10 Things I Didn't Learn in College

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by James Altucher: Pearl
Harbor Caused the Financial Crisis of 2008

 

 
 

I’ve written
before on 10
reasons Parents Should Not Send Their Kids to College
and here
is also Eight
Alternatives to College
but it’s occurred to me that the
place where college has really hurt me the most was when it came
to the real world, real life, how to make money, how to build a
business, and then even how to survive when trying to build my business,
sell it, and be happy afterwards.

Here are the
ten things that if I had learned them in college I probably would’ve
saved/made millions of extra dollars, not wasted years of my life,
and maybe would’ve even saved lives because I would’ve
been so smart I would’ve been like an X-Man.

1. How to
Program
– I spent $100,000 of my own money (via debt, which
I paid back in full) majoring in Computer Science. I then went to
graduate school in computer science. I then remained in an academic
environment for several years doing various computer programming
jobs. Finally I hit the real world. I got a job in corporate America.
Everyone congratulated me where I worked, “you’re going
to the real world,” they said. I was never so happy. I called
my friends in NYC, “money is falling from trees here,”
they said. I looked for apartments in Hoboken. I looked at my girlfriend
with a new feeling of gratefulness – we were going to break
up once I moved. I knew it.

In other words,
like was going to be great. My mom even told me, “you’re
going to shine at your new job.”

Only one problem:
when I arrived at the job, after 8 years of learning how to program
in an academic environment – I couldn’t program. I won’t
get into the details. But I had no clue. I couldn’t even turn
on a computer. It was a mess. I think I even ruined people’s
lives while trying to do my job. I heard my boss whisper to his
boss’s boss, “I don’t know what we’re going
to do with him, he has no skills.” And what’s worse is
that I was in a cluster of cubicles so everyone around me could
here that whisper also.

So they sent
me to two months of remedial programming courses at AT&T in
New Jersey. If you’ve never been in an AT&T complex it’s
like being a stormtrooper learning how to go to the bathroom in
the Death Star where, inconceivably, in six Star Wars movies there
are no evidence of any bathrooms. Seriously, you couldn’t find
a bathroom in these places. They were mammoth but if you turn down
a random corner then, Voila! – there might be an arts &
crafts show. The next corner would have a display of patents, like
“how to eliminate static on a phone line – 1947?. But
I did finally learn how to program.

I know this
because I ran into a guy I used to work with ten years ago who works
at the same place I used to work at. “Man,” he says, “they
still use your code.” And I was like, “really?” “Yeah,”
he said, “because its like spaghetti and nobody can figure
out how to modify it or even replace it.”

So, everything
I dedicated my academic career to was flushed down the toilet. The
last time I programmed a computer was 1999. It didn’t work.
So I gave up. Goodbye C++. I hope I never see you and your “objects”
again.

2. How to
Be Betrayed.
A girlfriend about 20 years ago wrote in her diary.
“I wish James would just die. That would make this so much
easier. Whenever I kiss him I’m thinking of X”. Where
X was a good friend of mine. Of course I put up with it. We went
out for several more months. It’s just a diary, right? She
didn’t really mean it! I mean, c’mon. Who would think
about someone else when kissing my beautiful face? I confronted
her of course. She said, “why would you read through my personal
items?” Which was true! Why would I? Don’t have I have
any personal items through my own I could read through? Or a good
book, for instance, to take up my time and educate myself? Kiss,
kiss, kiss.

Why can’t
they have a good college course called BETRAYAL 101. I can teach
it. Topics we will cover: Betrayal by a business partner, betrayal
by investors, betrayal by a girlfriend (I’d bring in a special
lecturer to talk about betrayal by men, kind of like how Gwynneth
Paltrow does it in Glee), betrayal by children (since they cleverly
push the boundaries right at the limit of betrayal and you have
to know when to recognize that they’ve stepped over the line,
betrayal by friends/family (note to all the friends/family that
think I am talking about them, I AM NOT – this is a serious
academic proposal about what needs to be taught in college) –
you help them, then get betrayed – how to deal with that?

Then there
are the more subtle issues on betrayal – self-sabotage. How
you can make enough money to live forever and then repeatedly find
yourself in soup kitchens, licking envelopes, attending 12 step
meetings, taking medications, and finally reaching some sort of
spiritual recognition that it all doesn’t matter until the
next time you sink even lower. This might be in BETRAYAL 201. Or
graduate level studies. I don’t know. Maybe the Department
of Defense needs to give me a grant to work on this since that’s
who funds much of our education.

3. Oh shoot,
I was going to put Self-Sabotage into a third category and not make
it a sub-category of How to Be Betrayed. Hmmm, how do I write myself
out of this conundrum. College, after all, does teach one how to
put ideas into a cohesive “report” that is handed in and
graded. Did I form my thesis, argue it correctly, conclude correctly,
not diverge into things like “Kim Kardashian will never be
the betrayer, only the betrayed. But this brings me to: Writing.
Why can’t college teach people how to actually write. Some
of my best friends tell me college taught them how to think. Thinking
has a $200,000 price tag apparently and there is no room left over
for good writing.

And what is
good writing? It’s not an opinion. Or a rant. Or a thesis
with logical steps, a deep cavern underneath, beautiful horizons
and mountaintops at the top. Its blood. Its Carrie-style blood.
Where everyone has been fooling you until that exact moment when
n0w, with the psychic power of the written word, you spray pig blood
everywhere, at everyone, and most of all you are covered in blood
yourself, the same blood that pushed you and your placenta out of
your mother’s womb, pushed and shot out with you until just
the act of writing itself is a birth, a separation between the old
you and the new you – the you that can no longer take the words
back, the words that now must live and breathe and mature and either
make something of themsleves in life, or remain one of the little
blips that reminds us of how small we really are in an infinite
universe. [See also, 33
Unusual Tips to Be a Better Writer
]

4. Dinner
Parties.
How come i never learned about dinner parties in college.
Sure, there were parties among other people who looked like me and
talked like me and thought like me – other college students
of my age and rough background. But Dinner Parties as an adult are
a whole new beast. There are drinks and snacks beforehand where
small talk has to disguise itself as big talk and then there’s
the parts where you KNOW that everyone is equally worried about
what people think about them but that still doesn’t help at
those moments when you talk and you wonder what did people think
of ME? Nobody cares, you tell yourself, intellectually raffling
through pages of self-help blogs in your mind that told you that
nobody gives **** about you.

But still,
why don’t we have a class where there’s Dinner Party after
Dinner Party and you learn how to talk at the right moments, say
smart things, be quiet at the right moments, learn to excuse yourself
during the mingling so you can drift from person to person. Learn
how to interrupt a conversation without being rude. Learn how to
thank the host so you can be invited to the next party. And so on.
Which brings me to:

5. Networking.
Did it really take 20 years after I graduated college before
someone wrote a book, “Never Eat Alone.” Why didn’t
Jesus write that book. Or Plato. Then we might’ve read it in
religious school or it would’ve been one of those “big
Thinkers” we need to read in college so we can learn how to
think. I still don’t know how to network properly so this paragraph
is small. I’m classified under the DSM VI as a “social
shut-in”. I’d like to get out and be social but when the
moment comes, I can only make it out the door about 1 in ten times.
I always say, “I’d love to get together” but then
I don’t know how to do it. Perhaps because not one dollar of
my $100,000 spent on not learning how to program a computer was
also not spent on learning how to network with people. [See also,
my recent TechCrunch article, "9
Ways to be a Super-Connector
"]

Read
the rest of the article

December
1, 2011

The
Best of James Altucher

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