Ep #11: College & Misinformed Parents

Today in Part 2 of the Education Series, I cover the unspoken truths about college and the misinformed parents who play a very critical role in the misdirection of their child’s future. The story, “to be happy and successful in life, we must go to college,” is sending kids on a wild goose choose, not knowing why or worst yet, how to escape.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • There’s no actual, factual “need” to attend college or university
  • The external pressures and stigmas that send us in the wrong direction
  • The narrow-minded definition of success that keeps us powerless and dependent on external circumstances
  • The different types of baggage that parents put onto their children
  • What parents must do to actually aid in their child’s happiness and future success
  • Why there’s no such thing as “top rated” or “best” schools
  • The strain that can happen between parent and child (without even knowing it)

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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome back everybody. Thanks so much for being here as always. Today, I am bringing you Part 2 of the Education series.

In Part 1, I talked about the problems with traditional education and both its short term and long term effects on kids.

Today, I’d like to take a look at college and the “be all end all” that it’s painted as. I’ll also be discussing the role that parents play in their child’s decision to attend college or university.

Now before we get started, just to be clear, this episode is not intended to place a label on college. I am not saying that college is bad. I am not saying that college is good. I am not saying that college is right or wrong. Rather, this episode is intended to shine a light on the story we tell ourselves about higher education so that then people can make informed decisions about their futures from a place of truth and desire, not from a place of fear and conformity.

And I touched very briefly on this in Part 1. The story that has been circulating for decades about college is…

To be happy and successful in life, we must go to college.

This is the story that’s been entrenched into our minds, the story that’s been retold from generation to generation– especially from the Baby Boomers and the late Generation X onto Millennials and to the youngest generation, Generation Z.

So I want to really break this story down, because it’s just that a story. It’s not a FACT. Almost every person that I know including myself has gone to college and has come out the other side unhappier and less successful (because of the debt).

A little ironic.

Parents especially will say to their children: you need to go to college.

However, it’s inaccurate to say that we need college or need to go to college. Saying we need college, is like saying we need water to survive. There’s no scarcity here. We don’t need traditional higher education, just like I don’t need to buy a home, or have children. I don’t need expensive clothing, I don’t need to be in a relationship if I don’t want too, I don’t need to be doing this podcast right now.

That story of need or “I have to” strips away our personal power and freedom. It leaves us without choices, because we are convinced that we need something, we have to have this thing in our life to survive, regardless of whether it’s actually going to benefit us.

And this is why so many high schoolers feel as though there are no other options. College is the only option in their mind because it’s the story they’ve been told for so long.

Yet, the truth is some of the world’s most successful innovators, entrepreneurs, creators never attended college or dropped out. Russel Simmons, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Henry Ford and the list goes on.

But still there’s this stigma that if we don’t go to college (or worst community college), we won’t be well-respected or as deserving as somebody else who went to college.

A friend of mine was in a near fatal car accident I think her sophomore year of college, which forced her to drop out early.

And when I met her, we were in our late twenties and she said I think I’m going to go back to school and finish up my gen ed classes. And I said really, how come? And she said, well I never finished college and that’s when she kinda gave me the back story. And she said I feel a lot of shame that I never graduated and I think I’ll feel better if I get my degree like everybody else.

So of course I’m sitting there like HOLD THE PHONE….you’re telling me that you’re going to pay all this money to enroll in Gen ED classes to get a general studies degree? You’re telling me that you’re going to invest your time to study topics you’re not interested in just so that you can say you graduated from college.

And the reason I reacted this way, is because this wasn’t someone standing in front of me who had a clear vision for her future. She wasn’t making this decision because she was passionate about something and was excited to pursue a degree in a particular field. It wasn’t her intuition that was pointing her in the direction of college, it was her ego.

This was someone who was attaching her self-worth to a piece of paper. This is somebody who is willing to pay thousands of dollars for a degree, because she thinks by doing so that she’ll in turn feel more confident in the world. She’s making this decision (or thinking about this decision from a place of fear).

From a place of “I’m not good enough. What’s everybody going to think when they find out I dropped out? If I just finish school, THEN I’ll be worthy.”

There are people who are terrified to go on job interviews because they don’t have a college degree…no GPA to brag out. Which side note they I was never once asked about my GPA.

I meet people who are afraid to quit their jobs because of how it’ll look on their resumes. And they’re like what would I say in an interview. And I’m like why not be honest?

Yea, I quit my last job because I was not fulfilling my immense potential, I went on a soul-search for a year to figure out my strengths and talents and it led me here to work for you and your mission. Right? It’s OK.

