Walter Cronkite, Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, and a long list of other “dropouts” give us reason to doubt the dogma that only college graduates have a chance in life. There may be some fields which require higher education, but countless individuals throughout history have bypassed the supposedly essential college hoops and worked their way to success. All successful individuals are educated, but that education doesn’t have to come from an institution of higher learning.
Albert Einstein stated, “Try . . . to be a man of value.” What does it mean to be a man or woman of value? I submit that being a man or woman of value is exactly what leads to success in life. Anyone can provide something valuable to the world, regardless of whether there is a diploma on their office wall. Walt Disney and Charles Dickens provided valuable offerings to the world. They recognized their strengths and utilized them in a way that others could enjoy. Every person on this earth has talents and abilities unique to them. Every person can obtain success through those talents and abilities.
Successful people choose to believe in “impossible” things. The woman who sits at home composing delightful children’s songs at her piano denies herself and the world of value if she works full-time as a janitor or cashier. How many people waste away their lives working jobs they hate or tolerate at best? How many men and women harbor secret talents, passions, ideas, and goals? How many people fail before they’ve even tried because they believe their dreams are impossible? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.” If there’s one thing all successful people share, it is that they chose to live their dreams and utilize their gifts instead of putting them in the closet for “later” or “someday.”
Successful people do educate themselves, but that education does not have to come from professors in a classroom. Benjamin Franklin offered his services to a printer so he could learn the trade. Thomas Jefferson educated himself in a similar way (finding people who knew about the things he wanted to learn and watching them work). Successful individuals often have mentors to guide them. Others take it upon themselves to obtain knowledge by utilizing public libraries or finding seminars or specialized classes. Some simply learn through trial and error or experimentation. Benjamin Franklin became a successful inventor despite having no formal scientific training. He was simply curious and followed where his curiosity led him. Universities and colleges do not have a monopoly on knowledge or education. Anyone can become educated through finding the right books or people, and they can do it with little or no money in their wallet.
Marva Collins knows something about success. She was a black woman who was dissatisfied with the mediocre educational options available to her children as well as the other children in Chicago’s inner-city. Lots of parents complain about schools, but Marva wasn’t content to just sit and fester. She has said, “Mr. Meant-to has a friend, his name is Didn’t-Do. Have you met them? They live together in a house called Never-Win. And I am told that it is haunted by the Ghost of Might-have-Been.” Marva didn’t waste her time. She left her position teaching in Chicago’s public schools and started a school in her home. The success of her Westside Preparatory School has garnered attention from media outlets across the country through the years, and her story was depicted in a 1982 made-for-tv movie. She has been asked to speak to large businesses and train executives in major companies because of her grasp of what it takes to be successful. Marva has said, “Success doesn’t come to you. . . you go to it.”
Successful people have a mindset. Successful people choose to believe that their lives are not dependent upon fate or circumstances. They choose to accept responsibility for their own lives and well-being. They believe they have the capacity to overcome any of life’s obstacles through their own hard work and unique abilities. A successful person may or may not have a diploma (or two or three), but those pieces of paper are by no means required. I loved college, and I am glad I went and graduated, but I also recognize that my time in college is not what will ultimately make me successful. If I ever become successful, it will be because I choose to be. Success comes to those who “go to it,” and college isn’t the only place it can be found.