Try Something Different: Dealing with Distractions

We can’t all function at 100% productivity all the time. Some of us are merely human. My Praxis advisor and I talked about this during our meeting earlier today. We theorized that it might be something in my subconscious that is holding me back from maximum productivity. We came up with a method to tap into my subconscious.

He challenged me to keep a journal every day for the next two weeks. Just by writing out my thoughts each day, a pattern might begin to emerge. Some fear or bias might appear on the page. That’s what we’re both hoping for anyway.

Be creative in your attempts to ignore distractions.

There’s no one way to cure laziness or procrastination. The distractions in your life are far outnumbered by the ways in which you could overcome them. The journal method will at least help me learn about myself and my motivations. And that can only be a good thing.

Should You Go to College? Probably Not.

If you’re currently considering whether or not you should go to college, don’t go. I went, and I’m none the wiser as to what I was meant to have gotten out of the whole damn thing. I made new friends and had some laughs, and then I went home to live with my parents. A few months ago, the university was kind enough to send me this thick piece of paper with my name on it.

Emptiness. That’s what I felt when first I glanced upon my college degree. Perhaps it was because I felt like I didn’t accomplish much in college. I could have done things better, could have gotten a kickass internship, killer recs from esteemed professors, a stellar GPA, all manner of grants and scholarships, started a student organization. The fact that I didn’t do any of those things eats away at me. But I think I’m better off.

If I had checked every box on that list, I’d currently be serving time in a corporate nine-to-five gulag. The money would be nice, sure, but I would hate myself. I’m like the hulk when I get into that mindset—you won’t like me when I hate myself. I’d be a cocksure-on-the-outside, vomiting-on-the-inside, confrontational, difficult, bored little shit.

I have friends and acquaintances that went this route, and most of them are happy with their decisions so far. But if all I gave up was the security of an above-average salary, I’m fine with the tradeoff. I regret not excelling in school for the sake of living up to my potential, but there are other ways for me to do that.

Know yourself. That’s the best advice I can offer you. Are you willing to accept the leers and the huffs and the finger wags from strangers and loved ones when you tell them you’re not going to college? Resist the urge to get angry when the sheep bleet at you for abandoning the pack. It is in their nature, and they only want what they think is best for you.

There are very few careers in which a degree is absolutely necessary. You can even take the Bar exam in California without a law degree. Gasp!

Is there a way that you can opt out of college and still achieve what you want to achieve? If the answer is yes, I think you know the way forward.

My Story – Concerning Roads


Who am I? What am I? Which of those is the more interesting question? Are the answers even that different?

A few months ago I thought I was a listless college graduate with a road ahead of him. I hoped the road would be decades long. But I didn’t know yet just how wide the road was. (I still don’t.)

“This road isn’t my road anyway,” I used to say. “This road was paved before I was even born.” And I was angry and depressed and scared about the road before me that I knew wasn’t really mine.

It was during my spell of post-graduate reflection that I realized something: All that there is of the road is past. Nothing is in front of me. The road hasn’t been paved for me. I’m paving it. The discovery, while perhaps the most exciting of my life, was a difficult one to stomach.

I was like the little boy who, wearing a life jacket on his parents’ boat, looks down at the water and longs to jump in; he knows not where or even how he’ll swim once he jumps, only that he wants it more than anything. I leapt two months ago.

I couldn’t find a job in “Corporate America.” Self-loathing, that ever insidious cancer, set in.

“Why did you even go to college? Why marketing? Why didn’t you try to be a poker player? Or a comedian? Why did you let everyone else make your decisions for you?” I asked myself.

My sheepish half-answers were always inadequate. Then came another epiphany.

The past did not and does not matter. I haven’t got much use for a rear-view mirror in my car. I’m the only one driving on my road. Onward!

I had just begun laying the first conscious bricks on my liferoad when I heard about Praxis. It’s an education/work program that lasts less than a year? It’s designed to help give open-minded young people personal and professional tools to live the lives they want? You’re guaranteed at least a $40,000 salary upon completion of the program? (A bricklayer has to eat, right?) The Praxis website might as well have said, “We’ll help you lay your bricks the way you want to lay them, Alex.”

But isn’t that what college does? No. College says, “This is how you need to lay your bricks if you want to be successful.” Screw college. Praxis, sign me up.

