Stay in school. Turn off the TV. Stop reading the headlines. I’m sorry, but you are not going to change the world. At least not right away.
First and foremost, kids, don’t get lost in the hype of Silicon Valley — the place or the new HBO series. Focus on your higher education so you can attain the necessary tools that will help you build a business that’s a runaway success. Definitely don’t run away from school — even if there’s a $100,000 carrot being dangled in front of you.
Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute … isn’t this that same guy who dropped out of high school at 16 to launch his first company? Is this the same Gurbaksh Chahal who was unsatisfied and dismissive of his years at school?”
Yep, that would be me. But hear me out …
After seeing the first episode of “Silicon Valley,” which sets out to skewer the world of high-tech startups, I’m spurred into speaking up in favor of staying in school.
Let’s just say that the show missed for me. One story line in particular made me sit up and roll my eyes. It was an allusion to the real-world offer by a Silicon Valley billionaire handing out $100,000 to 24 kids under 20 if they dropped out of college and started companies. His premise is that it’s a quicker way to business innovation.
I don’t agree with this approach, and it’s not the same as what I did.
I don’t believe in encouraging kids to drop out of school — especially with a financial lure. It’s an entirely different matter if someone comes up with a business idea and begins to successfully implement it — and then weighs the risk of staying in school. Which is what I did. It’s what Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and many others did. We simply executed our visions. We didn’t have immediate financial incentives. Our only incentive was the opportunity of success itself.
College equips most people with the knowledge and skills they can deploy for lifelong learning and authentic success. That’s why, even though I left formal schooling at a young age, I encourage students of today with scholarships through my foundation. I applaud universities like Pace University, which includes entrepreneurship as part of its curriculum. I want people to stay in school.
To start a successful business, you need to be chasing your dream, not some hope of glory. Hollywood always sensationalizes how easy it is. That’s why you should never pursue hope by sacrificing your education. Money comes and goes, but no one can ever take your education from you.
Starting a successful business is only about the P&L. It’s often boring. It’s not about changing the world. And if that does happen because of your business, it’s the byproduct of a collective vision that came to reality. But for most companies, it’s about making profit. Young entrepreneurs should be making it happen without the benefit of a handout. To me, it just sends the wrong signal, and takes away an important variable you need to learn in business — how to hustle when you have everything to lose.
As the Atlantic recently reported: “Sensational media stories about millionaire dropouts miss one thing: The vast majority of America’s 30 million college dropouts are more likely than graduates to be unemployed, poor, and in default on their student loans.”
College is a vital stepping-stone toward a future of opportunity. It is the platform via which whole families can be lifted to better prospects. Almost without fail, every degree — from associate to doctorate — leads to progressively higher wages, according to various studies. A college education is by no means an obstacle to entrepreneurial success; on the contrary, a college education arms a person with the suite of skills necessary to capitalize on a great idea.
Starting a successful business is something you do instinctively. It’s an inner calling. It’s a passion that drives you to compete. The more you are able to hustle with grace, the more likely you are to be the winner. That’s why you’re better off staying in school instead of playing the lottery.
Gurbaksh Chahal is founder and CEO of RadiumOne, which builds intelligent software that automates media buying, making big data actionable for marketers, and connecting them to their next customer. Reach him @gchahal.