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.

Advertisements

About David

I'm an aspiring writer and filmmaker in my twenties. I also run a blog where twenty-somethings share their stories and advice on beginning a career in this economy. Check it out at http://twentysomethingsblog.com

Posted on February 21, 2013, in News & views and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great Read! I’m actually an advocate for independent learning and studying things out of comfort zones, and Steve Jobs experience makes me know that what I’m learning now, even if its beyond my major or so trivially non-practical, can eventually make a difference in how I live my life.

  2. Terrific post. You’ve just outlined the great importance of a liberal arts approach to higher education, an approach that has been steadily eroded by the occupation/vocation drive of our society. I’m a huge believer in the liberal arts for exactly the reasons you lay out; you never know when those “non-major” classes are going to be vitally important for your future. I was a psych major with a physics minor and my favorite class of my whole four years was a history class I took my very last semester of college. Has it “helped” me in my life? Who knows, but I’m definitely richer for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: