Hustler's MBA: a "modern curriculum" for four years of self-directed learning

"The Hustler's MBA" is a modest proposal for a four-year alternative to university for recent high-school grads. Its proponent and originator, Tynan, suggests that four years spent learning to play poker, travelling, reading books for pleasure, writing daily, learning to program, socializing, eating well, chasing your curiosity, and starting a business is a "modern curriculum" that will provide you with useful skills, an inflation-proof income source, and "produce people better prepared for real life than college."

Apart from playing poker and eating well, that more or less describes the four years I spent after high-school (once I'd dropped out of several universities, that is), and it did serve me very well indeed.

2. Travel a lot. For the first year, learn a foreign language that interests you. Start with three months of Pimsleur tapes, then get a local tutor. That should cost about $1000 for the first year, and will yield results FAR greater than a class in school. After the first year your self-education will be paid for by poker, so start traveling for three months every year. That should cost around $8k at the most, probably more like $5-6k. When traveling, education comes to you in the form of perspective. You understand other cultures and other people, and will get to practice your foreign language in its native setting. I would also combine travel with watching documentaries about the history of that place. I learned a lot about Rome after visiting, and now I'm kicking myself for not educating myself first.

3. Read every single day for at least an hour. Books get lumped in with other reading like magazines and blogs, but they're actually far more valuable. The amount of value an author compresses into a book is often astounding. There are books I've paid $10 for that have completely changed my life. If you read for 1-2 hours on average, you'll read around a hundred books per year. I do this now and find it to be one of the most valuable uses of my time. Read at least 50% non-fiction, but fiction is good, too. In school you would probably read 12 books a year at most.

The Hustler's MBA


    1.  Tynan gets a lot of shit for this (rightfully, I think) but continues to defend the pickup lifestyle. As a 41 year old dude, it just screams “douchebag” to me though.

      1.  On the /other/ hand, isn’t manipulating other people as if they were just tools or obstacles an important skill to learn if one wants to be succesful in, say, the business world? The problem here is that he’s not offering up a comparible experience in concentrated manipulative douchebaggery for the ladies.

  1. This is just terrible. Does going to college mean you can’t do any of these other things? And is his advice really “live off of playing poker”? And why is it ok to pay for “classes” but not for college? Also, I guess getting “real world” experience (like playing poker, and since college exists outside of the real world somehow) doesn’t really prepare you to treat women like humans instead of “pickup”.

    1. Good point – are there any bigger suckers at a poker table than drunken frat guys?

      I hope no one tells him how much of the college experience is exuberant sex.

      No “negging” necessary in the pheromone fishbowl.

      But I guess one need not attend school to get those side benefits. Oooh… there’s an idea for a sequel… “The Playboy’s MFA – The College Experience Without Tuition.”

  2. He is very optimistic about how easy it to make $45-$60 an hour playing poker for the rest of your life.

    I would say that perhaps one person out of two hundred has the skill, dedication and insight to play poker profitably at those levels. Most players don’t live anywhere with the necessary loose, action-filled games you would need to earn that much consistently. In addition, you are competing with other more experienced people who are also playing day in and day out while the house is taking a rake and you’re paying out tips. If you’re very unlucky, you find out that you’re a degenerate gambler and gamble away your wealth.I’m pretty sure that anyone who knows anything about poker knows that he’s glibly advising you to do something that might be as hard and take as many resources as becoming a concert pianist or a champion tournament backgammon player.

    1.  Just talking out of my butt, I wonder whether it might not be more profitable (across a decade) to attempt to make money by engaging in “pick-up” games that are not highly codified for most players — games like dice, pennies, bill serial-no. poker, maybe the occasional  coin flips for cash with a drunk.  One could only engage in games when the conditions were favorable and under one’s own terms.

      I’m not saying that this would necessarily be profitable, of course — one would have to combine soft “con man” type skills with a lot of luck — but they don’t call it gambling for nothing.

      1. Most people are highly skeptical of those sort of games, also known as prop bets. Also, it is illegal to gamble in most of the US in such a fashion. At best, you could pick up small bets here and there.

