Read This! (And Everything Else You Possibly Can!)

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Never underestimate the value of a lesson read. One of the many things I wish I had seen more of at college is people reading. Hardly any of my friends read in college outside of assigned textbook readings, tweets, and reddit forums. Those are fine places where useful information is certainly disseminated. However, a person who only reads those things and not much else will be denied the wealth of knowledge that the person who reads books, magazines, articles, blog posts, etc. possesses.

My advice to you is to read everything you can get your hands on. Sounds simple, don’t it? Get a subscription to a magazine. With a student discount, it ends up being about a dollar a week most of the time, sometimes less. If you’re not a college student, go to the local library. There will be lots of magazines there. (College libraries have these also.)

If you are reading this as a college student and thinking you don’t have time to read, you’re lying to yourself. I see you on Facebook and Snapchat six hours a day. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Make time to read. Sure, you can get a synthesized version of the information you’re after in a twenty minute YouTube video, or a podcast, or a sparknotes summary, but there is no substitute for the real thing.

The main joy underlying my recommendation that you read any and everything you can is being exposed to new ways of thinking and new topics heretofore untapped by you. That should be what education is truly all about—not Greek Life, GPAs, and football games. Who knows? An article you read a month from now might make you want to change majors. A book you read might make you realize that you’ve been treating your friend poorly and that you should forgive them. I don’t know the specifics.

Make a special effort, if you’re going to accept my advice, to read things that on first appearance don’t fit into your worldview. If you’re a liberal, go read a few Breitbart articles. If you’re a conservative, go read a few non-Breitbart articles. If you’re into movies, go read a few reviews of a movie critic with whom you usually disagree.

If travel broadens the mind, then reading does so much more efficiently. Reading a book doesn’t require a passport, nor several hundred dollars, nor the prospect of dysentery. (I’m not saying don’t travel.) Books don’t just allow the traveling through space but through time as well. You can, with a simple google search, be instantly transported to Verona hundreds of years ago, or to a whaling voyage out of eighteen century New England.

My love of words leaves an ineffable bias on my heart. You don’t have to love the English language as much as I do to get the type of utility and use out of reading I’m talking about. You can even hate reading. But you should still do it. The opportunities it affords you are priceless.

Here are some books I’m reading at the moment if you’re interested.

  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  • The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
  • Lessons for the Young Economist by Bob Murphy
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (never thought this would be on my list)

Please, please, please read. I’m begging you. An hour a day. Break it up into smaller timechunks if you have to, just do it. The world is counting on you.

 

My Story – Concerning Roads

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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!