I screwed up, big time

Recently I’ve been reading a lot on early career decision making by people I admire, see links in my newsletter.

While reading Paul Graham’s essay, in particular, I realized the source of a lot of my angst over the past few months. I’ll get back to this later.

First, a quick recap for those who aren’t that close to me. At the end of last spring, I was in a committed relationship with someone I cared deeply about, I was working close to full-time at a well-regarded startup in NYC, and I had an internship offer to work in a supply chain operations role at Amazon for the summer.

At the time, I made the decision to take some time off from “checking boxes.” Leaving all those opportunities on the table, I moved to an unknown city, Seattle, to work on side projects and build a relationship with a friend I respected.

During my hiatus, I spent some time traveling across the west coast, India, and London. Had I stayed back and took a summer course, I was on track to graduate a semester early with a degree in supply chain management. Instead, I decided to take the fall semester off with plans to not return to college.

Fast forward a few months, my trip had caused a significant amount of friction in my relationship. This prompted me to come back in an attempt to fix it. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

Parental pressure made me re-enroll in college to finish my degree. Rightfully so, they wish the best for me and believe a college degree increases my options. However, they don’t understand why I’m not interested in finishing my degree.

While I do the bare minimum to finish school, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect.

I recount these experiences as a note to myself and to offer context to you. Writing this is definitely not easy for me, but that’s what tells me it’s important to.

Back to Graham’s essay, he notes, “Instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations. This is what most successful people actually do anyway.” He defines working forward from promising situations as going ‘upwind.’

One of the reasons I don’t find an undergraduate business education valuable is because it’s not going upwind. Instead of learning first principles most business students are taught how to perform operations for jobs in the corporate world.

Graham describes studying math as being upwind, it opens more doors than it closes.

“Suppose you’re a college freshman deciding whether to major in math or economics. Well, math will give you more options: you can go into almost any field from math. If you major in math it will be easy to get into grad school in economics, but if you major in economics it will be hard to get into grad school in math.”

I believe most business majors are limiting. The unfortunate part about it is that once you’ve completed enough coursework you’re locked in and can’t switch to something more upstream. Especially if you don’t have the financial resources to do so.

I mention the rest of the reasons for my distaste of school in this tweetstorm…

The source of a lot of my angst over the past few months is not being ‘upwind.’

With that said, where does that leave me now?

Above all, grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. Moving forward, I plan to formally learn how to code at Lambda School after graduation. I’m currently waiting to hear back on my admission.

Aside from that, I’m reading, writing, learning design, meeting new people, and launching experiments. If you have any ideas for projects, let me know!


This is an excerpt from my newsletter Activation Energy, sign up here…

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