        The average people who enjoying gambling at high stakes do so in a casino because it takes rules ambiguities and uncertainty of payment out of the picture. If you wanted real action with prop bets, you would have to find a group of degenerate gamblers who gamble on anything, like Titanic Thompson or Doyle Brunson. Here, however, your opponents can easily be more skillful at handicapping as you, violently sociopathic or not pay out on wagers.

        The consensus with most gamblers is that you must either be highly skilled and disciplined or highly unscrupulous or charming to make a living at gambling. For most people, it would be a better use of time pursuing contract bridge or flower arranging. Most of the wannabe gamblers end up “lunchpail pimps” who depend on women to pay their bills and spend all day spending a dollar to chase a dime.

        I’ve been playing poker for ten years, and most of the young skillful players I knew ten years ago have gone broke countless times and don’t play poker seriously now. The vast majority of games online and off are small stakes with high rakes, making perfect play a nearly break-even proposition. The people at the zenith of the cash games and tournaments are 500 people out of a field of 20 million. 

        If anyone tells you that learning to play poker is quick cash, and not a hobby that can be very expensive and frustrating, they are spinning you a fairy tale.

        If this guy can produce evidence of a $50,000 payout from a poker site, I might take him seriously. Frankly, he sounds like a joker with no credibility.

  3. 1-2 hours a day of reading equals approximately 100 books a year?

    I read at least an hour a day, and there is not a hope in hell that I read two books a week unless they’re all about as long as the average John Wyndham.

      1. arguably, if you can read an entire page of something in under a minute, it’s either pretty breezy or substance-free. or maybe a jack chick pamphlet.

        1. When you read 100 books a year, you naturally get faster at reading. Just finished Crime and Punishment at about that pace. Some stuff, like business books, goes a bit slower if you’re highlighting/bookmarking.

          1. “I took a speed reading course and read ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes.  It involves Russia.”
            -Woody Allen

        2. No, not really. For fiction it is just training and you get better with time.  

          For non-fiction  it depends on the content and redundancy.  

          In my experience, American non-fiction books aimed at the interested layman or beginner have lots of redundancy. Those can be read pretty fast.

          And it’s not about knowing everyting about the matter, just getting exposed to it and to gather a few ideas is immensely helpful, in my experience, as long as you don’t kid yourself in being an expert. Just because that knowledge *about* that knowlegde will come back to you later and enable you to look things up.

          1. Again pure comedy. The older you get the more you realize it is about quality not quantity. I find my reading speed cut significantly just by the fact that I put the book down and “meditate” on the scenes the reading has conjured in an effort to better understand and fix the material in my head.

            Reading at breakneck pace without allowing questions or observations to pop up in your mind is akin to scarfing down junk food in an empty calorie binge.

          2. I’m really sorry that you can’t read fast and think at the same time.

            What’s really impressive is that you can do both those things and still have time left over to be so self-congratulatory.

          3.  It really, really depends on the book. There are plenty of books where I can max out quality and still read much faster than this. When reading with the wife, which is already slower, we go at about two pages a minute including commentary and discussion,

            Other books, I”m lucky if I get through a page in five minutes, and every couple of pages I’ll have to stop and review to make sure things sunk in correctly.

            It’s all about information density and what you’re reading /for/.

          4. I’m with you. I *can* read a page a minute, I choose not to. I will never understand why some insist on treating reading like a foot race.

            If it’s JK Rowling or John Grisham, yeah, I’ll read as fast as possible, so as to get the least out of it.

          5. This. 

            Reading in and of itself is not an evolved trait, but our brains can be trained to do it. We progress from recognizing individual letters, to chaining those letters to form words, and then, with enough exposure, the brain starts developing shortcuts to recognize groups of letters all at once — which is the reason why gmaes scuh as ltteer smarcbinlg work so well — then groups of words.

            This is why many people, excepting those with genuine neural issues, are slow readers and some are fast: it all comes down to the frequency of reading books. The more training, the faster you get.

            Even books with high information content can be read quickly — reading is only information input, and there’s nothing stopping anyone from cogitating on the information once read. I often read a book fully, and then as the information percolates, come to realize the beauty or importance of some points sometimes days or weeks later. And at that point, as Peter pointed out, I can go back to that section and grab some details I might have missed.

