As a College Dropout, I get crap all the time about what I’m doing is below my dignity, that I will never get a job that makes over $40,000 a year, and that I would look really stupid compared to “educated” people who have a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. Some of you already know my position on college, but may think, “well, what else are you going to do?” But in today’s post, with David Zax’s permission, this is a story about a College Dropout who has the EXACT same story as I do, but only he’s now the CTO of the website Twitpic. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Steve Corona, College Dropout, and CTO of a startup.

Written reposted with the permission of David Zax.

Story of a College Dropout: Steve Corona

The annals of technology are filled with exceptional figures–Steve JobsMark ZuckerbergBill Gates–who all individually are College Dropout, only to attain later greatness. But Steve Corona, 25, never saw himself as becoming one of these industry-defining figures. In fact, Corona, who became a College Dropout his sophomore year, was convinced that he’d never amount to much of anything at all.

In fact, Corona, despite his lack of a college degree, eventually rose to become CTO of Twitpic, the service that lets users post pictures to Twitter. Corona had firmly believed that a College Dropout fell into one of two buckets: the nobodies making a subsistence wage, or the rare Zuckerbergian figures who strike gold. Corona discovered that in fact, there’s a middle ground for people like him: College Dropout who nonetheless have a hankering for a real measure of success, and attain it.

We caught up with Corona to learn the story of how he became a College Dropout (really, fail out), and to learn his thoughts on how you can discern the rare case in which doing so may be the right move for you.

Why do you call your year and a half of college your “biggest mistake”?

STEVE CORONA: My family was very pro-college. Neither of my parents went to college. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology, in 2005. It cost $44,000 a year. I was 18, and I had no idea what $44,000 a year meant. I signed on the dotted line, and off to college I went. When I got there, I found it really unchallenging. Not that I’m some exceptionally smart person, but my classes seemed very slow, and I was really unhappy. I was doing lots of extracurricular programming, and had all these ideas of companies I wanted to start and projects I wanted to work on.

By your third semester, you stopped going to class.

I basically said, going to class is not worth my time. I ended up failing out. I was 19 or 20 years old, making 10 bucks an hour at a little job, and I was like “Holy crap, I’m screwed.” I did not tell my parents. RIT has this internship program where you have to do internships for four semesters. I lied to them, said, “I’m doing an internship.” I had this job that paid just enough for me to sleep on the floor of an apartment I rented. I lied to everyone in my life. I almost lied to myself. I knew I’d failed out, but I never thought about it enough to believe it.

A successful College Dropout

Did anyone suspect?

My grandfather pulled me aside one Thanksgiving. It’s not that he knew I was lying per se, but I could tell by his tone that he knew that something was up. He pulled me aside and said, “Steve, I think it’s really important that you finish college. It will open up opportunities. It’s something I regret I never did.” He was a College Dropout who started a shoe store in Italy in the 40s and 50s, before he immigrated to the US. To have him say that was a huge, huge thing. Still, I knew in my heart that finishing college wasn’t for me.

You eventually wound up landing on your feet.

I was working this $10-an-hour job, and I got into this belief that that’s all there was for me. I had this self-limiting internal voice stomping me down, preventing me from becoming successful. Finally for the hell of it, I decided to apply for jobs. Maybe I could get something that pays $15 an hour, I thought. I put out applications, and a week later, I got a job offer for around $40,000. I was blown away. I’d been eating rice, kidney beans, and cheap chicken from Walmart to scrape by. $40,000 seemed like a million bucks. I contemplated, should I take it? Meanwhile, another job offer came in, this one for $60,000. My mom was excited, and said I should take it.

And yet you didn’t take that offer right away.

My whole worldview had shattered in front of me. It was so ingrained in my head this belief that I’d never have opportunities like this. It was almost like “The Matrix,” this feeling that the reality I’m living in isn’t actually what the real world is. It flipped everything I thought upside down. There was a new reality, and I was like, let me play with the boundaries. Let me see what I can do. It’s just like if you discovered a new physical substance. A scientist would play with it: How does it react when it’s under fire? How does it react when you boil it?

So I called back and said, “I really appreciate this job offer, but I can only consider job offers over $100,000 right now.” I was so scared. I was shaking when I made the phone call. And I did that with all my job offers. No one ever came back and said, “We can’t give you more money–you don’t have a degree!” No one came to my apartment with the job offer and ripped it up and threw it on the floor. In fact, a lot of them responded positively. Eventually one called back and said, “You can only look at job offers over 100,000? Here’s 80,000, how about that?”

You made a lot of gutsy moves, but for every College Dropout who hits it big, there’s many more who are stuck working the checkout line. What kind of diagnostic test do you recommend people run on themselves if they’re considering dropping out?

You need to have a history of making things, a history of being successful outside college. You need that inner fire when exploring things outside what you’re doing in the classroom. I didn’t really give myself that diagnostic test, but looking back, I see that I was doing things on my own, I was building stuff outside of the classroom. I was building all sorts of web applications. I was doing web hosting online, and I remember the thrill of running my own company. The first time a dollar came in, even though it was only a dollar, it was such a thrilling roller coaster, I just wanted more of it.

The College Dropout

So your side projects need to be taking up the majority of your time before you consider becoming a College Dropout?

Not so much time as the passion and energy devoted to these projects–that they’re more important to you than anything else. You can spend a lot of time doing something but be really bad at it. The better metric is if you’re spending your, sort of, “passion dollars”–that’s a really bad analogy–but spending all that love that you have, all your energy, and that’s distracting your attention from college. That’s a sign that maybe you should be doing other things.


Just F***ing Do It!

About a year ago, Invisible Children successfully hijacked social media with their effort called KONY 2012, which targets the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, a brutal fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. By tapping into the nitwitted populace of the youth of America, Invisible Children has witnessed a surge in wristband and t-shirt sales with their global campaign structured in promoting a military intervention. In a twist of schemes, they hijacked Nike’s slogan but adding a bit a cuss word (by me): “Just F***ing Do It!”

Just F***ing Do It!

Two conclusions can be formed. First, it’s phenomenal to see the drive and fervor in the youth to join a cause and feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Second, however, it’s unfortunate how easily the youth is deceived by this “feel good” campaign. Put frankly, the conundrums in Uganda aren’t flat-footed and one-dimensional and they cannot be solved by postering filmmaking, changing your Facebook profile picture, tweeting at Lady Gaga, or purchasing a plastic wristband. The movement may perhaps, as analysts say, cause more harm than good. But why do people still do the campaign? Because they kept saying the same thing over and over again……..

“Just F***ing Do It!

“Just F***ing Do It!

“Just F***ing Do It!”

Just F***ing Do It!

But more importantly, let’s address the first point. Kids want to have a purpose in life. The youth are dying to have a voice, which explains why they immediately jumped onto the KONY 2012 bandwagon without much thought. They haven’t been given opportunities in the past.

When we’re young, very few of us dream of becoming anonymous middle managers or government officials lost in the tangled bureaucracies for the rest of our lives. Come on — what kind of sane person wants to spend their life sitting behind a desk in a cubicle, nine to five, five days a week? That’s no fun. Just F***ing Do It!

Look at this rigorous study of high school students by Jacob Halpern. The most disturbing result was this:

“When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?”

1. The chief of a major company like General Motors
2. A Navy SEAL
3. A United States Senator
4. The president of a great university like Harvard or Yale
5. The personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star

The results:

Among girls, the results were as follows: 9.5 percent chose “the chief of a major company like General Motors”; 9.8 percent chose “a Navy SEAL”; 13.6 percent chose “a United States Senator”; 23.7 percent chose “the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale”; and 43.4 percent chose “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.”

Notice that these kids were happy with being the assistant of a person with an artificial, plastic lifestyle. In school, dreamers are killed. They don’t fit in. We’ve created a trillion-dollar monster that crushes dreams.