I think back to the $80,000 I could’ve saved from not going to college. And ALL the things I could’ve done in those four years with a  fraction of that money. I would’ve traveled the world, enrolled in all sorts of classes that sparked my interest, bought nice furniture for my first apartment (I love decorating guys). And I think about going into an interview (if that’s what my intuition led me to) and being transparent about my journey. And I have a hard time believing that the person across from me wouldn’t respect that. Wouldn’t respect me being true to myself and all the amazing experiences that it brought to my life. I bet they’d ask me how I did it!

So here’s my friend envious of me– a college graduate, while I’m envious of her and her zero debt. OK? The degree itself has absolutely no bearing on our emotional or mental well-being. None. Hell when I graduated, I felt terrible and depressed.

The college story is SO powerful that we’re convinced it’s something we need– not only to survive financially, but also for our emotional and mental well-being.

It’s the same way that the media entices us with their advertisements. Hey, wear this cologne or perfume and then you’ll feel sexy and attract all these women or men. If you buy this expensive purse, you’ll feel more powerful.

Colleges have a done brilliant job at maintaining their consistent message. A message that says, “Hey, give us $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 of your money (and future money) and you’ll feel valued in the world.” There will be a special place for you.

And we, the consumers, eat it all up. Because 99% of us walk around believing that our feelings are dependent on our circumstances. And that’s just not true. Just because I’m carrying around $1,000 purse does not mean all my insecurities go away. Maybe for a day or two– at most. Just because I shake the deans hand and walk off the stage with a diploma doesn’t mean I live the rest of my life feeling admired and empowered.

That’s all ego stuff! And when we make life choices from our egos, we are sent down the wrong path, 100% of the time.

So I propose, as I sit here today, that first we rid ourselves of the story: We need college. Because just by changing that story and our verbiage, to say: I don’t need college, it then relieves all the pressure. It then becomes a choice.

Then, we’re able to look at college objectively and freely and say OK, it’s an option. Is my essential self leading me in the direction of college or not? Am I being pulled toward this path versus being pushed toward this path from a place of scarcity. Make sense?

So we need to start changing the narrative. The same way we do about the definition of success. And that starts with the adults because success is defined for us at a young age by our parents and teachers.

The narrow-minded definition of success and how it’s achieved: be a “good” student, do as your told, get good grades, go to college and get a high-paying job is still the popular vote.

And this is engrained in our brains as early as elementary school or grade school as some people call it. And the reason that this linear path exists is because when our grandparents were growing up, it worked quite well. It was that information age where knowledge was actually power. When we didn’t have computers or the internet and those analytical, routine, left-brain capabilities were critical. It’s when a higher education had some real value in this world.

Then, we moved into the 21st Century– the Conceptual Age of creators (a very new, advanced world) yet we are still handing out the same advice we did in the Information Age.

Things are always changing, right? On a personal scale and on a much larger scale. And it’s when we resist change that we start to see problems, in our personal lives and in those larger structures– such as education and business.

For example, on a personal level, I was involved in an 8 year relationship that had clearly run its course well before the 8 year mark. We had simply outgrown each other. So no matter how hard we tried and no matter how much we tried to force the relationship to be, nothing worked. It was like beating a dead horse. Neither one of us were emotionally fulfilled or experiencing joy from the relationship.

And the same thing applies to that larger scale. Our world is so different and so much more advanced then it was 20 years ago, yet it’s like we’re trying to force the full-grown turtle back into its small shell. So until we stop resisting our new world, a new way of thinking, a new way of doing, we will continue to beat a dead horse. We will continue to see young adults fall into debt, career dissatisfaction, and even depression.

So it starts with people first. Educators and parents have a responsibility to care for the child’s emotional well-being. Because as small children we can’t do that. We are sponges– taking in what we’re told is right and wrong. So if educators and parents are not willing to take a good hard look at the flawed ideology and change it, we remain stuck, in a system that’s not working and continuously producing kids that are unhappy and unfulfilled in their adult life.

So what’s happening is that children are being told what to believe based on this outdated definition of success and story, one that used to work, but doesn’t anymore.

We are raising kids to believe that success equates to following the rules and conforming to be like everybody else. We are raising kids to believe that success equates to stress. Success equates to working hard on things you don’t enjoy for external rewards.

For example, you must memorize this information and rack your brain about a subject that you have absolutely no interest in for a letter grade or for a “great job” and pat on the back from your parents.

