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Sound the Alarm, Swing the Axe

Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash

If your message can’t be misunderstood, I strongly doubt if it’s any good.

People will beg you to make your philosophy safe, but they’ll hit the snooze button on your ideas as soon as you do.

We complain about alarms, but there’s a reason why we use them to wake ourselves up.

A good idea is one that serves the same function as Kafka’s observation regarding a good book: to “be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

Don’t make us comfortable. Make us feel alive.

A Few Promises You’re Not Gonna Like

I promise to stop criticizing and mocking the bad arguments that people make for going to college…

As soon as the hundreds of college opt-outs I work with on a daily basis let me know that the people in their lives have finally stopped interrogating them with those very same arguments.

I promise to stop picking on the “easy targets” who say silly things in defense of college…

As soon as the hundreds of college opt-outs I work with on a daily basis stop asking me how to deal with these “easy targets” when they go to social events and get grilled with questions about how they’re going to deal with every possible scenario for how their lives might play out without a degree.

I promise to exclusively focus on the positive aspects of what Praxis and other college alternatives are doing instead of pointing out any negative aspects of college…

As soon as the hundreds of college opt-outs I work with on a daily basis let me know that the people in their lives are ready to exclusively focus on the positive things they’re doing without bringing up the subject of college as if it’s the missing piece for a meaningful existence.

And lastly, I promise to stop picking on people who go to college….oh wait…I’ve literally never done that one before. That’s just an excuse people make to avoid the real issue: that we live in a society that exercises a religious-like devotion to attending college and we have a ugly problem with treating opt-outs as if they are heretics.

I promise to fight against that nonsense. And I promise to never apologize for it.

Introducing T.K.’s Tour of Bad Arguments for College (And yes, the world needs this tour)

Yesterday I launched a new video series with Praxis called “T.K.’s Tour of Bad Arguments for College.”

In this series, I critique and make fun of fallacious or misguided arguments people make for going to college.

Why?

Because in the daily work that I do with college opt-outs, these very types of arguments are constantly being presented to them as a basis for why they should go to college even though they may not enjoy it or believe it’s the right fit for them.

After hundreds of individual and group coaching sessions where I’ve offered my support to the opt-outs who are frustrated by these arguments, I’ve decided to make a series to provide opt-outs with a little ammo. This series will not only give them some ideas for how they can respond to their critics, but it will also invite them to have a sense of humor about the people who hate on their choices.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging college opt-outs to think twice about their decision to not go to college…

But…

That also means there’s nothing wrong with challenging the people who challenge college opt-outs to think twice about the things they say whenever they find out that someone they know isn’t planning on going to college.

And that’s what this series is all about.

In the first episode, I address an argument from a Wall Street Journal article that claimed you’re at risk of becoming a well-paid drone if don’t attend college.

To watch my response, check out the video below:

Dear college opt-outs,

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Dear college opt-outs,

You really need to think critically about what you’re doing…

but not because you’re opting out of college.

Your duty to become an intelligent and open-minded person who constantly strives to follow the truth wherever it leads isn’t some kind of punishment or compensation for deciding that college is a bad fit for you.

You need to think critically about what you’re doing because that’s just part of what it means to be a decent human being…

but I digress.

Back to my point…

Dear college opt-outs,

Don’t let anyone make you feel stupid, foolish, uneducated, or guilty with bad arguments for why you should do something that you have no interest in doing.

The dreams you’re pursuing matter just as much as the dreams of all those people who get tons of congratulatory remarks on their status updates about going to college.

Congratulations on being true to yourself.

And while I strongly encourage you to think critically about everything you do, remember to do it for you.

Sincerely,

T.K. Coleman

The Conclusion Comes Last

How do you know if a shoe fits? Try it on.

How do you know if the blue shirt is a better fit for you than the red shirt? Try them on.

Even if you already know your size, the best way to know if something is a good fit is by trying it on.

Ditto for your career and your curiosities.

If you’re wondering “Is this sport, subject, or style good for me?”, the best way to find out isn’t by guessing or navel-gazing.

You find it out by trying it out.

Instead of pressuring yourself to make a religion out of some specific passion you think you need to have, give yourself permission to playfully explore the ideas and interests that intrigue you.

Discovering what you love is like doing science:

1. Start with a hunch (ie. “this seems interesting”).

2. Formulate a hypothesis (ie. “I think I’d really like this”).

3. Conduct an experiment (ie. “I’ll sign up for one lesson to see if I’m good at it” or “I’ll take an online course to see how it goes” or “I’ll do an internship to see how it feels from the inside-out” or “I’ll invest a small amount of money that I can afford to lose”).

4. Form a working conclusion (ie. “I think I would like to do this for the next couple of years” or “I’m ready to invest more money into this”).

5. Be willing to revise your conclusion in light of new evidence and future experience (ie. “my passions are not religious beliefs that I need to be loyal to. They’re evolving interests that I’m free to upgrade along the way”).

Notice something here: The conclusion comes last.

Instead of announcing to the world “this is what I’m born to do” after having a single rapturous experience or after making a single interesting observation, you take a “wait and see” approach.

The “wait” in “wait and see” isn’t about waiting on taking action. It’s about waiting on the decision to commit the rest of your life to the things that interest you.

Discovering and doing what you love is analogous to dating: Before getting on bended knee to propose to a beautiful stranger, it’s usually more effective to flirt with the person first and see where that goes. You start small with something small like “Sooooo, what brings you to this event?” If that goes well, you work your way towards something like “Would you like to grab coffee or lunch?” And if that goes well, you go for a second date and so on. A passionate and committed relationship with someone you’re interested in is the by-product of a series of small actions that don’t require a quantum leap.

If you meet someone you’re interested in, take your time and see what it’s like to make small talk with this person. See what it’s like to have a phone conversation with this person. See what’s it like to watch a movie with this person. See what it’s like to have a disagreement with this person. See what it’s like to share a problem with this person. See what it’s like be around this person when they’re having a bad day.

There’s no need to make an immediate jump from “this person has captured my attention” to “I’m ready to spend the rest of my life with this person.”

In the same manner, get to know your interests before you get on a mountaintop and declare “this is the whole meaning of my existence” or “this is the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life.”

You don’t need to put your entire life on the line for the first beautiful thing that captivates your attention.

You can afford to relax a little.

Before you commit to “following your passion,”  it might help if you slow down and flirt with your curiosity.

At least that’s the way I see it.

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