Episode 014 - College… Take the Red or Blue Pill?

This episode shines a light on the choice of going to college. Parents and students are trying to make the right decisions for this important choice. I am going to give you some ideas you may not be yet considering... The Red Pill approach.

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Show Notes

irst, when I am talking about the “Red Pill” and “Blue Pill”, this is a reference to the film - The Matrix, in which Neo is given the option to escape the virtual reality illusion that is enslaving humanity by taking a Red Pill, or returning back to that illusion with the Blue Pill.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.  Anyway let’s get back to the show....

I’m going to start by making some generate caveats here.  I’m going to tell real stories that support a position I have come to.  I have had to re-record this episode a couple of times because I want to send this message correctly - hoping that it becomes something people can reference for many years to come.

You, as a parent, have the right to take any of my message to heart or reject it outright.  I’m not going to expect the majority of parents who hear this to agree with me.  I’m going to “poke the bear” so to speak of US social norms.  By now you should know that this is what I do.  Yes, those norms have created economics for people that have made many rich.  But like those that win big at the casino, the vast majority don’t and they are the ones that don’t tell you of their losses when they come back from Vegas.  It is my goal in this episode to tell you that the choice of where you direct your child for their education and career should be chosen very carefully, but you know that already.  I’m just going to tell you that the options you may be considering should be challenged and it would be better to partner with your child so that they decide for themselves at the right time, what they want to be.  And at the age of 18, that is pretty much impossible for the majority to know.

It seems that there are social “norms” that US people have subscribed to without question.  One of them is that you need a college degree as your permission slip into the middle class.  I believe we all have to challenge this profusely however it sends the wrong message to both parents and kids alike and creates an opportunity at an early age that a student can become a victim to a debt enslaved world.

You see I’m a parent, so I’ve been through this charade.  When my daughter was nearing the end of her high school years, we had been told of the social norms that kids need to go to college.  I was told this when she was a toddler, so we began preparing for this.  We never questioned it.  We just accepted and subscribed.  It was like paying taxes - you don’t question it, you just pay.  So each month I slugged away thousands into 529 Savings plans, probably like all other parents do.  Without questioning.

In the back of my mind, I compared my own experiences and realized that they were so different.  I never went to college.  I went out and carved my own way in the world by learning a skill that was in high demand, by understanding how to be ahead of the demand curve and how the laws of supply & demand work.  This served me well, but I was doing this in a relatively “free market”.  I just assumed that the laws of the free market would apply and for me they did.  I have done extremely well with my decisions, but they are completely opposite to the default US cultural mindset.

That said, I just succumbed to the US way.  “When in Rome...” as they say.  I thought that all the people I had met as their consultant or advisors knew what they were doing.  My friends put their kids through college and they seem to have turned out as decent people.  I didn’t know their kids well enough to question whether they were happy.  I just got the filtered view of how they were doing from their parents.  My kids doing “just fine - they are a XXXX at corpoation YYYYY” they would tell me.  

But when my daughter turned 18, I started realizing that this cultural path of going to college was flawed.  The four year Bachelor’s degree that seemed to be the minimum standard to even get an interview at some big Fortune 500 corporation required an investment of $100,000 minimum.  The investment covered by tuition but also accomodation & books, etc.  We had the money put aside for this, so we paid it.  We didn’t question it enough.

I saw the stress and pain that my daughter had to go through in high school trying to work out what she wanted to be.  She had never set foot into the “real world” yet.  Everything was a high school experience.  The closest she got to employment was some high school guidance counsellor and maybe some minimum work experience program - and even that didn’t really happen until she was in college.  Yet she was expected to choose a path for the rest of her life.  What she wanted to “be”.  

“BE”?  She only knew how to be a kid.  How is it that she is expected to choose a path at the age of 16 or 17?  That the indotrination of US education wanted her to direct herself into a field before she had even understood how the world worked?   And to make matters worse, to commit to a $100K 4 year expense that would fund said learning.  The risk here is that you choose something you find you hate, and then at the end of it you have lost the 4 years of opportunity cost, the $100K and emotional depression and stress as you measure yourself against your peers.  Some put up a great charade with all of this and told their friends that they knew where they were going.  They were going to be a XXX and “kill it” in the world.  

