3 Important Lessons I had Learned From A Conversation

personal development lessons

Image courtesy of canberkol


I am currently in college now and recently I harbour the thoughts of dropping out. I am considering to turn my focus to other things like creating a sideline income, entrepreneurship or just working in the society to get some income that will support my dream. This is a big decision to make and I know I am going to piss lots of people off around me especially my parents.

I have been talking around with people close to me about this and trying to seek their view on this situation. In Singapore, the normal route is to keep studying until you graduate from college and go out to the society and get a job. But for guys it means that we will graduate at around 25 or 26 years old due to the 2 years time in the army. It seems like a long time to me. Imagine that we are going to live till 100 years old, which is 1/4 of our life gone!

I am currently studying about banking and finance and it is a topic that I am interested in. I enrolled into college thinking that it would teach me what I needed to know so that I can become a successful investor. However after going through the lessons for 6 months time, I had gained little useful knowledge on how to invest as compared to self studying on the topic of investment. The topics in school are strictly guided by syllabus and I can say that 80% of those topics are not what I really need.


I decided to have a talk with one of my friends in school and seek out his opinion on whether college is going to be useful to us. This turns out to be a rather interesting conversation.

(This is the conversation we roughly had)

Me: Do you think it is necessary for us to get a college degree?

Friend: Of course! We don’t really have a choice. We are in Singapore and everything depends on that piece of paper that we will receive after graduation.

Me: But it seems that most of the topics are not really useful to us as we are not going to make use of it (think calculus) when we are working.

Friend: True. But we are going to need that cert anyway and we are tied down to this no matter what.

Me: Hmmm… Ok. Take a look at the people who had succeeded after failures or dropping out from college. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both drop out and went on to build successful businesses. Instead of getting a college degree, why not think about entrepreneurship?

Friend: Come on! Be realistic. They are the few who succeed out of the billions and do you think everybody is as lucky as them? If you are going to drop out of college, you will definitely going to regret it.

I stopped the conversation immediately because it doesn’t seems to turn out anywhere.


From his conversation with me, I had picked up a few lessons.

1. Don’t be realistic

He immediately reminded me about the video I had watched on Will Smith. In the video, Will Smith mentioned don’t be realistic. Because being realistic means that you are going to put a limit on yourself. Being realistic is going to kill off your dream.

If you say be realistic to yourself every time you have a great idea, you are killing off your dream immediately and life is going to stay the same for you. Don’t ever be realistic. Dream and dream big and that is the first step to success.

2. Focus on things that empower you.

Every successful name that I had mentioned to my friend, he told me that;

  • Their parents are rich.
  • They are lucky.
  • They are smart and etc.

I’m amazed by how he can generate so much excuses that disempower himself. If you are always searching for reasons on why others can succeed and why you can’t, how can you ever achieve their success? He is focusing in the wrong direction as he is thinking of why he can’t instead of why he can.

Be aware of your thoughts. If you have thoughts that disempower yourself, you are going to be frustrated because you don’t seem to have any control in the situation. Instead, focus on how you can achieve instead of why you can’t achieve.

3. You always have a choice.

There are always choices in every situation. If we say that there are no choices, we are imposing a limiting rule on ourselves. We close our mind immediately for other choices once we decided that there are no choices. I believe in this situation, my friend mentioned that there are no choices other than studying because this is how our society conditioned our thinking.

Even if you think that there are no choices in your situation, it is still your choice to think that way. Don’t ever decide that there are no choices in your situation because you are going to give your power away to someone else and in turn make yourself feel miserable.

Parting Words

Dropping out of college is a big decision for me to make and frankly speaking I am still undecided about it. I am going to give myself some time to think about this thoroughly though and I will keep you updated through my blog.

However I believed that I had picked up some good lessons from the conversation that I had with my friend. These lessons can be applied in our life and help make a difference. So what do you think about the 3 lessons and do you think is there any correlation between getting a degree and success in life? I would love to hear your opinions in the comment section below.


  1. Hi Vincent. Thought my experience might could help you. I quit college to run my own business. I failed, yes, but I have never regret. Every day with my own business I felt I learned more than a year at school. After the business failed I took a job, and I’m still at it. Leaders and coworkers try encourage med to finish my missing subject from college, but no thanks. I wont. I am instead looking for opportunities to start my own again. Beside: School never teach how to make money work for you – school only teaches how you can be a better employee.
    I feel finished with school. School is slow learning and expensive too.

