Stop. Whining. Now.

I hear so much whining about student loans. There are only two ways to go into debt for school:

  1. Voluntarily
  2. Fraud

If someone took out loans in your name without your permission, you’re a victim of fraud and need to deal with that through the legal system.

Otherwise, you signed up voluntarily. Even if you went to a predatory school that lied about some future guaranteed success. You borrowed money to buy a bad product. Learn from that.

We don’t have a student loan crisis. We have a personal responsibility crisis.

When I graduated, I owed more than my HOUSEHOLD income. Not just my income, but my wife’s too. The minimum payment was bigger than our rent! Two and a half years later? We’re within a few months of being completely debt free.

We paid every penny.

How?

Magic: we lived on less than we made. You can too. You might not like what that means for your standard of living, but don’t mistake your preferences for an inability to make your payment. You are not a victim. You have power in your life. Excercise that power and earn the life you dream of!!

A list of things you should know:

  • I haven’t purchased new shoes since 2011 (other than my rock climbing shoes which I saved up for)
  • The newest tablets in our house are yellow and have lines printed on them. We do have an iPad 2 that I won in a raffle…
  • The most reliable computer we own is a $35 Rasperry Pi.
  • My wife, son, and I eat on $600/month. That includes any restaurants (lol), diapers and formula.
  • If we can’t drive to it and sleep in a tent, we don’t travel there.
  • We cook our own food on a portable stove when we travel.
  • I brew my own coffee (the horror!!). It costs me less for two weeks than a single cup from the ‘Bucks.
  • My family car (that’s right, we have ONE), was manufactured in 2005.

… the list goes on.

Even with these “radical” lifestyle decisions, we weren’t making enough progress.

So I took on extra PAID work. That’s the best place to go when you need money, to work! My current load is 1.5 times my colleagues’. Yep, I’m working half of a second full-time teaching job.

The point? You can do this too. You can do this too. You. Can. Do. This. Too.

It’s not easy. It’s not always fun. But you can do it.

I want so much more for you

It’s the last day of classes! You’ve got exams, and then break. Well done. However, the most important learning of the semester hasn’t happened yet. Whether you aced it, scraped by, or failed, I want so much more for you than “I tried hard.”

  • “I tried hard” takes away your power. It’s a myth you tell yourself, suggesting that your performance was limited by external factors.
  • “I tried hard” is an excuse. It’s a way of letting yourself off the hook for a result that you don’t like.
  • “I tried hard” focuses your attention on the results, rather than the process. It’s so vague that it values perspiration over performance.

Winners focus on the process, not the results

The most important thing you can do before you pack up and head home for break is reflect. Sit down for a half hour and write about your experience. Better yet, record a video of yourself talking about it. Here’s what you should focus on:

  1. How did you spend your time this semester? Estimate how much time went to the various categories in your life (class, study, work, social, leisure…).
  2. Are there areas that deserved more or less time?
  3. What did you actually do when you sat down to do schoolwork? Did you read the text book before working a homework problem? Did you make outlines? Search the web for solutions or forums?
  4. What parts of your learning process worked, and which didn’t?

And now the key: write down a plan for next semester.

If you start with the play-by-play of what you did this semester, you can usually spot the weak point in the system without much trouble. Edit that part. Next semester, use this as a checklist for action.

Congrats on making it this far! Spend a few minutes reflecting on the process that got you here, make some edits, and then crush your exams! Break is coming soon…

Failing that class was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

36%. That was my grade going into the final exam. Not even a perfect score was enough to pass the course.

And so I went to the professor to beg.

“No.”

But if I fail, I won’t have the prerequisite for all of the classes I am supposed to take next semester!

“No.”

But then I’ll have to take the semester off!

“No.”

But then I’ll have to take an EXTRA YEAR!

“No.”

What will I tell my friends and family?

Welcome to the 5-year plan.

I took the next semester off and repeated that single course, with the same professor. Awesome. I was furious. How could he do this to me!? Did he have any idea what he cost me? A year of my life and thousands of dollars! I’m paying those student loans right now.

Except:

The internship that I worked while I repeated that course was my first: it set me up for a successful career by teaching me professionalism, time management, balance, punctuality, personal finance, leadership.

I met one of my dearest friends working there.

Taking that semester off aligned my schedule with Justin, who became my best friend. We took every class for the rest of college together, supporting each other and encouraging each other to learn as much as we could. We also had a lot of fun and took turns as best man in each other’s weddings.

This also aligned my schedule with my roommate Chris. About a year later,

Chris introduced me to my wife!

I can keep pulling at this thread: the extra summer gave me an extra internship, which aligned me with the start of a new research project, which led to my senior design project, which led to grad school, and my career as a professor…

The consequences of failing that class? A job I love, a best friend, a wife who loves me for me, my son. I can live with that.

