In Less Than One Year Get a Startup Job at $40k – No Degree Required

Learn more at Praxis!

The idea that you should spend four years and six figures in classrooms, shielded from the real world of opportunity, and cross your fingers and hope it gets you some kind of job is absurd.It’s time for a new era in education and career.  If you’re good you can prove it in the market without going into debt or dying of boredom.

That’s why we created Praxis, and that’s why we’re making it better every day.

Over at the Praxis blog is a description of current opportunities with business partners in Austin, Atlanta, Charleston, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and San Francisco where we’re placing participants.  If you get in, you not only get paid to apprentice there, you get a job at $40k+ when you graduate.

From the post:

“Participants accepted into the Praxis program get an intense bootcamp where they gain the skills needed to succeed in their careers.  After the bootcamp they begin a paid apprenticeship with one of our business partners.  These aren’t dull corporate internships.  These are dynamic startups and small businesses where participants get a chance to create real value and do real work.  Entrepreneurship is the most valuable skill in the emerging economy, and there’s no better classroom than alongside entrepreneurs in the real world to learn it.

While apprenticing, participants get weekly coaching, access to a rich resource library, tailored modules to improve hard and soft skills, a world-class network, and a portfolio to showcase their work.

Upon completion of the program, graduates get hired full time with their business partner at a minimum of $40k/year.

That means in less than a year and at zero cost you begin your career.  No debt.  No wasted time.  No blasting out resumes to jobs you’d hate.  No fretting over GPA’s for four years just hoping it results in a job.  You join an amazing team doing meaningful work immediately.

Here are some of our current business partner opportunities, and we’re adding all the time…”

Check out the post to see what kind of companies we’re placing participants with.

A great career won’t come from classrooms or generic resume blasts.  It will come from you taking charge and going out and building the mix of experience, knowledge, network, skills, and confidence that can only come from working with dynamic people in real companies.

Applications are now open.

 

Take the ‘Cut it in Half’ Challenge and Improve Your Writing

…and your verbal communication, and time management, and thinking.

Good writing styles may be as unique as people but when it comes to bad writing there’s one nearly universal mistake.

Too many words.

Everyone begins their writing endeavors (whether emails or books) using too many words, too long sentences, and too bulky paragraphs.  It’s hard to economize on words.  The better your language skills and vocabulary, the harder it is.  You want to flex those wordiness muscles!

But good writing is clear and to the point.  Removing needless words makes what’s left more, not less important.  Words are too precious to be drowned in a sea of superfluity.

Here’s a challenge to quickly and dramatically improve your writing:

Cut everything you write in half.

I suggest doing this for at least two weeks.  It will hurt.  It will take a lot of time at first.  But compare results after the experiment.  You will be better.

Every Facebook post, email, essay, blog post, or memo (heck, you can try it with texts and tweets too, but that might be tough) should be halved.  After you write what you want to say, just before you click “send”,  “publish”, “post”, or “save”, go back and cut it in half.  Count words, divide by two and edit down.

I’ve done this and found almost no paragraph I write gets worse as a result.

Give it a shot and see for yourself.

If You Time Travel to the Past, Tell Yourself You’re Wrong

It’s really hard to break free from your past definitions of success.  I’ve met a lot of unhappy people who are doing exactly what they used to want to do.  The problem is, we change.  If you shackle yourself to the form of success envisioned by your past self, you’re a slave to a person that doesn’t even exist.

I’ve written before about how it’s good to be a failure when you’re failing at a past goal.

It can also be constraining to attempt future growth based on the models of past growth.

Check out the short video below.  What things do you and your past self disagree on?

Episode 65: Jeremy McLellan is a Business, Man

*Forgive the echo in the audio. New microphone and live interview gave us some issues.

Some forty episodes ago, comedy was just a side gig for Jeremy McLellan but now he is moving to make it his full-time job. On this episode we talk about corporate vs bar comedy and whether things that we like doing become less likable when people start doing them as their income sources.

Reputation is king in the comedy business, so we also covered the issue of joke thieving, dealing with hecklers, offending people, apologizing and other strategies, as well as one of the biggest questions every business faces – what is my price?