          6. If you’re finishing Infinite Jest in a week, you’ve missed a life experience.  Maybe your eyes scanned all the words, but you didn’t understand them all, look them up, and re-read scenes.  all of this speed-reading is braggadocio.  I’d love to discuss anything from any book you or Tynan have “read”.

  4. Language tapes? I mean the thing about using language in a natural setting, fine, but learning crappy phrases from a tape? Assuming he didn’t really mean from an actual tape, though…

      1. I’m way behind you, plodding through the Parliamo Bristol.
        “I turned around, and there was my bike – GONE!”
        “See those two houses on the hill?  Mine’s the one in the middle!”

    1. Learning from a tape/mp3 is a good way to understand the structure and pronunciation of a language. The vocabulary tends to be too formal/business oriented, though. So it’s a starting point– get a good grasp of the fundamentals, and then get a tutor or do stuff like ChinesePod. I got my start with Chinese and Japanese this way.

      1.  Pronunciation, cadence, yes, but structure I am not sure you can get passively like that. I guess my main point was that when listening to a language to learn it, you should use authentic speech to get a real feel for it. Watching lots of films helps. So, change Pimsleur to Netflix? Although in the case of German you would get a really demented sense of language and vocabulary based on Netflix offerings. ;)

  5. You can distill this down to one piece of advice: Learn stuff. Problem is, except for programming (and, arguably, poker), very little of what he advocates translates to marketable skills. Sure, they’re important life skills but nothing you can put on a resume (unless you count knowing a foreign language). Oh, and the last thing the world needs is more amateur, self-taught programmers.

    1. So, his advice will not prepare anybody to be a better corporate drone?  I don’t think that was actually his objective.

    2.  There are people who think like this — with good reason, I might add (or recognize), kmoser — and there are people who undertake risky endeavors with the knowledge that there’re always restaurants and group homes that are hiring.  These alternatives do not offer a sexy or very well paying alternative, but on the other hand you can’t win if you don’t play the game.

      I’ve tried myself, and don’t know yet whether I’ve won or lost.

    3. Socializing, starting a business, have a strong international knowledge base that allows you to connect with people around the world, hell, even emotional manipulation  may not be marketable, per se.

      But they are /profitable/, which is far, far superior. Why bother showing skills when you have stuff that will let you show results? Marketable skills, at least the kind you need to /start/ doing a job, are easy enough to come by as needed.

      1. Socializing and having a strong international knowledge base are not profitable unless they’re directly tied to an activity that makes you income. Starting a business sounds profitable in theory but I would bet against the average new business. Most have a low survival rate.

  6. Step 0: be the right gender/race/class to leverage the privilege to be able to live off what others must sweat through and build.

    This is first-world slummery at its best.

  7. you’re ASPIRING to be an MBA? I don’t let those people into my home if i can help it, and when i have to i make sure to inventory the sterno and good silverware afterwards.

  8. If you think poker player/globe trotter/programmer-in-nothing-specific-but-hey-computers-are-a-thing/entrepreneur is a reasonable career path then odds are that yes, college is not for you.

  9. The real secret is: if you are an actual hustler, you will do all that and more just as a byproduct of being alive. 

    Hustling, the Protestant work ethic, “think and grow rich,” whatever. Barring death or dismemberment, people with a lot of drive and some small portion of luck tend to make it.

    And within this meritocratic Thunderdome of human existence, if you require a blog post titled “Hustler’s MBA” to set you on your path, I daresay you are not such an elect personage…bitch

    1. “Meritocratic Thunderdome of human existence.”  Man, but I’d love to hack a teleprompter to slip that phrase into one of Paul Ryan’s speeches.

      ::hack hack hack::

      Never mind.  It’s already there.

  10. A good friend spent several months playing poker in S America.  Serious 12-hour slogs almost every day at some suburban casino.  The local players honed their game, and he got sick of poker.  I think he likes his current office job better.

  11. 12 books a year in college?  I had single classes with that much.  And still read for fun.  I should likely stop before I start yelling at kids to get off my lawn. 