Every class I teach requires the class that I failed as a prerequisite!

Apart from the amazing coincidences (I don’t believe in those, theres a Plan), I learned something important. I learned what it takes to do college right. And I did it. I earned an A in that class and solidified my approach to learning.

Failure isn’t the end.

So don’t give up. Learn what works and what doesn’t, hustle, and try again! I had no idea at the time, but so much of my life can be traced back to that professor and the word,

“No.”

If you’d like to see me talk about this, head over to YouTube:

https://youtu.be/HGgSXzCcnzU

This is a 12-minute recording of a lecture I gave on the last day of class this semester. If you’re new here, then this is the best possible way for you to get to know me. If you’ve been watching for a while, then I want you to know that I am more proud of this video than anything I’ve ever posted. Take a look and let me know what you think!

I can’t wait for this semester to be over

… is the number one thing I hear in the halls this week. “I can’t wait for this semester to be over!” I get it. We’re all tired. A college semester is a lot like a marathon: an unrelenting hustle of effort that doesn’t really let up until it’s over.

But.

You get one life. One December 6, 2017. You have one less day on this earth than you did yesterday.

So why are we looking forward to it being over? I think we all need an attitude adjustment.

Why are we excited for the end?

  1. Classes are stressful (everything is judged on our permanent records, we have no control over what is demanded of us, conveyor belt of crud)
  2. Classes are hard work (and you can only work hard for so long before you give out. Ask John Henry. Willpower is a finite resource in the micro AND the macro)
  3. Life after finals looks nice (family, friends, free time)

So how do we embrace the present instead of enduring it?

  1. Balance. Stop putting off the other things that matter to you in the interest of school. You are a whole person and your family, friends, health, spirituality, hobbies, finances need attention too. You’re really unhappy when you don’t make progress in these areas for extended periods. You need to grow these Life Accounts to be effective.
  2. Essentialism. Greg McKeown coined the term to point out that we clutter our lives with nonessential hard work. A fancy figure that will be on page 47 of a report. Animations in a presentation that would work without them. A five paragraph email when two sentences would have sufficed. Stop turning half hour jobs into four hours worth of work and then complaining that you’re too busy.
  3. Meaning. Remind yourself of WHY you’re working hard. Hard work isn’t a bad thing. We’re not setting ourselves up for a life of clock-punching. We’re pursuing our passions, careers filled with meaning and purpose. You might not have a clear picture, but if you replace the image of fear and despair behind the fog of uncertainty, it makes what you do today feel a lot more powerful.
  4. Drive. Find a reason that you’re excited to do the work. You’ll work hard in life. Work on things you love and keep in mind that every experience is training for a powerful moment that you just haven’t lived yet. Love the hustle. Most people who reach the finish line wish they could go back. Ask the Broke lottery winners and unhappy multimillionaire athletes whose lives fall apart. Love the process, live for the hunt.

Hang in there. But love today instead of wishing it were gone forever.

Give me Legacy, not Luxury

I’ve been asked “why?” several times this week. Why did I start the Intentional Academy? Why do I wake up at 5am and work for free 2 hours every day?

Legacy.

When I first started, I learned an interesting lesson about #entrepreneurs. They love exotic cars and luxury watches. They have plans to be millionaires or financially independent by a certain time.

The desperate situation that most students face leads to a very sad consequence: an inward-focused mentality. When you have less than enough (or at least perceive that you do) you must focus your attentions on bringing in, providing for yourself. This grows into a longing for a day when you “won’t be broke anymore,” or “don’t eat ramen anymore,” or …

The next thing you know, you’re comparing yourself to the wealthy and thinking that the things they do and have are good goals for your life.

I say SCREW THE CAR AND DAMN THE WATCH!

Give me legacy, not luxury.

I wake up and write things down because I want to help. I make these videos every day because someday my children will be able to watch them. Someday my GRANDCHILDREN will be able to watch them.

I could get hit by a bus today and my son will have a library of love and wisdom from his father. Lots of terminally ill people try to do this before it’s too late. Here’s a thought:

We’re all terminal!

Do you have any idea what I would give to see what my grandpa thought and experienced every day when he was my age?

Do you have any idea how disappointed his generation would be in us!? We have the most powerful communication tool in the history of our species in our pockets. We have access to the entirety of human knowledge 24/7. We can say anything to anyone, without asking permission. We can learn to be and do anything we want. And we use it to send emojis and GIFs and gripe about #firstworldproblems.

I’m documenting the journey.

I’m showing you how I built my success. But I don’t measure it in watches and cars. There is a world beyond me. A world full of needs that only I can meet. And I won’t rest until I’ve met that need for as many people as I can.

There is a world beyond you. A world full of needs that only you can meet. Don’t rest until you’ve met that need for as many people as you can.