Check him out on Facebook, or check out his website.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Every Industry Gets Worse When Government Gets Involved

This is easily provable with Public Choice Theory, and consistently proven in practice.

Contrary to the absurdly naive belief that monopolizing an industry will produce “efficiencies”, it has the opposite effect.  All the wrong things are incentivized and no one has any clear signal of what creates value. (See “Socialist Calculation Problem“)

Antony Davies shared this depressing graph with me last week.  If you’ve been to a health care provider in the last few years, you’ve felt the pain this causes in the realm of customer experience.

 

Non-Physicians in Health Care

Why Golden Parachutes are Better Than Tenure

People argue for tenure as a way to allow risk taking, bold explorations into controversial ideas, and new frontiers in academia.  Without knowing their job can never be lost, how would professors have the incentive to take risks?  And after all, even if many don’t pay off, the most important advances come from big risks.

Any time you’re in a non-market or highly distorted market, it’s hard to know what really works and what doesn’t since genuine signals are absent.  Higher education is not even close to a functioning free market industry, so in order to assess the merit of claims about the value of tenure we ought to look elsewhere.

If tenure is really effective we should see it in other areas where risk taking and controversial advocacy are necessary.

It turns out we don’t really see it anywhere.  In a genuine market, it’s not used as a mechanism for incentivizing risk-taking behavior, even where such behavior is arguably far more valuable even than it is an academia.

Entrepreneurs do not have tenure.  Their risk has no subsidy or backstop except the safety net of their own skill and ability to earn a living elsewhere if the venture fails.  Raising capital from an investor is one way to create the space necessary to experiment with bold ideas, but investors fight to ensure the opposite of tenure.  They want seats on the board and the freedom to vote the founder out.

Inventors and artists need to explore wild, crazy, unthinkable ideas.  Yet tenure is not common in any private sector research labs or the entertainment industry and certainly not in the garages and basements of individual creators.  Intellectual property laws can provide a kind of hedge against risk for the tiny percentage of creators with the means to gain and defend IP, but on net IP actually increases the risk to inventors and artists (when other people gain patents and sue).  Even if IP is gained, it protects the creation, which still has to sell to consumers, it doesn’t ensure an income for the creator.

What about CEOs?  Especially in large publicly traded companies, CEOs need to be free to take major risks.  They need to alter the brand, company culture, product lines, production processes, and anything else that might be inhibiting growth.  CEOs need to advocate crazy ideas and bring bold new visions to fruition, with no guarantee whatsoever they will work or be well received by customers, employees, or investors.  Billions of dollars and thousands of careers are on the line.  Do boards offer them tenure as a way to ensure they are properly incentivized to make unpopular decisions or advance bold ideas?

Never.

But the need for such protection is real.  An incentive structure too hard on failed risk-taking would be hugely detrimental.  Instead of the beloved tenure, something else has emerged in the market.  The despised “Golden Parachute”.

CEOs of large companies get really nice compensation packages, even if they get fired or the company tanks.  This is a hugely valuable tool.  Without it, the CEO role would be undesirable, and bold changes would almost never occur.  If they know they won’t be left out in the cold after a risky idea fails, they’re more likely to try it.  Additionally, if the previous CEO wasn’t impoverished for failure it will make the search for a high-quality new CEO far easier.  No one wants to work for a place that might destroy them if things don’t work out.

The huge advantage the golden parachute has over tenure is that it protects the individual risk taker without letting them bring down the quality of the institution.  Tenure for CEOs would be a disaster.  Boards would be stuck with bad CEOs for life, embarrassing the company and making everyone suffer.  Golden Parachutes, in contrast, allow for a speedy dismissal of a bad executive before they bring down the firm, but still create an incentive structure for risk-taking on the part of CEOs.

While some level of protection from catastrophic failure or public opinion is valuable for encouraging risk-taking and innovation in some fields, tenure seems an inferior method than what emerges in the market.

Episode 64: Don’t Get Mad at Millennials – Declan Wilson on the Good Side of Gen Y

Declan Wilson, author of The Millennial Way, and curator of the blog A Millennial Type, joins me to discuss chasing dreams and Gen Y.

