.

    In “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman explores the role of luck in success and how it is often misperceived. He argues that luck plays a significant role in many areas of life, including business and personal success, but is often ignored or denied.

    Kahneman explains that people often have a tendency to overestimate their own abilities and the role of skill in their successes, while underestimating the role of luck. This is known as the “illusion of skill,” and can lead to overconfidence and poor decision-making.

    He also points out that people tend to overestimate their ability to predict the future and they tend to remember past events selectively and therefore they can be misled by the vividness of their memories and the recency of the events.

    Kahneman suggests that instead of focusing on our own abilities or the perceived cause of an event, we should focus on the role of chance and luck in our successes. By recognizing the role of luck, we can become more humble, make better decisions, and be more resilient in the face of failure.


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    3. A Skill Stack Will Position You To Be Successful Without College

    Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has written about the concept of “talent stacks” in his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.” According to Adams, a talent stack is a combination of several different skills or talents that, when combined, can lead to greater success than any single skill would on its own.

    He argues that it is more effective to focus on developing a variety of skills and talents, rather than trying to become a “super expert” in one specific area. He also emphasizes that to be successful, you need to find the right combination of talent, which will make you unique and valuable in the market.

    Cover page of How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big By Scott Adams

    How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

    By Scott Adams, Penguin, New York, NY 2013.

    Being an expert at one thing will leave you vulnerable in our current time of disruptive innovations and technology. Instead, become moderately good at as many things as possible. Become a generalist is what this book is telling us.

    Developing a skill stack or a talent stack can help advance your career by making you more valuable to potential employers or clients. Here are some steps you can take to build your talent stack:

    Identify your strengths and interests: Determine what you are naturally good at and what you enjoy doing. This will help you focus on developing skills that align with your strengths and passions.

    Assess the job market: Research the job market and identify the skills that are in high demand. Look for areas where your strengths align with market needs.

    Continuously learn: Stay current with the latest trends and technologies in your field. Take online courses, attend workshops, and read industry publications to stay informed.

    Network: Build relationships with other professionals in your field. This can help you stay informed about industry developments and may open up opportunities for collaboration or mentorship.

    Create a portfolio: Create a portfolio that showcases the skills you have developed. This can include projects you have completed, articles you have written, or certifications you have earned.

    Practice: Continuously practice the skills you are learning to improve them.

    Get feedback: Seek feedback from peers, mentors, and supervisors on your work to get a sense of how you are perceived and areas you may need to improve.

    4. Learn The Art Of Negotiation To Get What You Want In Life

    Learning the art of negotiation can help you get what you want in life by allowing you to effectively communicate your needs and reach mutually beneficial agreements with others. The good news is that you don’t need to take an expensive class to develop basic negotiation skills. Here are some easy ways to get ahead in deal-making.

    Negotiation is an art and a skill that can be learned. If you are going to be successful without a college degree, you need to learn the art of negotiation. You need to learn how to get what you want.

    Understand the other party’s perspective: Before entering a negotiation, try to understand the other party’s perspective, interests, and goals. This will help you identify areas of common ground and potential points of compromise.

    Communicate effectively: Use active listening and clear, assertive communication to express your needs and negotiate effectively. Be confident but not arrogant: It is important to have confidence in yourself and your position, but also be aware of the other party’s interest and be willing to compromise.

    Practice your negotiation skills in real-life situations, such as with friends, family, or in role-playing exercises.

    Cover page of the book Trump: The Art Of The Deal

    Trump: The Art Of The Deal

    By Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwart, Random House, New York, NY 1987.

    Before he became president, Trump’s book was the definitive guide to negotiation and making deals. And it still is. Just because you may not like him as a president, is no reason to think his advice here should be ignored.

    According to the book “The Art of the Deal” by Donald Trump, some of the main techniques for negotiation include:

    Think big. Don’t be afraid of success or winning. Go in with a strong and high opening bid. Your counterparts will be forced to negotiate down from that.

    Maximize your options. Be flexible and willing to compromise on certain points. Don’t be attached to just one deal or approach. Keep several deals and options open for you. This way, if only a few pan out favorably for you, you will still come out ahead.

    Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself. When going into a deal, anticipate the worst and prepare for the worst.

    Use your leverage. Start a deal from a position of strength. Never appear desperate. Be willing to walk away from the deal at any time. Find something the other party wants — or even better — needs. Then use that leverage to your advantage. Also, be prepared to close the deal quickly before the other person has a chance to change their mind.

    Fight back. While you should always negotiate positively and avoid confrontation, there are times when you should be willing to fight back. If people don’t treat you well or respect you, be prepared to fight back hard. Sometimes you alienate people. But if you believe in what you have to offer, things will work themselves out in the end.

    Deliver the goods. After you get a deal you as happy with, make sure you deliver what you have promised.

    Other Ways To Be Successful Without College And Get What You Want In Life

    Girl with red hair wearing a red denim jacket standing with her hands folded around her waist.

    There are many other ways to be successful without a college degree. Here are a few examples:

    Entrepreneurship: Starting your own business or becoming an entrepreneur can provide you with the opportunity to be your own boss and create your own opportunities for success.

    Self-education: With the vast amount of information available online, it is possible to educate yourself on almost any topic. Reading books, taking online courses, and learning from experts in your field can help you acquire the knowledge and skills you need to succeed.

    Networking: Building relationships and networking with people in your industry can help you learn about job opportunities, get advice, and gain access to valuable resources.

    Hard work and perseverance: No matter what path you choose, success often requires hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

    Setting and achieving goals: Setting clear and specific goals for yourself, and developing a plan to achieve them, can help you stay focused and motivated.

    It is important to note that college is not the only path to success, and there are many successful people who have achieved their goals without a college degree. Ultimately, success is a personal journey, and it is different for everyone. It depends on individual’s passions, interests, skills and what they want to achieve in life.

    Why It Is Easy To Be Successful Without College

    The future of college education is likely to involve a combination of in-person and online learning, as well as an increased emphasis on career-focused and hands-on learning. Online education has grown rapidly in recent years and is expected to continue to do so, making higher education more accessible and flexible for students.

    However, there will likely also be a continued need for in-person instruction and experiences, such as lab work and internships. Additionally, there is likely to be a greater focus on providing students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce, rather than just theoretical knowledge.

    College is not the best financial decision for some individuals. Lately, a college education does not even guarantee a job. And not all jobs require a college degree. Furthermore, some people may be able to achieve success and fulfillment in their careers without going to college. You can do this by learning skills on your own, starting a business, or pursuing a career that does not require a college degree.


    If you are going to be successful without a college degree, you still have many options. Be prepared to work hard and put in the extra effort. Learn and experiment with many different things. You have to be willing to face challenges and overcome them. Develop the skills to negotiate and get what you want in life. A college degree is not something that is needed for success. Other roads can take you there as well.

    If you want to improve your influencing skills (and your luck), a list of books to help you do that can be found here.

    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].


    Risk Management; Elon Musk; Daniel Kahneman; Nassim Taleb; Career Development; Talent Stacks; Donald Trump; Negotiation; Scott Adams

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