What I discovered watching this whole college experience from afar was that the colleges were a bubble of fiction - created to extract more and more money at every corner.  From parking fees, to dorm fees to sororiety fees to countless other “junk charges” all the time.  We’d get these statements of things I had no idea what they were about.  I had to constantly ask my daughter, “Do you know what this is for?”.  About half the time she did, the other half we were both confused.  Yet we paid without question.

Considering the fact she had no idea of what she wanted to be, I suggested that if she did a business degree, at least it would give her access to the interviews in pretty much any company, government department or corporate enterprise.  It didn’t pidgeon hole her into one field.  And she did.  She graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Management.  Along the way she discovered she has some pretty strong management skills and started to learn how to put teams together and direct them to task.  

But she still doesn’t know what she wants to be.  During the final year or so, she took a 10 week internship at a Fortune 500 corporation in Los Angeles at their corporate office.  This resulted in a $75K a year job offer that she got before she graduated.  Yet she turned it down.  She hated the idea of a cubicle life.  I don’t blame her.  Then another Fortune 500 corporation offered her a junior management position.  Again, she turned it down.  Again, the cubicle life or to embrace the hypnosis of corporate mindset and “team building” didn’t offer any form of interest to her.  She decided she might want to start her own business and she’s doing that, but again without any knowledge of what field interests her, she is spinning her wheels in this.  Sure, she has the tenacity to be great in any field.  But what field?

Surely something would be a passion.  But how the hell can a kid discover what makes them passionate until they have been out in the real world?  And the real world isn’t our local community, city, state or even country.  The real world is the “world”.  She was born outside of the USA yet raised in the USA, so she doesn’t question US dogma as much as I do.  But in the back of her mind, she knows something is wrong.  That her friends are often misguided.

The end result is that she is now working to save up money to spend traveling the world.  I am so happy with this.  I want her to find herself out there - to challenge her perceptions and to realize that opportunities are everywhere and that you have to go to them.  You discover along the way who you are, and those opportunities in the cubicle never really tell you who you are - what you can do.   

So it was with great interest that  I got an email from a listener the other day who is 33 and is disillusioned by life.  Trying to raise a young family with kids, a wife, a mortgage, etc. he is working the 9-5 corporate gig and is miserable.  He found my show because he is wanting.   There is a massive sense of helplessness out there when people realize that sitting in traffic for an hour each way to work for a job that is less and less rewarding as time goes on, just to try and make ends meet, support a family, etc.   Rinse & Repeat day after day...  Is that life?  Is that happiness?

No, it isn’t.  But if you asked 95% of all parents if they saw their kids doing this, they’d be proud that they had a “good job” and were raising a “good family”, etc.  But deep down they know they are unhappy.  Probably because the same parents went through the same unhappiness and learned to accept it.  But to push this on their kids at the age of 18 because they knew no better is just naive at best.  And no parent ever wants their kids to be unhappy.

This is the social norm.  That parents tell other parents, “My kids doing great” because they have a job at corporation X.  The reality is that never tell the truth.  They don’t share the bad stories.  They don’t share stories of depression, unhappiness, debt, lack of hope, etc.  Why?  Because no one wants to be seen as a failure with their kids.  So the charade continues.  We call this the “American Dream”.

Where did we all go wrong here?  Why is the “American Dream” the “American Nightmare” for most these days?

Very simple.  Banks & debt.  You see that debt is addictive.  Both to the borrower who becomes debt enslaved, and to the lender who wants more, more, more interest on their money.  The lender knows that they have an asset (cash) and they want to get a return over time on that asset.  So they lend it.  I mean what investments give 25% return on capital these days?  I can tell you one that does - credit card lending.  But this is a game only the few can play in.

