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    May 10, 2011

    The Young Successful Drop Out – The Most Dangerous Lie in Tech

    Millions of people spend all their time perpetuating a poisonous myth to young entrepreneurs… one which if believed will likely lead to you ending up living with your mom at age 40. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories: “A high school kid builds an app in his bedroom one day and after just a couple of months gets a 100 million dollar acquisition”. Let me be the barer of bad news… it’s a lie, don’t buy it.

    There is something about a story about a young unqualified person that effortlessly makes millions that appeals to us in this industry. In fact it’s very much like every Hollywood movie you’ve ever seen: some unlikely hero against all odds manages to come out on top in under 90 minutes.  We all know it’s a lie and that in real life things are a lot more complicated, but when it comes to the tech industry for some reason we buy the lie.

    The myth is that you don’t need a formal education, that you need to be fresh out of high school or younger and in some magical way you are going to make it. Seriously? Is this responsible advice to be giving kids? Is this responsible advice to be following?

    Sure, there have been success stories in this industry but even the most rudimentary calculation will show you how statistically insignificant those success stories are if compared to the hordes of failed attempts by millions of developers world wide. But yet the relentless child inside screams and says to you that somehow you are different, you are special, you are going to make it because you are smarter or  braver. I’m sorry to say this, but you are not special and in your case its not going to be different, grow up and get over yourself.

    Another part of this rather dangerous lie is that young entrepreneurs should be building these free applications like Facebook or Google and then figure out how to make money later. Please do yourself a favour and don’t do that. From the very start make sure you know how you are going to make money, because if you are giving away stuff for free you are not an entrepreneur, you are a charity.

    The truth is that most of the success stories you hear about or read about were polished over to make sound better, it happens to a statistically insignificant number of people and the people who do achieve success did so with a hell of a lot of hard work. So get a formal education, and then work your ass off on your business, don’t get discouraged if you don’t make it by 25 because you think you’re old, just keep on gunning, and most importantly… don’t buy into the lie.

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    • Rafiq Phillips

      @jasonadriaan Dude, use that education of yours and learn the difference between and advice and advise. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        @rafiq:disqus harsh but true 😉

      • thanks for the heads, wrote this thing at 3am.

      • You accidentally an extra “and” in that sentence.

        • Rafiq Phillips

          cool that disqus allows you to edit after 🙂 fixed. Thanks

      • You accidentally an extra “and” in that sentence.

    • Business Minds

      Robert Kiyosaki lied to us?!

    • Nico Prananta

      Does this apply also to master students or PhD students? Just curious 😀

      • hehe, I have a bunch of buddies doing masters, I always tell them they’ve gone too far 😛

    • I wouldn’t say it’s a lie because it has happened in the past and it will happen again, however I understand where you are coming. Who are these “millions of people” who “spend all their time” feeding the young entrepreneurs your lie? I am a young entrepreneur and no one told me to drop out. I think there are more people telling youngsters to get a degree so that you can get a job and be “successful”, however this is all just my opinion.

      • Everyone thinks they can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates etc. Every post you read on popular tech blogs is about how someone unlikely had a huge break. This post was just about addressing that issue. Thanks for the comment.

    • A degree guarantees you nothing. Being a drop out guarantees you nothing. Leaning to either extreme is going to cause this problem. It ultimately comes down to your ability to plan and execute actions in a specific direction consistently.

      • Anonymous

        Well said!

      • Well, the graduate at least has a backup plan in case of failure, something the drop out does not have.

        • Louis van der Merwe

          I find this mindset odd. A back-up plan by definition is, in my mind, a possible gateway for pre-emptive defeat. I would rather have a plan, see if that works, make that work, if not, make another plan. In effect it comes down to the same thing, except the guy with no back-up plan, but just plans, has the advantage.

          If the “drop-out”, which we could also label the “entrepreneur”, fails at his chosen profession or product, then he gets a new plan or product. A university degree only helps if this actually helps his original or subsequent plans.

          I still think that in our country with a serious amount of unemployment, thinking that you are going to “get a degree, get a job, work for someone else” is a catastrophic liability. I wish our government would put more effort into creating and nourishing entrepreneurs. 

    • Malik

      Best thing I’ve read this week. Seriously.

    • Web design London

      I wouldn’t say it’s a lie because it has happened in the past and it will happen again, however I understand where you are coming.

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    • Fantastic job, thanks for the udpate.

    •  This post was just about addressing that issue. Thanks for the comment.

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