    I suggest you ask someone who have done before you what you want to do for advice.

    Oh..: And I actually regret spending years at school. It costs a lot more than you spend those years. Depending on where in the world you live, though.
    -While you study.., house/apartment prices rice, you miss several salary raises and important job experience, you might not build retirement fund while at school and you miss years with income.

    One more thing. If you do well at college, and expect good grades, I suggest you finish college. You are free to follow your heart after graduation.

    I wish you good luck in what ever you choose.

  2. I think you can look at the situation from 2 perspectives: emotional vs. rational. The emotional view tells you to nuture your dream, go aganist the convention, make your life decisions for yourself. The rational view questions the fact how many people, on average, succeed without a university degree or some form of certification or the basic shortcomings of dropping and its impact on your future career.

    Consider both and find the right balance for you and your situation because like you said, you decide, you’re responsible.

    Also, I’d like to debate the difference between being realistic and being practical. The biggest difference is with a practical mindset, you assume something can work and test it out. Doesn’t matter whenther it’s proven or not –you test it out and not be refrained by conventional standards or people who say it can’t be done. Being ‘realistic’ is accepting things the way they are –without questioning it and testing your assumption.

  3. While many successful people dropped out of school, there are countless more who dropped out and regretted it. As others have mentioned, college teaches you a lot more than what is in the textbooks. You learn life lessons that make you mature enough to embark on a career.

    If you really want a career in the financial industry, a degree is going to make it much easier to achieve that goal. Of course there are multiple paths to reach that goal. So if you really feel college is not benefiting you, explore your other options to see what else you can do. While you will likely succeed at anything you do with your positive attitude, ensure that you carefully calculate risks you take.

  4. You know, here in South Africa we also had conscription until the early 1990’s and the guys tried everything from getting married to pretending to be terminally ill in order to avoid it, but the only ones who got off were the guys who were self-employed to the dgree that their businesses couldn’t run if they were not there. You should be able to easily fall into that category, I just don’t know how your beaurocracy works in your part of the world.

  5. Hiya Vincent! I am sure you’ll make the right decision regarding your future. Two years in the army is a long time, nearly as much as it takes to get your basic degree/diploma. Will you stil be liable for conscription if you are totally self-employed? Surely this will be good grounds for exemption?

  6. Vincent, I love how you took away such powerful messages from the conversation despite the other party sending such disempowering messages. As you said, your friend had disempowered himself and it’s great that you decided not to. The most important thing which you probably know already is no matter what decision you make, you are going to create the success you desire. What’s before you are just different paths to the same end vision.

  7. Hi,wonder if you still remember me . In my way of thinking,if you have already known the detailed methods to build up your own business or with abosulte confidence to be recruited by the enterprises you are interested in ,even though without degree it is Okay .I am a chinese so I know how the Asian works rather than the Eorupeans’. generally,they are millions of graduates after jobs.Educated or not educated.master degrees or graduating from senior school,with specfic skills or not.These stuffs to me all sound like the possibility to get the job I want while beating off others. These days we haven’t even weighted up a wiity person by whether or not he is college graducate.Many CEOs without MBA in the states,and yes,many businessmen have never entered to college.These all the ture facts and more are being listed.besides,a good excuse to follow a routine life is that it provides the least opportunity to lose as we have the basic foundation-bachelor degree.you have watched The persuit of Happyness,so you know in the moive ,Will Smith aslo works hard ending up being great at the exam as an entrance of his career.

  8. School isn’t for everyone. Others do better just learning on their own like what you are doing and gain an abundance of experience and wealth of knowledge. Some of the richest people in the world didn’t even finish college so good luck and I hope you make the best decision for yourself! =)

  9. Hi Vince,

    How are you doing?

    The first thing I noticed was the “have-to” language. I can’t stand that. You can go to college for many reasons, but I think the worst is because you think you have to. The only have-to’s exist in your mind, and in the minds of others. Everything in life that we do, we choose to do. Sure negative things happen now and then, sometimes we don’t have control over what happens, but how we respond to what happens is our choice as well.

    Lots of people I talk to tell me I had to get a high school diploma, I eventually got it for my parents’ sake. Still, it’s only a peace of paper that will get me into a college, and I could care less about that.

