We all know the story. Genius kid drops out of Ivy League University to start tech company that goes on to be the biggest thing in the world. But do we every really think about the implication of the first part, the dropping out of school and what we can really understand from that?
Most people when analysing the stories of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and all of the other ‘great’ drop-outs seem to suggest that the school’s ‘rigid’ set-up and structure were too restricting for these young entrepreneurs, but is this really the truth?
From my personal experience school was never difficult. I attended a reputable high-school and went on to one of the UKs top universities achieving very high grades the whole way through. But as I was mid-way through university a thought struck me. Every time I took an exam I would cram for a couple of days before, pass with ease and then instantly forget virtually everything I had just learned. This was no learning experience, it was a game. A game with specific rules which if you followed them you were bound to win. And so I did. And guess what? I won. It was easy. I could do all of my work in one tenth of the time of most other students and yet I would still come out with the highest grades. But the reality dawned on me that I wasn’t truly learning or progressing, so I went looking for other projects, which is when I truly became engrossed in entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship presented a different challenge. A blank slate. No rules. A different game every time. Something with no guide book, no structure, an open field. It challenged me. It scared me. Everything was so open and there was no one to blame but myself if things didn’t go well. I couldn’t turn around and say the teacher didn’t help me enough or that the company doesn’t have the resources. It was up to me.
Starting companies is not school. School is not starting companies. Modern school is designed for workers. Tick the boxes, pass the tests and forego the serious task of learning about the world and growing into an independent human. Exams are not the devil, they are necessary to display progress, however making the school experience entirely about passing these exams is a fatal error which has lead to the type of ‘game’ with rules that I referred to earlier.
So finally, can one be too educated? In the sense that if you stick in school, play the game, get good grades and trust that you are being given the best education possible then yes, I believe you can be. Because you are not being truly educated. Only by breaking out of the ‘education system’ in a broader sense can you open your eyes to what a true education is. We never stop learning, education doesn’t just finish at school, and neither does it require formal classes or workshops. It is something that we do every day, and to become truly educated learning from the world around you is something you must embrace and actively pursue. School could be the answer. But for right now, I would suggest for an entrepreneur, it is not.