    1.  I thought that he meant twelve books in addition to one’s course load.  One’s professors would have to make a concerted effort to lean on journals if one were to read twelve books/year as a history student, anyhow.

  12. I was wondering what he meant by ‘pickup’.  Some kind of douchey pickup women thing?  The guy’s article makes some serious errors.  But his post is another angle on a point I’ve been seeing for awhile – that we are in a ridiculously inflated education bubble.

    Seriously, how many people with undergrad degrees can honestly say it has made their lives better?  Especially when balanced against whatever else you might have been doing in those 3-5 years.

    Not that education isn’t important, but this mindless certification insanity our culture currently emphasizes is approaching absurdity.  And education does not have to come from a college or university.

    Sadly, we are now in a bizarro world where one needs a bachelor degree to get a job that barely uses stuff we learned in high school, only because every damn person and their dog has a degree.  And it is true that most degrees – outside some highly specialized disciplines – do not prepare us for things like self-employment or anything other than run of the mill unstable/insecure office jobs.  There has to be a better way.

    But I seriously doubt the better way is to become a pickup artist/ poker player/ uncle Buck style sleazy guy at the bowling alley.

    1. I agree, there are too many jobs requiring college degrees that really don’t require college-level training. However, my and my friends’ experiences in technical fields is that a bachelor’s degree by itself isn’t that useful; you’re not going to hire an engineer with a bachelor’s degree and have them generate useful designs right away (I was naive enough at one point to expect this). That is, the BA/BS is not enough, or isn’t focused enough on the right things.

      However, for the reasons you point out (needing a bachelor’s degree to get a job) means that getting an undergrad degree absolutely makes people’s lives better. It makes them eligible for traditional employment, which vastly expands their opportunities. Some people can do very well with an entrepreneurial lifestyle, but those people are exceptions, like people who make a living as performing musicians or as professional athletes. I hope the situation changes (less required education for jobs that don’t need it, more required education for jobs that do). But today, I couldn’t  recommend that someone with the right skills and disposition to go to college  do anything else.

      1. …getting an undergrad degree absolutely makes people’s lives better. It makes them eligible for traditional employment…

        That’s one hell of an expensive work tax.

  13. “The Hustler’s MBA” is a modest proposal

    So it’s satire, right? It is quite funny, I guess. Especially the bit about how a high school graduate would have $5000 to gamble with.

      1.  I noticed, but wasn’t sure if the article treated itself that way, or if Cory just presented it that way. It /seems/ to be serious… but then, most modest proposals do.

      2. Probably because either A) some of us did not actually read the entirety of the linked article (guilty– I’d rather be accused of being lazy than stupid) or B) We’ve all seen stuff like this before, so it’s hard to tell. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “college is a waste of money, make millions traveling and programming computers instead” on blogs like slashdot or even here.

        (Now to go back and actually read the thing.)

      3. I noticed, and reflected on the amount of money it is likely my nieces will be handed upon graduation from high school.  Knowing their mother, they won’t be sitting down at a poker table and betting away the money.  I’m hoping they’ll consider taking a year to do ‘The Grand Tour’. I met alot of trust fund babies in college, who while much younger than me, seemed far better educated, in part because they had traveled extensively in other countries.  I agree with that point in Tynan’s curriculum.

    1. The author of the article never mentions the phrase “modest proposal” at all.  Perhaps that is Cory’s perception of it.  My perception of it is that it’s insane.

    2. God forbid that I defend this part of the article (that Americans almost pathologically cannot turn down a bet is part of what’s wrong with our country), he’s not recommending losing $5k on poker as an alternative to just anything. He’s proposing it as an alternative to spending, frankly, a lot more than that on an MBA. And while you won’t learn business planning or any of the relevant law from losing $5k on poker, it probably will teach you an awful lot of the applied psychology part of it. (Of, specifically, the worst part of management psychology: how to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do through combination of distraction, thought derailing, and the use of dishonest carrots and emotionally manipulative sticks.)

      1. Try getting a scholarship or government guaranteed loan to play poker, as opposed to going to college.  Oh, and he suggested that he wouldn’t even go to college if it was free.  Lunacy.