Declan is documenting his own personal efforts to transition from a 9 to 5 job to full-time writing and fatherhood.  We discuss the extent to which stereotypes about Millennials are true and whether all this talk about “lifestyle design” and fulfillment is just cheesy motivational claptrap.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Episode 63.5: Fridays with TK – “How I Was Almost Luke Perry”

What does it mean to sell out, water down, or compromise who you are?

What are the unseen costs of doing so, and the unseen benefits of resisting?

Today we discuss this in depth, including stories about how TK could have been as cool as Beverly Hills 90210’s Luke Perry if he hadn’t given in to peer pressure and how I nearly ended up a drug dealer.

Here’s Paul Graham’s essay referenced in today’s show.

Also mentioned were the books The Education of Millionairesand, The Last Safe Investment.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

How to Play Basketball Well

The same way you do everything else well.  Practice, then reflect, then practice some more.

The common, conveyor-belt education system has a pretty bizarre approach to learning.  It doesn’t mirror any learning pattern that high performers in any field use.  It looks something like this:

Theory–>Theory–>Theory–>Theory–>Theory–>Practice (end)

In other words, you sit in classrooms studying things and memorizing knowledge from “experts” for nearly two decades.  Then you’re supposed to take all that theory and successfully practice it in the real world and live happily ever after.  Education is done, now you just go live well.  You’re supposed to succeed in the marketplace and life after only ever thinking about it.  Unless the theory is the practice – unless you’re learning to be an academic – this is a very bad way to learn.

I’ve written before about how absurd it would be if we taught bike riding the way we teach careers.  But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an even better comparison, and one I know more about than biking.  Basketball.

How do you learn to play basketball?

First, you practice.  Maybe on a mini hoop, maybe on a full-sized hoop.  But you just start shooting and dribbling.  After you have the basic motions and movements and muscle memory down, you start playing with other people in actual games.  You play a lot of pick-up basketball.  Maybe you play in an organized team setting.  The coach might have you focus on specific aspects of the game or skills as you drill and condition.  You’ll scrimmage, run plays, and plot your approach to offense and defense.  You play, then a new concept is introduced, and you immediately play some more and try it out.  Then you stop to reflect and get feedback, tweak your approach, and play again.

At the highest level, this pattern is even more pronounced.  Good players practice a lot.  There is no world in which merely theorizing about basketball teaches you to succeed on the court.  Practice is always the first step and vastly more important if you have to choose one.  But when you go from good to great players, something else happens.  Theory comes into play.  The learning pattern for playing most successfully looks something like this:

Practice–>Practice–>Theory–>Practice–>Practice–>Theory…(ad infinitum)

Great players spend more hours in the gym than anyone.  But after they play the also reflect on their performance.  They review film from previous games.  They study what the offense did.  They observe what happened and theorize about why they were stopped in the paint by this or that defense.  They plan for the next game.  They review film of the next opponent and plot an approach to match.  They constantly reflect on the feedback they get from the real world of practice and play.  They seek out other achievers who have struggled with mental toughness, or strength building, or recovery from injury.  They employ motivational tactics and specialized training.

Notice the pattern because it’s very important.  Hours of film study and offensive scheming are of no value to the novice.  If you’ve never hoisted a ball in the air, learning the perfect placement of your index finger or the optimal use of trash-talk to gain a mental edge isn’t going to help you.  Theory is hugely important.  But it becomes important only when it has past practice upon which to reflect and future practice for which to prepare.

Notice also that, unlike the conveyor-belt education system, the basketball model is never done.  There is no end point.  It’s an ongoing process.  There is no graduation.  Michael Jordan, at the peak of his game and dominating the greatest ballers on the planet, famously came back from every offseason with something new.  He practiced.  He reflected and theorized.  He tested it with more practice.