Or, you must go to college and get a degree in a “well-respected” field, regardless if your authentic self is fulfilled– for a higher paycheck and the “ooohs and ahhhs” from your peers for going to an ivy league school– again that external validation.

The problem here is that external rewards are not long-lasting. It’s the reason that more and more Millennials are quitting their 6 figure jobs to start over or start non-profits from the ground up, right? We get to a point where the money isn’t worth our internal suffering anymore. We get to a point where the admiration from our parents and their bragging rights isn’t worth our internal struggle.

Money and external things do not and cannot provide what we as human beings actually and deeply desire and that’s a sense of purpose. And the purpose we crave is not found in our ego minds. It is 100% impossible.

So if you’re decision to go to college is because you think you should or have to or need to, it’s time to reevaluate.

We must redefine success for kids by letting them choose what success looks like to them and that is through helping them figure out what feels TRUE to them. Help them figure out which path they’re most curious about and excited about. That might mean college or it might mean community college. That might mean taking a year off. That might mean entering the workforce right away. That might mean taking out a small loan and traveling.

However in order to help kids figure out what FEELS true to them, parents must be willing to change their own minds first and foremost. Parents must be willing to take a step back and recognize that they don’t know what’s best for their child’s future.

Try telling that to a parent, right?

I mean holy pushback!!

But the truth is nobody knows what our authentic selves need nor want, except for us. Not our parents, not our teachers or friends or coaches or therapists. Nobody, but us.

So until parents can fully or somewhat understand this notion and think differently themselves about their child’s future and release the reins a little, we stay stuck. And let me tell you, from years and years of nannying, this open-mindness is NOT happening in the homes of a lot of families today. It’s just not.

A few years ago, I read an article in Oprah’s magazine about this 10-year-old boy Cory Nieves who lives in NY and was so tired of taking the bus every day to and from school that he decided he wanted to buy his mom a car. So he started selling hot chocolate out of a friends restaurant on the weekends and was making up to $150 doing this. So then he went onto selling cookies from a pop-up stand. Then it turned into a website and actual business at just 10-years-old. I thought wow, pretty impressive and I’m sure other people may have the same response hearing about this 10 year old entrepreneur.

But then I get to the last sentence of the article and it was a statement from his mother who said and I quote: “I don’t care how successful he gets. He’s still going to college!”

And I just thought WOW, yup we have a lot of work to do.

Parents are putting their baggage onto their kids.

And there are different types of baggage.

Some baggage looks like:

“Ahhh, I never went to college, so you’re going to make up for my mistakes. You’re going to have the opportunities that I never had.”

 Right? It’s the parents living through their children and steering the course of their child’s life based on what they should’ve done, or could’ve done in the past.

So until the older generation is willing to work through their own crap and change their own beliefs, we remain at a standstill.

I will say that an observation that I’ve made is that the older generation (the Baby Boomers and Generation X) are stubborn. Much more stubborn than say us Millennials.

Millennials are much more fluid in the sense that we’re open to change. I mean we change careers more than any other generation before us. We’re the ones diving into self-help and are the ones who have made things like meditation and yoga and even life coaching mainstream– all these things that get us to calm our minds and think differently. So I think that as we continue to have children, we’ll be the generation to lead this education reform. I do believe that we are the bridge from the old to the new mindset.

Because we’re not only more open-minded and willing to change, but we’re also the generation that’s paid the price of these outdated rules adopted by our parents.

And guys all this resistance, with again the older generation especially (from my observations) has to do with FEAR, which actually transitions into the next type of baggage that parents are putting onto their kids…

And that’s reputation!

Oh man, this is huge. A lot of parents place pressure on their kids to behave in a certain way and do things that are “acceptable” based on their personal definition so that they (the parents) can look good to other people in their social circles–family members, friends, co-workers, community, etc.

So now all of a sudden, kids are responsible for how they’re parents feel– for their parents emotional well-being.

Guys, it’s crazy.

Parents doing their kids homework or completing it because he/ she forgets or refuses to do it. Who has that helping? Not the kid– accountability goes out the window. It’s for the parents benefit. So that their kid isn’t labeled a bad student by his/ her teachers and peers. And god forbid that gets around to the other parents. We can’t have that.

I’ve attended a few events on this topic and have visited a few high schools this past year. And from what I’ve learned from the administration is that, most parents that visit these prestigious high schools, the very first question that they ask is: what colleges do your students go to?