    I think college can be useful for a number of reasons. The experience, the bit of ground base knowledge you get from it, the people you can possibly meet. There are reasons to drop out as well, but quiting anything is a big decision. To me college seems like a waste unless you have a good reason to take it. Depends on your choice of career.

    Clinton Skakun

    • Hey Clinton,

      “Everything in life that we do, we choose to do. ”

      We made all the choices in our life and even if we say we have no choice to make, it is still a choice that we had made.

      Quitting college is really a big decision to make and I got to think it through thoroughly before proceeding. Thanks for your view mate.


  10. Great post. I have a problem with people focusing on why they are not successful instead of maximizing what skills and talents they have that can help them be successful. In conversations that I have with people and they begin to say that everyone else is either smarter, more educated, luckier or more whatever than they are, I get a headache.

    • Hi Ralph,

      I’m on your side too. I can’t stand people who make excuses who says that others are more talented, rich or etc. Those are just their own false beliefs that limit their own success.


  11. I’ve already done it man. I completed a year at university and realized it wasn’t for me. I’ve spent the last year and half teaching myself Internet marketing. It’s still a struggle everyday. But it’s been the best time of my life. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I know that eventually I will make a completely automated income. In the meantime I’m going to enjoy the sun as I travel around the world. My mum is just completing her first degree and she’s nearly 50. So it doesn’t matter 🙂

    • Hey Lindsay,

      You got a clear view of what you want and do go for it. If we are doing what we are enjoying, it is definitely the best time of our life. 🙂


  12. being realistic does not limit you. that piece of paper may seem useless to you now but why drive yourself into a dead end by dropping out? why not try making the most out of what you are learning in school. u can dream big. just dun talk big.

    u mentioned u gained little knowledge on how to invest in school – note. the school isnt teaching you how to invest. the school is teaching u the foundation, basics, and stuff you need to know to be able to work in managerial level etc. if you are looking for a mentor to teach u investment, u r obviously putting urself in the wrong place and not in line with things.

    it’s not a matter of luck/rich parents/ etc… it’s a matter of whether you know how things tick the right way. be in the right place at the right time to do the right thing with timely decisions. it’s a matter of foresight, i believe.

    • Hey c(a)sh,

      You may be right that my expectation on school may be wrong and it may be better off if I learn from a mentor about investing rather than going to college.

      I believe that success is a commitment to make it happen. If you are committed to making success happen and you are willing to do what ever it takes to make it happen (by ethical means), it will surely come to you. I strongly believe in that. 🙂


  13. Hey Vincent!
    How are you doing? 🙂

    I find that many people nowadays are coming to the same conclusion that college and Uni are not teaching them anything really important, but just trading 4-6 years for a piece of paper(degree) and a basic understanding of the subject they study. (unless its specializing like programming or neurosurgery or something)/

    Unfortunately if you want to become an investor for banks or companies, it will be much harder getting a job without a degree unless you have the skill and know-how to back it up. I have the impression that someone will rather hire a guy who knows what he is talking about and who will bring value to the company rather than a guy who has all the paperwork but no real experience.

    Good luck with whatever you decide! 🙂

    • Hey Diggy,
      I believe you are enjoying yourself right now in Amsterdam.

      I do agree with what you had said. I would rather be the person who bring value to others or the company than someone who have all the paper work but provides no value.

      Thanks for your input. 🙂


  14. In some professions it takes the piece of paper to get in (even though most of what you study is utterly irrelevant). In this case it is most relevant. It depends what you want to do.

    Success can be tricky – it isn’t necessarily related to happiness (or doing anything worthwhile).

    Good luck with your decision.

    • Hey Evan,

      It is true that in the society some professions does need that piece of paper to get the job even though we will not use much of the knowledge we acquired. Ironic isn’t it?


  15. Yeah, it seems like most people that I’ve met so far in my life are excuse-makers, just like your friend. They find excuses for everything so they can remain mediocre. It kind of sucks.

    I would say to just follow your heart. If studying doesn’t seem right to you then take a break and try something else. You can always return if you want to, there are plenty of “older” people in colleges, at least in Sweden. But then again, what do I know 😉

    • Hi Henri,

      It really sucks if we limit our own potential by giving excuses. As regards to whether should I continue to study, I need to spend some time to think about it. 🙂