What if it wasn’t like this? I want to pose a few questions to school boards, teachers, students, parents, administrators, and any stakeholder in education: What if kids, left to right, started
movements? What if they became non-conformists, disrupting the conventional wisdom each and every day? What if students became the authors of their own education?

Let’s teach kids to be leaders. Let’s help kids start tribes — a culture of people stitched together by ideas, dreams, and a conviction for success. As Seth Godin put in his TED talk, “It turns out that it’s tribes — not money, not factories — that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they want to connect.”

Be willing to stand up and say ‘I don’t agree with this and something must be changed.’ Demand that average is not good enough. You do not need permission to lead. Just ‘effing do it!

As Paul Henry, the 17-year-old founder of The Sandbox, likes to say, “If you don’t change the world, someone else will.” It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you think. The future belongs to the curious.

If you’re one of the zombie followers of the KONY 2012 movement, don’t be! Buying KONY 2012 t-shirts and wristbands and bankrolling another film and an ill-advised violent intervention will not help. Keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

You don’t need to follow an organization to have a purpose in your life. Start a movement. Mobilize the troops. Rally behind a cause. The world is waiting. Start today! Just F***ing Do It!

Rewritten with permission from Ben Woods.

Google Glass is causing quite a stir, and rightly so. However, the search giant’s networked specs are creating a buzz as much about the threat to privacy they pose as about the new era of wearable tech they look likely to usher in.

The specs are yet to be released, but Google promises they will let users browse a map, check their mail, record a video directly from the headset, without lifting a finger. But will Google Glass‘ ability to (almost) silently take photos or videos using the glasses make the general public uncomfortable? After all, there are some conversations or situations you’d rather not have a Google Glass wearer inadvertently record and upload to YouTube.

Read this

Google Glass contest gives non-devs a chance to grab $1,500 specs

Google Glass contest gives non-devs a chance to grab $1,500 specs.

Think about it for a minute. These glasses can instantly capture and store every move of everyone around the person wearing them. Remember that drunken argument you had with your partner? Well, now Google Glass will mean you have no possibility of forgetting it. If it’s entertaining enough, or you’re well-known enough, the video of that argument could well be on YouTube before you get home. Do you do a lot of business on the phone while out and about or while sitting in coffee shops? Will you continue to, if you know that every call could be recorded by the stranger sitting at the table opposite, staring innocently at the picture on the wall behind your head?

Check out this video (warning: there may be some swearing) of ‘surveillance camera man,’ who goes around passively filming people in public places. These videos demonstrate exactly the problem Google Glass and other wearable tech presents: people don’t like being filmed in public, regardless of what they’re doing.

The issues of Google Glass, however, go one step further than this: instead a man holding a video camera that you can clearly see, with Google Glass you won’t even know it’s happening. What if when the seemingly inevitable happens and a security flaw is found that lets an intruder take control of Google Glass — in that situation, it’s plausible that even the owner won’t know what they’re recording.

While wearable — or even embeddable — tech such as Google Glass is still in its infancy, will these privacy concerns impact its future prospects? Are the technological advances enough to outweigh any erosion of privacy?

Once upon a time, the U.S. economy produced a seemingly unending supply of good paying Blue Collar and White Collar jobs that enabled American workers to buy homes, raise families and live the American Dream.  But now all of that has changed.  Over the past several decades, there have been some fundamental shifts in our economy that have steadily eroded the value of the American worker, particularly the traditional Blue Collar and White Collar jobs.  Thanks to incredible advances in robotics, computers and other fields of technology, many economic activities that once required a tremendous amount of manpower now require very little.  Nothing is going to reverse those technological advances, so the jobs that have been lost as a result are now gone forever.  But there are millions of other good jobs that we have lost that we could have done something about.  Over the past couple of decades, millions upon millions of American jobs have been shipped overseas.  Thanks to a whole host of “free trade” agreements that our politicians promised would be very good for our economy, U.S. workers have now been merged into a global labor pool with hundreds of millions of workers on the other side of the globe that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.  In such a situation, it is only natural for big corporations to shift production from high wage areas to low wage areas.  Unemployment in America has skyrocketed and so have corporate profits.  Today, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. GDP are at an all-time high, but wages as a percentage of U.S. GDP are near an all-time low.  The lack of decent Blue Collar and White Collar jobs in the United States is one of the primary reasons why we are in an economic crisis that never seems to end, and things are not going to turn around any time soon.  We truly are witnessing the slow, tortuous death of the American worker, and politicians from both political parties are just standing aside and letting it happen.

Back in the old days, just about everyone that was willing to work hard in America could easily go out and get a decent job. Regardless if you were the person assembling a convertible at the factory (an example of a Blue Collar worker), or a person performing rote work copying spreadsheets at the World Trade Center (an example of a White Collar worker), you could have lived in a decent suburb, drove a decent car, and got a decent salary.  But today there is savage competition even for jobs that pay close to minimum wage.  For example, thousands upon thousands of people recently applied for just 200 jobs at a new Target in Albuquerque, New Mexico…

Thousands of people applied for 200 new jobs at Target over the last three days in Northeast Albuquerque.

KOAT Action 7 News went to Target’s job fair at the Marriott Uptown every day and continued to find lines snaking around the building.

Candidates only have a one in 35 chance in getting a job, but many have said they’re confident they can stand out from the pack.

Those candidates have less than a 3 percent chance of getting one of those jobs at Target.  The odds of getting into Harvard are actually far better than that. The problem is that they’re applying for a dying field of Blue Collar workers that will slowly be replaced by robots, or outsourced for those who are willing to work cheaper. White Collar jobs aren’t better since jobs like being the office runner could be replaced by the same robots or kids willing to work cheap.

But at least there is some economic activity going on in Albuquerque.  All over the country there are other cities that were once bustling with economic activity that are now dying a depressingly slow death.  For example, just check out the following excerpt from an article by Don Terry about Gary, Indiana entitled “Where Work Disappears and Dreams Die”…

Like Flint, Detroit, Cleveland, and Akron, like hundreds of cities and towns across the once-industrial Blue Collar Midwest, Gary is emblematic of the new American poverty, the poverty that descended when the factories closed down. The city is half the size it was in 1970, its population reduced from 170,000 then to 80,000 today. Its poverty rate is 28 percent. A fifth of its houses, churches, school buildings, and other structures are vacant and boarded-up. The hulking steel mills still line the Lake Michigan shore in northwest Indiana, but they’ve been hemorrhaging workers for decades.

You can see some stunning photos of the ruins of Gary, Indiana right here.  It is hard to imagine that Gary was once a truly great manufacturing city.

But of course Gary is far from alone.  The following is from a recent article posted on Economy In Crisis that detailed the shocking decline of Ypsilanti, Michigan…

In the late 1970s, some 20,000 people worked for Ford and General Motors in Ypsilanti. Half worked Blue Collar jobs in the factories, the other half worked White Collar jobs in Ford’s administration offices. Today, only a few hundred work in the auto industry here. It’s the same story in cities throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

To say the least, Ypsilanti has seen better days. Tax revenues have plummeted over the past 20 years. The mayor says he’s considering combining fire and police into one department. The parks and recreation department has a budget of $0. It’s just a web page that rarely gets updated.

Meanwhile, U.S. car companies are busy putting up shiny new factories on the other side of the globe.  For instance, Chrysler recently announced plans to build new manufacturing facilities in China and Russia.

You don’t hear much about the decline of manufacturing in the United States on the mainstream news, or the news about the death of Blue Collar and White Collar jobs, but it is certainly one of the biggest economic stories of this century so far.  Back in the year 2000, there were more than 17 million Americans working in manufacturing, but now there are less than 12 million.

So what are American workers supposed to do?

Are they supposed to learn new skills for the “jobs of tomorrow”?

One of the few areas of the U.S. economy that has been steadily growing has been the healthcare industry.  There are hordes of Baby Boomers that are getting older, and they are going to need a whole lot of medical care.  Nursing used to be a good field to go into because there will always be jobs available.  In fact, at one point we were told by schools and the media that there was supposedly a “shortage” of nurses in America.

Well, CNN recently ran a piece about recent nursing graduates that cannot seem to find work no matter how hard they try.  The following is a short excerpt from one of those horror stories. Remember, this is supposed to be one of those secure White Collar jobs anyone could have gotten after graduating from school.

I graduated from San Jose State University in May and got my registered nurse license in July. I have been searching and applying for an RN position for seven months now and still have not found a nursing job.

I have applied for jobs all over California and also other states such as Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

So if you can’t find a job in healthcare, what field are you supposed to go into?

Please don’t say law, another supposedly secure White Collar job.  There are hordes of new law school graduates competing for very few entry-level jobs each year.  In fact, one law firm has come up with the bright idea of making young lawyers pay a fee for the “privilege” of getting legal experience by working there.  Just check out their Craigslist ad.

The cold, hard truth is that there are not nearly enough jobs in America today. It doesn’t matter if you’re a welder in a Blue Collar job, or an accountant working in a White Collar job, they’re simply not enough jobs in the market.  As a result, our incomes are declining.  Median household income in the United States has fallen for four years in a row.  Overall, it has fallen by more than $4000 during that time period.

Things have been particularly rough on younger Americans.  If you can believe it, U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

And, as a recent RT article explained, life expectancy for younger Americans is depressingly low…

Also, new evidence revealed that younger generation of US citizens (those under 50) die earlier and have poorer health than their counterparts in other developed nations, according to a new study of health and longevity in US.

US men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries in the study, and American women as second to last.

The 378-page report by a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council was based on a broad review of mortality and health studies and statistics and included other countries such as, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and Spain.

The future simply does not look too bright for American Blue Collar and White Collar workers.  Thanks to advances in technology and the rampant outsourcing of jobs, big corporations simply do not need U.S. workers as much as they used to.  In fact, many of them try to minimize the number of expensive American workers that they have on the payroll as much as they can.

So what are we all supposed to do?

The solution lies in the emergence of a new kind of worker, one type that has been around for a while. These workers or more like thinkers are emerging in epic proportional numbers and Blue Collar and White Collar jobs are slowly dying off the market. People may view these people to be involved in pyramid schemes, scams, or jobs that simply don’t exist unless a person applies for one. But still, the number continues to rise as the economy becomes crappy. Behold, the Black Collar thinker emerges out of the darkness as the top tier working force.

Black Collar workers is a term coined by Nikhil Goyal, author of One Size Doesn’t Fit All, who explains that these jobs have been around for years. Entrepreneurs, actors, designers, bloggers, adventurers, artists, musicians, computer coders, numerous jobs that do not require a formal education, resume, or an office. These are the risk takers, innovators, the hackademics that took the unconventional road. Despite the fact that many White Collar and Blue Collar workers laughed when they listened to these kinds of ambitions that Black Collar thinkers have, many have gone farther than ever, learned exponentially, and have gotten gigantic, if not, six figure salaries that only a manager can dream of.

They may have failed in previous ventures, but took those as learning lessons that have gotten them to higher levels.

Take David Wood for example. He was fired from Greenpeace, a job that you’re supposed to not be really fired from, lived in a van with an old school laptop, and $45 dollars in his pocket. Somehow, he built a powerful affiliate marketing network with a former construction worker David Sharpe now known as Empower Network, a network of Black Collar workers that are slowly replacing their 9 to 5 jobs with marketing that earns them hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on how much work they put in.

Another great example is one we all know of: Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg created Facebook with his friends in their college dorm at Harvard, moved to California to create a network where millions now use the social network to connect with their friends. Mark’s net worth is now believed to be in the billion dollar tier.

Black Collar thinkers don’t look for security in salaries, guarantee of job retainment, or a promotion. When they want a pay raise, a secure job, and get noticed, they take a huge amount of risk. They view failure as a lesson to be learned and not a place to stay at the bottom. They see risky ventures as an opportunity to expand, and not caring or anticipating anything, letting whatever happens, happens.

When people realize that they can do this as Black Collar thinkers, the economy of the United States shall rise once again. But for now, many are still trying to perform CPR on the dying Blue Collar and White Collar work.


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(Sing to the tune of The Real Slim Shady by Eminem)

May I have your attention please?

May I have your attention please???

Will the Real Students please stand up?

I repeat!

Will the Real Students please stand up??

We’re gonna have a problem here.

Y’all act like you’ve never seen a student before. The popular kid, the druggie, the nerd stuck in the corner. The ones taking stupid tests, studying for them till four. It’s the return of the, “I need to do all of this to get a education and a f****ing degree!”

Are you kidding me? Getting into debt, paying all them tuitions, and fees?! The adult world saying we need more work, more quizzes, more tests, more degrees. So that we can serve the common good of you and me? But where’s our voice? The kid voice, the student voice, so those hypocrites of a lawmakers, educators, and teachers, listen as the rest of the world and I scream.

We’re the Real Students, yes we’re the Real Students. All you other students are just imitating so will the Real Students please stand up? Please stand up? Please stand up?

Cause I’m the Real Student, we’re the Real Students, and all those other hypocrites are just imitating so will the Real Students please stand up? Please stand up? Please stand up?

(rest of rap is writing in progress)

In the education reform conversation, we have heard from educators, parents, administrators, and policymakers, but we are missing the most authentic, indispensable voice — the Real Students. It troubles me that the people most affected by the actions made by policymakers have absolutely no say in the decision-making process.

The last thing you can do is ignore the Real Students. We know what’s wrong with the education system. We know how to fix it. You have questions, we have answers.

Policymakers have artificially promoted the youth voice. The first culprit is New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo declared in his State of the State address this year, “I learned that everyone in public education has his or her own lobbyist. Superintendents have lobbyists. Principals have lobbyists. Teachers have lobbyists. School boards have lobbyists. Maintenance personnel have lobbyists. Bus drivers have lobbyists. The only group without a lobbyist? The students. This year, I will take a second job — consider me the lobbyist for the students.”

No, Mr. Cuomo! We beg of you — don’t be our lobbyist. Pretty please, with a cherry on top! Your corporate ideologies of more charter schools and standardized testing will not change the way we learn. Let us speak!

The second culprit is Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. Last year, she appeared on the Oprah Show to promote her “feel good” organization StudentsFirst.

Rhee noted, “We absolutely must look at education through a new prism. We must put students first.”

But American Thinker was right on the ball with its headline, ”Students, Michelle Rhee’s Really Not That Into You.” It’s true! She’s just forwarding her own rulers agenda, not the students she says she advocates for!

Without addressing her nutty objectives, let’s point out two things. First, there’s not even one student on her staff, let alone an area where students can get information on how to get engaged in education. Second, in the StudentsFirst agenda, nowhere does it mention giving students the power to shape their education.

Thus, it may be more accurate for Rhee to change the name of the organization from StudentsFirst to “StudentsLast.”

This top-down approach to education has not and will never work. In parallel, Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN and author of the book How put it best, “The days of leading countries or companies via a one-way conversation are over. The old system of ‘command and control’ — using carrots and sticks — to exert power over people is fast being replaced by ‘connect and collaborate’ — to generate power through people.”

Education is a two-way street. It comes from the bottom up.

When students feel ownership of their school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together, they demonstrate phenomenal feats of growth and achievement. Give them some power, sit back, and watch the show!

As Dale Stephens, founder of UnCollege, likes to say, “Students who hack their education will change the world. Life is a field trip and you don’t even need a permission slip.”

We will continue to get burned by the system year after year after year if we sit back and do nothing. It was the great education reformer, Paulo Freire, who perceptively noted, “If the structure does not permit dialogue, the structure must be changed.”

In education reform, we have tried implementing the same “silver bullets” over and over again with the expectation of different results. This is insanity at its finest. The 21st-century education system screams for a revolution, not tweaks.

Bring on the learning revolution! And once more, will the Real Students, please stand up?

Taken and rewritten with permission from Nikhil Goyal, original author of the Real Students and One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

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