In this model the role of teacher fades almost entirely.  Specialists with knowledge of the history of the game or the mechanics of the human elbow can be employed in specific situations when needed, but they are in no way the key ingredient to learning the game nor are they valuably employed until a whole lot of playing has occurred.  Instead, coaches and trainers emerge.  People who don’t tell you which facts about basketball are correct and must be memorized, but people who challenge you to get off your butt when you don’t feel like practicing.  People who help you in the process of reflecting on your unique game and keep you accountable to your unique practice process.  They are observers who watch you in the actual act of playing the game and provide real-time feedback from their vantage point.  They aren’t your authority – you can’t find a new coach anytime – but there for motivation and insight.  Some of the greatest players are famous for ignoring their coaches as often as listening to them even though they deeply respect them, which strikes me as a pretty normal and healthy way to see the relationship.

Another important thing about learning basketball is the value of mimicry.  How did the hook shot join the common arsenal of post players?  Because someone did it well and everyone who played against them realized how effective it could be and began to copy it.  How do you learn to crossover or headfake?  By being crossedover or headfaked at the playground and determining to do the same.

Learning happens more from being around people and environments than it does from consciously thinking about them.  You have to be immersed in the actual play of the game.

My friend and colleague at PraxisTK Coleman, our Education Director – loves the game of basketball probably even more than I do.  We don’t view this analogy as just a cute comparison.  I think success in any career is far more like success in basketball than it is like success in a classroom.  The principles of learning the game are the principles of learning to perform in just about every other arena.  This is why we are so focused on apprenticing at startups and small businesses – practice – and reflecting on the experience and how new skills and mindsets can make it better – theory – and trying them out – practice – and discussing…etc.  This is why our advisers have coaching sessions with participants, rather than giving them lectures.  Philosophy is hugely important to success in any field.  But only if you’re already in the field trying things out.

Kids aren’t practicing for life or career by sitting in the classroom taking tests.  They’re theorizing about it.  They’re not observing those who are successful (except, best case, at teaching) and mimicking them.  They’re reading what other people said about the successful.  They’re being introduced to a few fragments of the history of the game or uniform design or what one conditioning coach thinks about one approach to calf muscles.  They’re not being transformed into great players, they’re simply checking the memorization of lifeless, contextless knowledge off a list of assignments.

You can’t expect to win by studying.  You’ve got to play the game.

School is a 16-Year Internship for Professors

Want to learn something?  Be around it.

The habits, ideas, processes, and perhaps most importantly, incentives of the environment you want to be a part of will teach you vastly more than consciously studied facts.

Julian Jaynes, in his seminal book on consciousness, cites a study where students were told to compliment any girl wearing read.  Within a week, red outfits were everywhere in the school.  The girls weren’t consciously responding to factual knowledge but internalizing the compliments and altering their behavior subconsciously.  Jaynes argues that learning signals, skills, and even reasoning are not, in fact, conscious processes.  In fact, after taking in the basic structure, being conscious of learning gets in the way and slows the process.

This means the subconscious queues and incentives of the environment are a more powerful force in determing what you learn than whatever conscious topic is presented.  What you pickup on and get rewarded for and see others doing to succeed or fail shapes how your brain transforms and adapts to succeed.

This has some pretty interesting implications for schooling, from kindergarten through college.

The school setting, whatever subject is being taught consciously, is a single-file line-standing, speak-when-given-permission, the “expert” knows all right answers, zero-sum, obedience training program.  The clear “winners” in the school setting are the authority figures and those who best please them.  The academics and kids who do things that academics like.

In other words, school is a 16-year internship for being a professor.

You’re immersed in the daily habits, worldviews, problems solving methods, attitudes, and incentives of professors.  What you learn from shadowing academics isn’t whatever topic they might be teaching as much as how to be like them.

This is, of course, the ideal program if you want to be an academic.  I have many wonderful professor friends and I’ve met some young people who want to be professors.  The system was built for them, and it’s a good fit.  They should stick with it happily.

The problem is that most people have no idea that they are in an extended academic internship.  Most don’t want to be professors or they simply have no idea whether they do or not because they’ve never been around anything else.

You can’t discover what you might enjoy or be good at from academic books and practictioners telling you about it.  You need to experiment and experience it.  You need to be around people doing those things.  You need to apprentice with people other than just academics to learn what people other than academics do and how to succeed in that world.

