What I Learned Flunking Out of College
You don’t have to know. Ever.
Your preferences change. Your opinions adjust based on life experience.
You don’t have to tell yourself that every school, every major, every choice, and every job is “the one.”
You might change your mind.
You may have made a bad decision. Maybe you felt pressured. Maybe you just wanted to say yes because you didn’t know when the next opportunity would come.
It’s all ok.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” — Stephen Hawking
Why I Flunked Out of College
I chose the wrong college for the wrong reasons.
I went to college to play basketball. Academics were a second thought to me. But I chose a rigorous academic school because I thought I would be a star there and that my grades would be passable, just like in high school.
I got mono the first day of my freshman year.
I was academically overmatched from the start. And unmotivated. Partly because I was sleeping 18 hours a day. Partly because I chose the wrong school. A business specialty school. I was taking accounting as a freshman.
Accounting plus mononucleosis = a slow, painful death.
My delusions of basketball grandeur were quickly demolished. When practice started (with me still sick on the sidelines) I realized that every player at this Division III school was the best player on their high school team.
Stardom was a fallacy.
The Nail in the Coffin
The rise and fall of my academic ignorance was constant for my two years at my first college. I wish someone would have said, “It’s ok. You picked the wrong school. Let’s find a different one.”
My dad was supportive, but he wanted me to succeed at this school. Because I was already there. And it was a good school. But later I would realize he didn’t care about that at all. He only wanted me to be happy (while getting a degree).
My last semester there I had to meet with my double secret academic probation officer and she asked me why my grades were so bad. I told her:
“I’m just not motivated. I don’t like any of my classes.”
She told me she didn’t believe me. She told me I should go to Australia and be a shepherd.
She wouldn’t acknowledge that this was just not the school for me.
No one likes to admit they made a bad decision. No one likes to admit they failed.
I didn’t really need to admit failure. My GPA while at my first college was, in consecutive order: 1.08, 2.08, 0.80, 1.44. Yes, one semester I got 3 D’s and an F.
What I Learned From Flunking Out of College
I learned that I didn’t know sh*t at 18. I was making decisions for the wrong reasons. But it was ok. All I did was flunk out of college. Technically, I transferred before they kicked me out, but staying wasn’t going to be an option.
I learned that I needed to ask for help and acknowledge that I was overmatched. I didn’t do either of these things.
I learned that the people charged with serving you academically really only want what is best for the school. If anyone else was told in college to go be a shepherd, let me know.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas A. Edison
What Changed My Trajectory
Fortunately my dad was a f*cking rockstar in life. He didn’t get down on me. He knew I had it inside me, whatever it was. He helped get me into another school, where my step-brother and best friend went.
I went from a business school to a liberal arts school. Night and day.
I was way better at math in high school. I did way better on the math portion of the SAT. So I thought business was better for me. Because I didn’t know anything. And neither do standardized tests.
I opened myself up to sociology, psychology, poetry, philosophy. My mind was opened in a way it never had been before.
I was one of those kids who was bored off his a** in school. I was an outside-the-box thinker. Standardized education put me to sleep.
My first college was rigid. Buttoned up.
My second college was loose. Sweatpants.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill
My trajectory changed because I had to admit failure. I had to admit I made the wrong choice for the wrong reasons. The pressure was gone.
Why It Applies to Every Job You Will Ever Have
We all work jobs we hate at some point. But what we don’t do is admit we chose the wrong job for the wrong reasons.
You don’t have to quit in a fiery disaster of a resignation letter to create a plan to get out. If you know you said yes when you should have said no. Or if you took the job as a monetary stopgap. That’s ok.
Tell yourself it’s ok. And slowly look for something that suits you better.
The biggest problem with our everlasting job search is that we constantly convince ourselves that the next job is the best one.
We do it for houses. We say we will live here forever. Then we have a kid. Then another. And we have swinging chairs and bouncy gyms out the butt. Every next choice doesn’t have to be overqualified as a forever choice.
We do it in all of our relationships. They are “the one.” Then a week later you realize you have nothing in common. And you never did. You made the wrong choice for the wrong reason.
Let all of your choices in life be “until they don’t work.”
It’s not pessimism. It’s realism.
The reason why we are so devastated when a job, partner or idea doesn’t work out is because we convince ourselves it is the best and will change our life in all the best ways.
But it won’t. Chances are it will stop working at some point. Hopefully not, but probably. Either way, you will be ok.
It’s ok to make a wrong choice. It’s ok to admit failure. It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to make errors in judgment. We all do it. A lot. And then we do it again.
Just accept it. And tell yourself, “this is the best choice for me right now.”
“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” — Stephen Covey