But so too is student loan debt and the really great thing for bankers is that the borrower can never discharge it.  The US government created a “safety net” for banks so that students could never remove the trap of that debt ever.  That’s why I worked as hard as I could to fund my daughter’s entire college education with cash.  In retrospect, it was a stupid idea.  I mean consider the endpoint here.  She’s working in an entry level job, making a very low income, but she has a low burn rate so she can afford to take risks and do that.  She doesn’t really know what she wants to do.  Why?  Because at the age of 18 she was put into an institution (college) that promised the “college experience” and yet only those that went in for hard degree programs such as medical, engineering, law, architecture, accounting, etc. where the knowledge gained had direct relevance to their chosen careers, made money out of college immediately.   It was my thought that if you don’t know what to do, then do business.  At least you will enter a society that has some value on that degree.  Yet most of what they teach has little relevance.  They don’t teach them how to read a P&L statement, how to manage cashflow, how to balance a check book, how debt works, etc.  Maybe a mention in a lecture here or there, but they would prefer some global economic discussion that has no real relevance to the student’s lives, so they leave college as lambs to the slaughter of the “real world” out there.

Here’s the problem.  At the age of 18, with little or no real world experience, how the hell do you know what you want to be?  You barely know how to “be” at all.  Your experience in life, relationships, responsibility, etc. is minimal at best.  So to pile on the pressure of choosing a career path with no actual real world experience of that career, is just plain stupid.  No one in their right mind would do that.  Yet we do it en mass and think of it as the “right thing to do”.  This is hypnosis at a scale I’ve never seen before, and I’m telling you this as one parent who got caught in that very same trap, but at least had the ability to fund my own daughter’s education so that she isn’t lumbered with debt for the next 20 years.

Unfortunately 85% of her graduating class didn’t have that support.  They took on $100K debt levels for careers that they have no idea if they will be happy in, needing the next 10-20 years to pay it off at the expense of opportunities that may be discovered that might actually make them happy by they cannot participate in because of the debt load.  That could also affect their ability to buy a home, raise a family, etc.  This is just crazy to me.

I prefer the European model better.  After graduating high school, you take 1-2 years as what the Americans call “gap years” and travel.  See the world, make new relationships, understand different cultures, live in hostels, travel with a small suitcase or backpacks, get robbed in Italy, work in a bar in Bali, make friends in Taiwan, etc.  This is where you learn who you are, what makes you happy, what life is like to immerse yourself in the world and discover you.  Maybe you take 5 years.  Who cares if you are happy.  And maybe along the way you learn how to make enough to get through each month so you can perpetually travel.  

One day you return home.  You are wise.  You have real world experience.  You seek out real meaningful activities that will make you happy and you discover that life is just a journey towards that end.  You don’t find it in a cubicle.  Most of the people I know that traveled for years and came back to home and got a corporate job, left it within 1 year.  Why?  Because they can see through the charade now.

I want my kid to see through the charade.  But as a parent it is very hard to present them with options of the “Blue Pill” of doing what every other student is doing, because their parents told them that they should stay in school, study hard, graduate, get a good job and raise a family.  Is that making them happy?  Or should they take the “Red Pill” and exit regular social culture and travel, find out who they are, discover how wonderful and creative and strong they really are by putting themselves in challenges of the real world.  Then transcend the fiction that is fed to them from everyone who is “worrying about them traveling around the world” only to realize that there are more dangers and fears back at home by not doing it.  That’s the Red Pill experience.  Who is actually richer 10 or 20 years later?  I’m going put my money on Red in this case.

So let’s pull back the layers of the onion and see this for what it really is.

The USA is a country of strong loyalty that is taught to kids at the earliest of age.  Allegiance to the flag, etc. is something that pre-school kids are taught.  And with that loyalty, there is a sense that if their nation comes calling, as has happened in the past, that they will rise up and defend the interests of the USA.  This loyalty is admirable, but it is also a potential weakness.  Because when you have a society that will follow ideology as well as is the case in the USA, it can be exploited.  And the best way to exploit this is with debt.

The banks have seen opportunity to enslave the average American from the age of 18 until the day they die.  They have predefined a life of paying interest based on reducing the incentive to save and increasing the incentive to borrow.  That means that, at the earliest of life - as soon as the individual is legally able to enter into a contract, they are signing up kids for $100K+ debt loads that can never be discharged by bankruptcy.  And that this debt load carries into their plans to buy a house, raise a family, etc.  We push out those things until later in life, so that in the final quarter of one’s life, they are still paying off their mortgage or never were able to get one so they are renting.  That means one thing - they are constrained and forced to work until the day they die.