Get out of the classroom and try real world stuff to find what you enjoy and are good at and immerse yourself in the subconscious learning of how to succeed in whatever environments you explore.  A few courses or books or a major can’t give you that knowledge while your subconscious is fully occupied with learning how to be a professor.

You might not be learning much from the conscious process of schooling (hence forgetting everything after the test), but you’re definitely learning something in school.  The question is, do you want to learn that something?  Will it help you, or set you back in a dynamic marketplace that cares only for value creation, not academic process?

Yes, this realization is precisely why Praxis was created – to give you a real-world apprenticeship with top entrepreneurs in a variety of industries and dynamic businesses.  Check it out.

Episode 63: The School Sucks Project, with Brett Veinotte

I’ve been a big fan of the School Sucks Podcast for a few years now, so it was awesome to have Brett on the show to discuss his work and what motivated him to launch it.

We discuss his personal history, the history of schooling, why conspiracy theories are valuable learning tools, and much more.

Check out all things School Sucks here!

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Episode 62.5: Fridays with TK – Entrepreneurship for Young Minds

*Weird audio issues today, forgive the sound anomalies.

I’m kicking off what (I think) will be a regular feature on the podcast.  A Friday “tweener” episode where TK Coleman comes on to talk about…whatever comes up!

Today we discuss entrepreneurship, whether the word is too broadly used, the difference between entrepreneurship as an action and entrepreneurship as a career.

Check out the 60-day Teen Entrepreneurship Course discussed on the show and use the promo code “PODCAST” for a 30% discount.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Praxis and the PDP

One of the core building blocks of the Praxis educational experience is the Personal Development Project, or “PDP“.  A PDP is simple: a self-chosen 30-day challenge with tangible benchmarks and outcomes, documented and demonstrated.

Project based learning – tackling a challenge that the learner has individual, intrinsic motivation to tackle – is the most valuable method for transforming your mind and habits and building your personal capital.  It bypasses dichotomies between theory and practice by focusing instead on desired outcomes.  It’s about who you want to become, and what in your unique situation is most likely to help you get there.  This is the way most people approach physical health and fitness, but it’s surprisingly rare when it comes to mental and emotional intelligence, character, and skills.  It shouldn’t be.  It works.

So how do our participants get started with a PDP?  My favorite method is to let your obstacles take the lead.  Obstacles often hide or disguise themselves, so first you have to find them.

Jot down some bigger picture outcomes or goals or descriptions of the kind of person you want to be.  Maybe, “I want to be a published writer”, or, “I want to travel 6 months out of the year”, or, “I want to earn a living as a freelance designer”, or, “I want to be a go-to expert on nanotechnology that people interview”.  Think in terms of who you want to be and what kind of experiences and outcomes you want to have, not in terms of titles or labels.

Now that you have a handful of these big picture goals listed, pick one and ask yourself what is keeping you from doing or being that right now.  Maybe you’re writing isn’t sharp enough, or you are too insecure to submit to a publication.  Maybe you can’t afford the travel, or your design skills aren’t hireable, or you know nothing about nanotech.  Try to get specific in terms of what’s keeping from these goals.  “I’m not organized enough to handle multiple clients”, or, “I procrastinate too much” are good examples.

Now you have your obstacles.

Your obstacles are invaluable because they inform you as to what kind of activities are going to be valuable to you.  If procrastination is one of your major obstacles you could build a very basic yet incredibly powerful PDP where you, for example, read one chapter from “The War of Art” and write and publish a blog post every day for 30-days.  The mental tools in the book combined with the no-escape activity of daily blogging will absolutely and dramatically improve you ability to create even when the mood isn’t right.  You will become a better person in that 30 days and you will chip away at one of those obstacles – maybe even obliterate it altogther.

This is just one example.  Maybe you commit to reading five books on a topic in a month.  If you read five books on any topic you will immediately be in the top 5% of people with knowledge on the topic.  It’s surprisingly easy to make huge gains.