    3. If they can’t get $5000 together for poker, all of which isn’t needed up front– that’s a maximum likely net loss in year one, they probably shouldn’t be paying for college, either. It’s offered an alternative framework for someone who was going to go to (and pay for) college. 

  14. People obviously have different experiences in college.  I had largely positive ones, felt I got good value from my time, also had a decent scholarship, so it didn’t bankrupt me or my folks.  I feel that, to paraphrase Twain, if you let your education get in the way of your learning, you’re doing it wrong.  Three semesters and picked up no skills?  The school was inflexible so he couldn’t learn?  Maybe a really bad school or social environment, but his experience may represent growing up that he had yet to do rather than a problem with the school.  Many schools offer an independent major if you want to color outside the lines.  You can also audit classes that you’re curious about, but not sure if you want to commit to them.  I understand getting a degrees is not essential to living or making a living, but you are excluding some choices as career paths from your life if you don’t go to college.  You’ll have significantly fewer opportunities in science if you don’t get a degree.

    I drank from the academic firehose and it still helps and enriches my life.  I’m still learning. It’s nice that he emphasizes learning is good, but nothing he’s doing would have been prevented by him also going to college.

    The poker economy theory is flawed.  It doesn’t make money it takes it from someone.  Nice if you’re the winning guy, but you may spend a couple years and a lot of tuition money finding out that you’re the guy providing others with an income of 80k.

    Also, pickup, but not if you’re a female?  That’s quite sexist, surely there are enterprising young women out there who could similarly benefit from calculatedly manipulating intimate partners.  I’m suprised none of them have thought of that. 

    Also this:
     “I thnk the chance of being self-sufficient and prepared for “real life” is about 90%. I’d estimate that non-laywer/doctor college is somewhere around 50-70%. So, like anything, this plan is not totally foolproof, but I think it’s a lot better and cheaper than the alternative.”
    One class I took was statistics.  One of the many benefits of doing so is that you get to laugh at idiots pulling made up statistics out their ass. 

    1.  Yup. 90% of the population can make $80k p/a off the remaining 10% … playing poker?

      They must *love* guys like this in Vegas.

  15. Ummm… if you aren’t doing most of these things while getting your degree you might be doing it a bit wrong.

    I mean if you have to be taught how to have a life…

  16. Huh, I learned how to read in college. I mean, really read, not just look at words on a page. It’s not impossible to become an autodidact, but if you are capable of such a feat, you would probably excel in college. For most people this just seems like a great way to become an insufferable, semi-educated, know-it-all blowhard. Which I guess is the definition of a hustler… so yeah, never mind, go for it.

  17. An interesting read, perhaps reading between the lines we could infer that following your interests and indulging in learning about them is always going to make you a happier person, regardless of whether it makes you financially richer.  Travel to broaden your perspectives, read to back them up with knowledge.  Be interested in what interests you and become interesting as a by-product.

    1. I read this too more in the spirit of the message, and less the actual curriculum set forth.  Bored people are boring.  Interest and engaged people are interesting and engaging.

      I’ve known alot of people who are not well educated in the formal sense, who were very interesting, skilled, and funny, and lead happy lives with sufficient income for their needs.  I’ve known people with degrees up the wazoo, who seemed to know little beyond their educations, lousy social skills, divorced (again), and although they had plenty of money were not very content. 

      There is some wisdom in Tynan’s advice to’ follow your bliss’, if not his approach, then one of one’s own.

  18. I’d like to see hundreds of thousands of kids living off of their poker earnings from each other… So the guy is talking bullshit mostly or has invented perpetual motion (again). However doing things on his to do list whilst studying for a degree or after you start work are reasonable suggestions.

  19. I’m sympathetic with Tynan’s and think it is valid in many ways, but how many of you would like to be operated on by a self-taught surgeon?

  20. I think we need to get away from this idea that one set of rules/advice is good for all people. Just as ‘college plus advanced degree’ is not the best path for all people, the self-directed ‘traveling gambler entrepreneur’ is not the best path for all people. I will say that I think the chance that a randomly selected person will be successful his way is very small. But others say this about college, I guess. 