This is not life.  This is total hypnosis to help perpetuate the end game which is total debt enslavement.  Unfortunately we are nearing that end game.  Even our government cannot escape its debt and submission to the bankers, so they are no longer in control.  You vote for team A or team B in government, but neither has the political will to kick the addiction to debt.  Instead they create policies and spin to enslave the masses into this charade that is simply....

“Before you have any choice as to what you want to do, to make you happy, we will saddle you with $100K of debt (if not more) so that your ability to make said choices are taken from you, and you will submit your will to the corporation, which is debt enslaved to the banks with low interest money anyway”.

That’s it right there.  Your choice as an 18 year old is to sign a debt contract, which is not about money as much as it is about freedom.  You give away your freedom to learn who you are.  The Blue Pill.

Your parents probably took the blue pill themselves and their only point of reference is that same path.  It isn’t surprising that this will perpetuate.  But the question really comes down to who has the courage to take the Red Pill?

You see the red pill goes against the grain.  A friend of mine who is about my age, that I grew up with in Australia, teaches high school in a country town in Australia.  I had dinner with him earlier this year.  He chose to go to university and get a Teaching degree.  He has been a teacher for all of his working life.  I can’t tell you if he is happy with that, but I can tell you that he is a proud and happy father of a wonderful girl and a devoted husband.  Those things make you really happy.  But he goes to work every day and his only solace is to play some golf on the weekend.  I know his earlier years because he lived in Austria for a few years, then in New Zealand, etc.  He had the chance to “find himself” in his travels.  I remember visiting him in just outside of Salzberg, Austria and he blew me away with is command of the German language, his ability to become part of the local society in that region, to do business with local vendors, etc....  I mean I was so impressed.  To me, he found success not so much in the money he made, but the skills he learned and the pride he deservedly had in himself for what he had accomplished.

So we’re having dinner earlier this year and he tells me about the career guidance that role the teachers are expected to play for the students in the high school.  He said that they are told to promote either a career in the “trades” (that is apprenticeships in trades such as plumbing, electrical, auto mechanics, etc.) or to study hard and go to university.  But he then said that he was talking with one student that seemed to get the sense that neither option was appealing.  He told the student about me.

In his words, “Well I have a friend who lives in the USA, but spends much of his time traveling the world.  He doesn’t have a job.  But he is wealthy and is unconstrained.  You could do that.”  

Holy cow...  How many career guidance counsellors would say that to a child?  Their parents would be calling the school complaining about the teacher who puts those crazy ideas into their kid’s head.  That they should be fired, etc.  Yet the very same teacher knows the truth.  Because in my friend’s case, he was that unconstrained person for many years, living and working in Europe or New Zealand, etc.  Finding his true path and now has a reference point.  But he chose to eventually take the Blue pill with a mortgage and planted his flag and stayed in one place doing the one job, etc.  Other than his devotion to his family, where did this get him?  Would it not have been more of a valuable decision to continue his travels as a teacher around the world, taking his family with him and exposing his child to what would then be considered “normal” to the child - to have friends that don’t speak the same language as you, and to have to learn their language and cultures?  To realize that the world is a wonderful place and should never be confused with a dangerous place to be?  Danger is more prevelant back at home, and more so from the bankers that want to own your freedom - not the gangster in the hoodie down the street.

The fictions we tell ourselves and we tell our children will stall the growth to the point where they realize that they should have taken the Red Pill and escaped the clutches of the bank owned society.  Sure, many people out there are doing really well financially as a result of taking the Blue pill here.  But lifestyle inflation and the ongoing questioning of “Is this as good as it gets?” that they are faced with, means that they are not happy.  Happiness is when you learn something about yourself by challenging yourself and just making greater sales numbers, or increasing ROI for a faceless corporation, etc. isn’t happiness.  You are hypnotized to think it is.