Whatever goals, obstacles, and activities you identify, the most important thing is doing it.  You must make progress on it every single day.  The beauty is, anyone can do something for 30 days.  It’s hard, but not so hard that you have any excuses.  You must make the activities measurable and demonstrable.  You must setup an accountability method.  At Praxis we do this by asking participants to build a personal website and publicly share their PDP activities and then document them as they complete it.  Thier advisors are there to coach and challenge them as they craft and complete the PDP’s.

In the end they have tangible evidence of how they increased their value that month – based on their own goals, not anyone else’s.  More importantly, they become more of who they want to be.  The principle of compound interest is powerful and it applies to more than money.  Improve yourself by 1% every day and soon nothing will be out of reach.

Whether a hard skill, soft skill, body of knowledge, a network, a mindset, or a habit: if you want growth and transformation – what real education is – I cannot recommend a PDP enough.

Try building your own.  If you have a hard time getting started, try one that we created at Praxis as an excellent entry point.  See if you can stick to it, making progress every day.  It’s a lot harder than you think, and far more rewarding than you can imagine.

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$48,877

That’s the average starting salary for Praxis grads.

  • The average age is 21.
  • 80% of grads were offered full-time employment at their business partner upon completion of the program.
  • All but one have jobs, and that one chose grad school instead.
  • 100% said Praxis was very helpful in their personal and professional success.

We have many more participants graduating this year, and even more starting the program.  We will have more stories and data to add every month.

Join us for the adventure of a lifetime.

The Best Life Advice I Know of…

Don’t follow your passion.  Not because it’s a bad idea, but because most of the time it’s not possible early in your life.

Instead, arrive at your passion(s) by taking the sculptor approach.  Chisel away everything that you don’t love.  In a sentence:

Don’t do stuff you hate.

Everything else is fair game.

Give in to the Hype Just a Little

“Call me when it’s actually ready.”

I’ve seen variations of this comment on many posts and articles about cool stuff happening in the world.

While I have no opinion on when or whether another person ought to be impressed by something, it strikes me as a rather odd disposition. All the fun of knowing is knowing before it’s a common fact. How often do we say, “Imagine being there while the automobile was first coming to market!”, or, “Imagine seeing Babe Ruth while he was still creating his legend!”

Celebrating new advances and achievements before they are fully complete is being a part of their making. It’s a rare chance to experience the remarkable in its becoming.

Possibility is at least as exciting as a foregone conclusion. Indulge in it!

Stop Telling Good Arguers to Become Lawyers

I’ve met a lot of bright young people planning on law school or in law school.

I’ve also met a lot of unhappy lawyers.

I suspect lots of these young people will end up unhappy lawyers too, and I’ve got a theory as to why.

Lawyers are often “successful” in terms of external indicators and cultural prestige.  They tend to make good money and are held in esteem (lawyer jokes notwithstanding).  And, of course, lawyering is a perfect fit for some people.  I know some very happy lawyers.

But it seems a large percentage of the profession consists of unhappy people.  People who don’t particularly enjoy doing divorce or merger and acquisition paperwork.  Many who wish they could escape.

How did they end up there in the first place?

Because the educational conveyor belt doesn’t know what else to do with truth-seekers.

Everyone is motivated by a lot of things.  But most of us have one core value that, when push comes to shove, trumps the rest.  For some it may be freedom, for others security, adventure, or in the case of many an unhappy lawyer, truth.

Those whose dominate core value is truth are rather relentless.  They’re smart.  They like to argue, and they tend to argue well.  They want to get to the bottom of things.  They want to find the right answers.  They want correct facts and knowledge of right and wrong.  They are willing to examine and explore multiple sides of issues and ideas in the process.

Similar to those whose highest value is independence, they’re comfortable questioning authority.  But the freedom-seekers tend to be more willing to disobey or ignore the rewards and punishments of the education system.  They might rebel against assignments or good grades.  Truth-seekers on the other hand, though happy to question the status quo, are typically comfortable following basic rules and getting good grades as well.  They see winning at the grade system as a way of finding whatever truth is to be found there.

Herein lies the problem, and the beginning of their disproportionate and often unfortunate pursuit of careers in law.  The school system doesn’t know what else to do with them.

