Be more than your major
Adam (whose profile is here) sent me an article written by Vishen Lakhiani, founder of the lifestyle business Mindvalley:
7 Lessons From Bootstrapping a $15M Lifestyle Business (under30ceo.com)
The article as a whole is a great read — especially for young entrepreneurs — but I’m going to focus on the first of Lakhiani’s seven lessons, “Your college degree is meaningless (and sometimes a liability).”
In this section, Lakhiani discusses how college experiences outside his major, and even outside the classroom, shaped his success as an entrepreneur:
Don’t waste your time pursuing a perfect GPA. Instead, embrace the idea of a generalist education. I majored in Computer Engineering and minored in Performing Arts. My best subject was digital photography. And I spent more time volunteering for the local chapter of AIESEC (a foreign work exchange program) than actually studying.
All, in retrospect, were smart decisions: Having basic knowledge of programming (my programming grades were usually a C) still allowed me to build Mindvalley’s early websites myself. Minoring in drama helped me learn stage presence and become a good speaker. Photography gave me an eye for aesthetics and design. And volunteering allowed me to see the world and meet other cultures.
After you graduate, there’s so much focus on your major. People ask what you have a degree in; job postings ask for specific majors. It feels like you spent four years at college only to study your major, and nothing else will have any significance in your career.
But as Lakhiani points out, it’s not just about your major; everything that you’ve studied and experienced can help you become successful. In his Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs spoke about a calligraphy class that he took after he dropped out of college:
Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.
As important as your major might seem to potential employers, even the most random and seemingly trivial things that you’ve done can play a role in your success. You just need the insight to connect what you’ve done in the past with what you’re trying to do in the present.