If you know your calling is to save lives, or help others and you knew that well before your 18th birthday, you are in the minority.  But you are successful if that was you.  Unfortunately I know very few people who fall into that category.  The vast majority of my friends who found meaning in their work did it with debt load like an albatross around their necks.  Those that didn’t try and show off that they owned things they can’t afford, like fancy cars, big houses, etc. are wise.  They have a chance to escape the clutches of debt and bankers.  But that’s about 10% of society.  Those that fall into that percentage may have been the people that did escape institutionalized learning and found their true learning occured in a train station in Brussels, or finding affordable food to eat in Buenos Aires.  They learned how to speak another language or how to build a meaningful friendship with people from other cultures who gave them a sense of vision that was alien to them.  That’s education.  You can’t get that in a book, on YouTube, it isn’t some Instagram story, etc.  It is real life and you should participate.

So I return to my original question.  You are 18.  Do you take the Blue Pill or the Red Pill?

Parents, you know the real answer here.  Don’t let your own fears define a limited perspective for your kids.  Let them be free to learn who they are before you saddle them with the burden of picking a career in a field they have no experience in.  Because, yes - work can give you meaning and hope in life.  But only if that work is not “work” but it is something you are passionate about doing.  You know that.  You’ve spent your entire life learning that lesson.  Realize that instutions don’t hold the answer to that challenge - but they have morphed into a debt enslaved world of high expense and enslavement that isn’t something any parent would want to burden their kids with.

Maybe it is time we take a leaf out of the European playbook here and learn that a “gap year” (or two) is the best education we could ever fund for our kids.  And maybe then we can teach them, on their return, that if they want to return back to the risk of economic slavery, that they first learn that working towards buying assets that generates cashflow without their time involvement might be a way they could return to that perpetual traveling life that they found so rewarding and helped them find who they really are.  That this never really ends, but you can really stall happiness if you go looking for it in a nameless corporation full of cubicle and “team meetings”.  

You see, the $100K of money you would put down for an education can still be done at the age of 27 or 30 or 40, etc.  No one is telling you that you have to have the college experience at the age of 18.  Except the banks.  You might even find that once you discover who you are, what your passion is, etc. that you don’t need the college experience to make it happen.  That’s what happened to me.  But the reality is that you might also find that when you compare the lifestyle in other places you found in your travels with the lifestyle back home, that maybe you would prefer to have that college experience in Barcelona or Finland or Sao Paulo or Mexico City.  Or maybe you don’t want it because your passion is to build a business and a college degree won’t really help you there.  Did Sir Richard Branson have a degree?  https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/29/richard-branson-says-the-key-to-success-isnt-a-university-degree.html
Did Bill Gates finish his degree at Harvard?  Did Mark Zuckerberg finish his degree?  They knew what they wanted in life early.  And one thing is for sure - a passion for doing something you love will mean you will never work a day in your life.  And you will be so much more powerful for having found that, so you don’t need social norms.  That is how extraordinary people operate.  

As yourself how many graduates of college end up doing work in the field of their education?  And of those, how many are truly happy that they chose the right field at the age of 18?   Parents, knowing what you know now, are you 100% sure that this social mantra is working?  If you believe it is, then the answer is clear for what you do with assisting your kid towards their journey.  If you honestly believe it is not, then I’m trying to explain that there are other ways too.  And they are at least worthy of some discussion.  Like my friend in Australia with his career guidance.  Don’t freak out if your kid tells you they don’t want to participate in the US social norms.  Maybe they are seeing things more clearly than we parents are.  They create the world for themselves and they have the right to do that on their terms.

If you work in some corporate job, and you participate in the hiring process for your enterprise or work in HR, I believe it is your duty to stop perpetuating the fact that you need a college degree to gain entry into the interview process.  That skills, experience and character is a better way to get dedicated team members working for you.  Sure, that means you actually have to do more work.  The computerized “Monster.com” first level screening software can’t be used, so you actually have to work for a living.  A robot won’t kick out those with true potential - the Richard Bransons, from applying.  And perpetuate this charade that just makes bankers richer and US people more debt enslaved.  Yes, I blame HR departments for their laziness here because they need to understand that passion is far more important than a permission slip, otherwise they will continue to have bored, depressed, hypnotized worker ants occupying the cubicles in their organizations, perpetuating the myth that they are doing “just fine” while they write me emails that they are miserable and lack hope.

I challenge you, the HR department, to earn your keep and do what is right not only for your enterprise but for the USA by removing the restriction that a college degree is the first filter of applicants to your open positions.  Do that, and we have a chance to break the hold of the banksters on our people.

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