There are few ways to channel their truth-seeking desires in school.  There’s little in the way of philosophy, history doesn’t do as much debating as fact-spitting, and even the sciences pre-graduate level don’t really spend time questioning anything fundamental.

What’s left?  Debate and forensics.  Truth-seekers do well here.  They love it.  Most high school debaters will tell you it was the absolute highlight of their educational experience.  They finally got to question everything, look at all sides of issues, argue without being offensive or reprimanded.  And they got to “win”.

Parents and teachers of young truth-seekers are so conditioned with the conveyor belt mindset that they struggle to see beyond an easily identifiable handful of job titles.  The work/identity trap is also strong, so whatever junior likes must immediately be mapped onto a business card.  A focus on external indicators of success furthers the tendency.  The common refrain for young debaters is, “You’re always arguing.  You should be a lawyer!”  What other possible avenues for all this truth-seeking could there be?

“I get to search for the truth?  I get to debate it?  I get to make everyone proud of a prestigious career?  I get to make good money?  Yeah, I guess I do need to go to law school!”

So lots of them do.

And lots of them end up wishing they hadn’t.  They find out too late that most lawyer jobs have little to do with truth-seeking.  The law itself isn’t primarily about truth, and most law jobs are even less so.  They’re about navigating bureaucracy and nearly impenetrable wordplay to help people do very simple tasks like buy and sell things, move money, end or begin professional or personal relationships, or draft up “just in case” language.  It’s a fundamentally conservative endeavor, concerned with protection from liability more than the caution-to-the-wind pursuit of truth that landed them there.

Law requires attention to detail, a high degree of literacy, and plenty of patience and problem solving.  Those things are perfect for some people.  But those whose core value is truth aren’t often among them.

Because their desire for truth was so quickly tracked and careerified, they never had the chance to explore.  Law school is particularly problematic then, because of its astronomical price tag.  Upon completion, more doors have been closed than opened.  There are only so many jobs that pay enough to service the debt.  And by now they’re closer to marriage, kids, and other financial obligations that make lower starting pay gigs tougher.  After law school, they kind of feel like they have to be a lawyer, even if it doesn’t scratch the itch for truth.

A decade later and the debt burden might be gone, but the golden handcuffs replace it.  Quality of life seems locked in.  Mortgages, cars, schools, and prestige can’t easily be downgraded, even if they are unhappy most of the day most days.  It’s lifestyle slavery, and it kind of sucks.

Where else might these truth-seekers have gone with their passion?  Perhaps philosophy.  Not just in the academic sense, which often comes with its own bureaucracy and BS, but more generally.  It’s true, you can be a philosopher and a lawyer or a philosopher and a great many other things.  Your source of income and who you are need not be the same.  Seeking, writing, researching, fact-finding, and questioning are such general and generally valuable traits that a true philosopher can apply them in myriad careers.  But law is a career that makes being defined by anything else particularly hard.

How many authors, podcasters, coaches, mentors, counselors, investigative reporters, or entrepreneurs are at bottom truth-seekers?  Truth as a core value is applicable in a great many areas.  Most of all, someone with the freedom to follow their passion for truth is likely to discover or create a career we can’t even yet imagine.  Sadly, the school conveyor belt tends to corral more than its fair share into law.

So here’s the takeaway: Stop telling good arguers to become lawyers.

Let them explore the world fully and freely.  Let them try a lot of stuff.  Let them follow their questions.  If after real exposure to the day to day reality a career in law appeals to them, great.  They’ll choose law school.  But don’t obsess about placing them on a list of predefined career categories and channeling their core values into it before they know what’s what.

I’m a parent.  I get it.  We worry how our kids will feed themselves and build a life.  If they love something, our mind immediately tries to formalize and monetize it.  My son loves video games and comics and superheroes, and more than once I’ve begun formulating ways to turn this interest into a career as a video game designer or illustrator and set him on that path now.

Fight that urge.  Open the world up to them, not just the few aspects of it that come with a title and salary today.  But everything that it is and could be tomorrow.

This leads to another good question…what are some other career tracks that young people with other core values get placed on too early?…