It seems that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg loves to draw the attention of the media with his controversy. First it was the proposed soda ban, then talk about banning cigarettes and now his latest statements where he implied that becoming a plumber might be a better choice than going to Harvard.
I for one have been pretty hard on the mayor in the past, rarely agreeing with many of his proposed policies quite simply because it's an overreach of government intervention and implies that the people of New York City aren't smart enough to think for themselves. However, in this case, I am going to back Mayor Bloomberg's statements.
Now before anyone jumps down my back, going to Harvard is a great opportunity and higher education serves an important role. I've interviewed more than 1,200 of the world's wealthiest people over the past 29 years, and they totally respect formal education. But here's the thing: most rich people don't associate formal education with building a financial empire. In fact, many world-class performers have little formal education, and have amassed their wealth through the acquisition and subsequent sale of specific knowledge. Formal education teaches people how to think and perform in the linear world of commerce, but the rich rarely become wealthy trading time for money.
Mayor Bloomberg said, "Compare a plumber to going to Harvard College -- being a plumber, actually for the average person, probably would be a better deal. You don't spend ... four years spending $40,000, $50,000 in tuition without earning income." In addition, the mayor added that another benefit to learning a trade, like plumbing, is that it's hard to outsource, or computerize.
No doubt that Harvard is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the nation. There's a certain prestige that comes with saying "Harvard graduate." But to the mayor's point, at what cost should that come?
A recent Huffington Post article portrayed just how serious the debt problem has become among students. It said that U.S. students face a total of $986 billion in combined debt, a growing problem that now threatens to create a significant drag on the economic recovery. So again, the question at the heart of the matter is: when does going to an Ivy League school, or any other higher education institution for that matter, become the right choice? Would learning a trade like the plumbing profession be a better option? No matter what the latest and greatest advances in technology bring, people will always have a need to use sinks, dishwashers and toilets -- and you can bet anything these appliances will break in time and need repair.
The masses are convinced that master's degrees and doctorates are the way to wealth, mostly because they are trapped in the linear line of thought that holds them back from high levels of consciousness. One of the greatest secrets of the rich lies in their ability to rely on their common sense and a street smart approach to problem solving.
To the mayor's point, college is not for everyone, and there's nothing dishonorable or shameful in skipping the experience. Yesterday, Yahoo announced it was purchasing Tumblr in a deal worth $1.1 billion, and we learned that Tumblr CEO David Karp dropped out of high school after his freshman year. Karp's mom said, "It became very clear that David needed the space to live his passion which was computers, all things computers."
This young man was so gifted with computers and he followed his dream and struck it big. For him and many others like him, formal education isn't the answer. He solved a problem by creating a very popular blogging platform, got compensated for it, and became rich. End of story! This single-minded focus always pays off sooner or later, at which time the masses will call it luck.
Each one of us must examine where our true talents and passions really are. If you want to become a doctor, attending college is the right choice. But if you find that you are really skilled at a certain trade, or choose that all the debt of college isn't worth it and you'd rather go in a different direction, by all means pursue other avenues. No matter which way you go, the key to acquiring massive wealth is finding problems to solve and getting people to pay you to solve those problems.
Whether you attend college or not, the best thing anyone can do is decide to become a life-long student and take control of your own self-education. Read, listen to CDs and digital audio programs and attend seminars on subjects that can help you build your fortune.