Rulemaking, as a rule, is a practice most commonly reserved for boxed-in ninnies, but every rule has an exception, doesn’t it? And absent rules, I’d probably end up with a heap of disjointed bricks. Here are the rules I’ve come up with for building my road:

  • Read and write every day. Words are your lifeblood.
  • Don’t let them win. That is, don’t do things because everyone else says you’re supposed to—think for yourself.
  • You do not require anyone’s permission to lay a brick.
  • Liberty, freethought, rationality, courage, altruism—these are the bricks you will use to pave your road.
  • Go outside. You can’t lay a road indoors.
  • Your road is to be big and passionate and loud.
  • Only through discourse can you smooth the cracks and bumps on your road.
  • It’s okay to change your beliefs. A provincial, curvy road is more pleasant to travel down than a straight and boring one.
  • Never be afraid to lay a brick on this road for hope that there’s a better one when this one ends.
  • Don’t let the fear of failure keep you in the boat. Jump! Jump! Jump! Once more unto the breach.

As my fellow bricklayers know, there is an irksome body that gets constantly in the way when it comes to laying roads: government. In this case, government doesn’t only mean government, though. It means anyone who stands in the way of me paving my road to my liking. There’s going to be lots of them, I know—haters and critics and jerks and regulations and laws. Fight them. There’s nothing else for it. And I wouldn’t want there to be. Struggle begets accomplishment, no?

There are some folks whose roads I’ve passed by and admired. Milton Friedman’s, Christopher Hitchens’s, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, those of various friends and family. I will no doubt steal parts of their designs, but I will try not to mimic them too closely. For I want my road to be new and mine, not a tenth-rate knockoff. Anyway, I’ve got to go. There’s work to be done.

Welcome to Praxis

I got a phone call from Cameron Sorsby recently. He called to tell me I’d been accepted into Praxis, an entrepreneurial apprenticeship program that offers young people an alternative to traditional postsecondary education. The phone call was rather short—sometimes the best ones are.

I became aware of Praxis through a video I saw online of a young man named Ryan Matlock. In the video, he explained his decision to not attend college. He mentioned alternatives to college and the inefficiencies built into the system currently. Then he mentioned Praxis. What is Praxis? I wondered.

It’s a nine month program that costs $12,000. That’s nothing compared to what you’d pay for four years of college. You’ll work full-time for the final six months of the program earning $14,400. If you simply complete the program, you’ll be $2,400 richer. College doesn’t offer that.

The first three months are spent on a rigorous and customized educational “boot camp” of sorts that’s designed to take you, Raw Material, and quickly transform you into a business professional—a person who can write and speak eloquently and thoughtfully, who uses creativity and analytical reasoning to solve business problems in the real world, who thinks like an entrepreneur, and who has a defined plan to meet his or her goals. That sounded cultish, didn’t it? It’s not like that.

Take it from someone who knows: college is 90% fluff. Not the fun marshmallow kind, the infuriating metaphoric kind that costs $20,000 annually. I received my marketing degree a few months ago from Florida State University, and I learned hardly anything about marketing that would be useful to me at even an entry-level marketing job.

Praxis is the antithesis of college. College is theory and nothing else. Praxis teaches you how to hold a sword, then throws you in with the lions. Hyperbole works, I guess. But really, if college teaches you what to think, Praxis teaches you how to think—or more accurately, how to think for yourself. Anyone can learn the four P’s of marketing. Praxis says instead, “Go work with this cool startup. You’re not an intern; you’re a full-time employee. You’ll be helping to determine the four P’s for this company, not taking a quiz on what each P stands for.”

One hates to use the cliché “baptism by fire,” for fear that it doesn’t paint the full picture—clichés seldom do—but also because it evokes feelings of unease in even the most gung-ho among us. I have felt uneasiness. I have known disillusionment. High hopes and dashed dreams have been mine. It’s not fun. It came from two things: inefficiencies in our collegiate system, and mistakes I made as a participant in that system.

Now isn’t the time for specifics. I’ll say only that I was far more uneasy about where my life was heading on August 7th, the day after my college graduation, than I have been in the weeks since I first learned of Praxis. Mine eyes have seen the glory. And I’ve decided to write about it.

Major Key Alert: this reference is played. A major key for Praxis students is to set goals AND deliver on them during each month of the program. One of my goals, not necessarily tied to the program, is to put down in words all of my thoughts on the Praxis process, and I’ve decided this is the best way to do it. I’ll be making daily posts about my progress.

I hope I haven’t bored you too much. And if I have, just wait until you see what four years of college will do to you!