  21. In response to the full article:
    1.  If everybody went out and decided to play poker for a year, almost none of them would make the kind of money you’re suggesting.  It is absurd to suggest that everybody is “virtually guaranteed” to make $45-$60 an hour playing poker.  An ESPN article estimates the number of people making a living playing poker at 600 to 3000 a year in the entire USA.
    2.  So, you could buy tapes and study languages with a tutor.  Or, you could pay for a college class – a similar cost, with more upside.  Also, most people I’ve met don’t have a few thousand dollars just laying around a year after high school to travel the world.  But many universities offer junior year abroad.
    3-8.  I agree with most of what you suggest here, but there is no reason you can’t do all of these things while in college.  In fact, most people do these things in college, except probably #7.  (PS – I don’t agree with “pickup” but #6 advocates being social in general, which I agree with)
    9.  Not everybody can start a successful business.  The success rate of new businesses is less than 50%.  A failed business can put somebody into bankruptcy.  Are you advocating a society where half of us declare bankruptcy after starting a failed business, and have no college degree?
    Your path to success is unique, but it is extremely exceptional.  This will not work for everybody.  In fact, it’s highly unlikely to work for most people.  You have suggested spending a year playing poker as “virtually guaranteed” to make people money.  You often assume people have extra $5000 or more laying around to try things like poker as a career or traveling the world or starting a business.  
    You are more likely to succeed by getting the best grades possible in high school, then going to a school where you get a really good scholarship.  Plus, the government guarantees loans for college.  They won’t guarantee loans for you to gamble or travel the world.  Colleges often offer programs like a year abroad.  You get a lot from college.  Is it for everybody?  Probably not.  But I am certain that the extremely unlikely combination of playing poker, traveling the world, and starting a business gives you a monumentally lower percentage of success than going to college.

    1.  i just want to point out that there are these things called “community colleges” and “city colleges” which provide 80% of the value of a four-year institution at about 15% of the cost.

      if you’re actually interested in learning, and are self motivated, and can handle having to do some of the legwork yourself when you run into a professor who’s not totally together, then it’s Your Best Education Value. especially since you can get loans for it if you need it (well, unless you have a conviction for distribution or manufacture of controlled substances, but thats another story.)

      plus you don’t run into nearly as many aspiring-MBA-fucknozzles there. it is, in the parlance of our times, “real”

      1. I agree with you on that.  In fact, many of the city colleges have teachers that actually are good at teaching.  Many university professors are great at their research, but they almost see teaching as a bother.

  22. Whether or not the author got the details right, I want to say this in defense of the kind of thinking behind it:

    As Thomas Geohegan pointed out in /Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?/, part of the accepted bipartisan consensus economic planning for the United States of America has long been that (a) we must push everybody in America into getting a college degree and (b) there is no future, except as part of the lowest part of the underclass, for anybody who doesn’t have that degree. And, as Geohegan pointed out, despite decades of this propaganda, combined with billions of dollars in aid and incentives, plus the highly visible threat of poverty for those who don’t comply, the best we’ve been able to do is to get our college graduation rate up to around 27%. Which is to say (and I’m embarrassed that I had to have his book point this out to me), the bipartisan consensus in the United States is that we will throw away, completely and utterly fail to provide any economic survivability for, 73% of our population.

    If you identify yourself, early on in life, as part of that 73%, the 73% who will simply never graduate from college or who wouldn’t thrive in a workplace designed for college graduates? Then this proposed life curriculum is at least an attempt at a thought experiment for how to find a niche in which maybe you can thrive. It’s not a niche that will work for very many people, maybe not even as many as 27%. But if you already know you’re not part of the blessed 27%, maybe it’s worth trying?

    I’ve been recommending, as a better curriculum, Sudhir Venkatesh’s /Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor,/ which does a better job of explaining the job skills, personal skills, and work ethic you will need to survive if you get stuck in a post-economic environment, as developed and institutionalized by people whose grandparents were among the first Americans to live in a place where all of the jobs and all of the stores and all of the banks and all of the rest of the economic infrastructure were withdrawn, who have survived (if not thrived) for 50 years in the post-economic Chicago south side.