They want so badly for their kids to go to a TOP school. Why? Because there’s a stigma around community colleges. If you end up in a community college or worse no college at all, you’re not good enough, or smart enough or worthy enough.

They can’t have that for their kids. It’s OK for other people’s kids (right? it’s easy to say “ah yea well college is not for everyone when it comes to your friends kids. But mine. No way! My kid is going to college). And the better top-ranked school they go to, the better I look as a parent and the validation I receive that I did a great job raising them.

If you really take a step back and look at what’s happening, it’s actually ludicrous.

And now what’s happening (another insider tip from a school tour I went on) is with the ability to apply for college online (and the ease of that) more and more kids are applying to these top ranked schools. So then the reputation at these schools grows even more, and the cycle continues.

The truth is guys there are NO BEST SCHOOLS. Parents need to swallow their egos, take responsibility for the role they play and help their kids find the best fit college (and life path in general) based on the mental well-being and unique identity of their child.

There are no best schools. It is a match of children, but we are not making the match.

And it’s even creating a strain in the relationship between parent and child (short-term and long-term)– whether parents are aware of it or not.

We lose kids in this rat race because we don’t know them well enough to know we’re losing them. We are so focused on molding them into who we think they should be and how success is defined to us, that we aren’t getting to really know them. And I mean how can we really get to know them when they aren’t even given the opportunity to get know themselves?

Instead of teaching kids what to believe, what about teaching them how to form their own, unique identity? What about putting our own agendas to the side?

And a huge side bar here. I am a huge True Crime junkie. I swear that I must’ve been a detective in a past life. I watched the Truth and Lies documentary on the Menendez Brothers– the case of two brothers, 18 and 21, who murdered their parents.

The first part of the documentary goes through their childhood and their upbringing and how overly consumed their parents were with keeping up the perfect family persona. The parents did their sons’ homework on a regular basis, chose which sports they would play and excel at, paid for them to get into Princeton even though neither one was a very good student, their dad hammered away at the boys to live up to his standards of success, even chose who they dated.

So as I’m watching this, my first thought was these kids were fully robbed of their own identities, because their parents exerted so much control over their lives, and it messed with their psyche to the point of lashing out.

Well later on, I read an article from the Los Angeles Times about the murder and a statement from a psychiatrist who no joke, came to the exact same conclusion as I did. So who knows, maybe I was a psychiatrist in a different past life.

Anyway, I’m not condoning the murder. Obviously not. I’m also not saying that children are going to grow up and start killing their parents. This is obviously a very extreme example of extremely controlling parents. My point is that any amount of control does create a strain in the parent to child relationship.

And ya know, I think a lot of the times, parents (for the most part) do have good intentions for their children, right? They want the best. It’s just that their idea of what’s best is flawed. Because you gotta remember, they too are a creature of their upbringing and the belief system of their parents. It’s a lot of old programming and tangled cob webs all over the place.

So I think that if parents were just made aware of the strains that are happening or can happen because of the level of control that they’re consciously (or subconsciously) exerting onto their children, I think that even that awareness is a huge step in the change that needs to happen.

I know I can go off on tangents sometimes.

Anyway, to kinda wrap up here…

Again, I’m not saying that college is right or wrong. I’m saying that our entire culture needs to revise what’s important and what’s not. Why can’t we have happiness as the most important metric as we do test scores?

We don’t have to go to Harvard or Stanford or Brown or Princeton to be happy. We are missing the point. Genuine joy is not found externally from prestigious schools and validation. It is found intrinsically. That is the truth of the matter and until we wake up to this notion, we will continue to raise kids who are going to college, but never knowing WHY.

I encourage you. I challenge you to this… The next time you meet a high schooler who is gearing up to attend college…don’t ask them WHAT college they’re attending. Because that’s the default question right? We are quick to say, “Oh you’re going to college. What college?”

Instead, I want you to ask them WHY? Oh you’re going to college. Why are you going to college? And I don’t mean in a judgmental or condescending way. I mean in a gentle and curious way.

Let’s put more emphasize on purpose rather than rank.

And don’t be surprised if they don’t know how to respond. Right? If you had asked me that same question when I was a senior, I would’ve responded, “What do you mean? Because that’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s what everybody does after high school.”

I mean literally that would’ve been my response.

It’s a terrible reason. And that reason is exactly why post-grads find themselves in a quarter-life crisis. They never knew why they did it in the first place. Their reason is not from a place of love, passion and clear purpose, it’s from a place of fear, conformity and extrinsic motivation.

That’s it for today guys. Thank you so much for listening as always. I’ll see you next time.

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