  23. I like the comment that one employer gave about hiring someone with an arts education – he immediately dismissed arts degrees as worthless, and watched them argue for the skills they had actually learned. If you can demonstrate that you are self motivated enough to have effectively taught yourself a degree, there are probably a number of employers out there who will respect you more than someone who has sat through 3-4 years of classes.

    I did find there were a number of valuable things I got from university, such as access to a large paper and online library along with guidance on how to use it, but arguably this is much less the preserve of institutions now than it was before. The guided learning and academic environment were also huge benefits to me, as I have mild dyslexia and ADHD and found the structure allowed me to do more than I would usually be able to manage alone. One of the frustrating things was that my language course was largely taught in English, so it’s quite possible that I could have done better by travelling and taking a language course in the country itself. However, a lot of effort was made to ensure that we understood the language and culture at an academic level, so when I did go abroad I found my ability to speak at a more formal register was better than many foreigners who had already spent years in the country.

    I’d have thought that the real take home from this piece is to actively be interesting in your life choices and ambitious about educating yourself. Whether you do that independently or as part of a college degree (it is a major part of what they are trying to teach you) is up to you.

  24. Reading 100 books a year is a good start. But, then, you would need to somehow already know how to identify good, current sources as well as foundational texts. And you would also want a curriculum with breadth as well as depth. Furthermore, it would help if you could discuss those books with people who have a similar level of knowledge on the subject and at least one expert to make sure you’re not getting anything wrong or chasing down dead ends. The company would also help you construct arguments about your reading and help you decide what you think about it. Also, I don’t imagine you would remember much or know what to do with this knowledge unless you applied it to sustained projects. Once you’re carrying out long-term research, it would be likely that you would start to slack off or lose interest at some point, so maybe you could get someone – perhaps the expert mentioned earlier – to encourage you to keep working through some sort of system of incentives. Finally, you would need access to a well-stocked library, including the latest academic journals. I wonder where all of that could be had…

  25. I spent six years as an undergrad. In that time, I learned fluent Japanese and German, travelled all over Japan and Europe, acquired enough computer programming skills to make a very good living as a software developer, fell in love several times, and learned enough fundamentals of history, poetry, music criticism, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, mathematics, and any number of other subjects to enable me to read and understand books on those topics and thus continue to learn about those subjects to whatever extent they pique my interest. Oh, and I got my first business license, too.

    Yes, you *can* go to university, shove one thumb up your ass and scrape by until your four years are up. That you get a degree at the end of that time is a disgrace, but it doesn’t mean a university is a bad place to learn. You’re comparing spending four years dedicated to learning a great deal by any means necessary in an unstructured environment to being a lazy piece of shit upon whom a liberal arts education is wasted. If you’re curious enough about the world and disciplined enough for the approach Tynan is suggesting to be a reasonable proposal, you can do everything he suggests while enrolled in college, and I’d suspect the vast majority of people would come out having learned more and been exposed to more as a result of the structured environment and the community of fellow travellers.

    1. Yep!

      I went to Uni when I was 19 to do a course. I barely paid attention, scraped through three of my subjects and did pretty well on the fourth due to a bit of intelligence. After 6 months I had pretty much stopped attending classes and dropped out. 

      Was that a worthwhile experience? Well I had some fun and I realised I wasn’t ready for university yet, but apart from that no.

      Fast forward a long time later as it took a while to figure out what I really wanted to learn. I’m currently nearing the end of my second year, I’ve devoured books on urban planning, transport, sustainability, and still managed to fit in a lot of good novels (not 100 books a year, but I like to actually read and think, not scan). I can hold my own in a debate on pretty much any of my interest areas. I’ve learnt to work well with a lot of very different sorts of people. I’ve made a lot of new friends, and social contacts, and I’m in Toronto on exchange for a semester, visiting Quebec and Montreal next week and then to the snow once the semester is finished.

      As to the self-taught programming advice, well that was one thing I did do in between the two stints at uni. Personally if I’d done it much longer I would have killed myself. God I hate coding.

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