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Voices


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.



8 comments
Fleventy-Five
Fleventy-Five

This post completely ignores what's actually going on in the show. The character offering kids money to drop out of school, Peter Gregory, is a crazy fellow. Crazy smart, but also crazy. And in the TED-style talk where he says this ridiculous offer, he is rebutted by a member of the audience for speaking such craziness.


It's also totally clear that the important characters in the show DID go to college and use what they learned there to make Pied Piper a success.

Phil C.
Phil C.

Gurbash Chahal just got convicted of domestic violence, although with the available evidence, he should have been put away for 20 years for attempted murder.  What a peach of a guy.  I don't think I'd take directions to the men's room from him, let alone career advice.

Irwan Juanda
Irwan Juanda

This kind of topic always get me wondering if anyone out there has the statistic for:

1. Percentage of people who dropped out of education insitution and become successful

2. Percentage of people who finish their education and become successful


I mean, just because several persons dropped out of school and become successful means that it is a way to be successful. I mean, really, that's such a fallacy.

DitchTheBun
DitchTheBun

I agree education is absolutely a vital foundation! Without my bachelor degree I wouldn't even be considered for the position I am in now. Even if we remove the University from the equation and just talk about high school, this education provides you with vital literacy skills that will absolutely help you in life. Even in the most basic job these days you will likely be required to read, write and possibly even use basic math on a daily basis. In many positions you need to be technologically literate, even for minimum wage work, think about it... there is more technology in a McDonald's than food these days! 

These skills you gain, this foundation you build, I cannot even stress appropriately in words how important it is! 

Think about the job you want to have and then think about whether you need these skills before making any rash decisions. I have a friend who hated math and didn't feel she needed it as she was going to be a hair and make-up artist, which was fine and she is quite good at what she does, but you need to be able to correctly mix up chemicals and colours etc. - that's math, you also need to keep your own books - that's math. 

Mike Schwartz
Mike Schwartz

Don't drop out of college to be a professional baseball player either, unless you have a nasty curve ball or throw 90+ mph.

RS9
RS9

 I agree that school is important but about the tuition fee? In the past decade tuition fees in some schools have gone up by 600%. Did the wages go up by 600%? Did the employment went by 600% ? Education and Health are fundamental problems of a healthy society and that needs to be addressed.  

Barnett Lobel
Barnett Lobel

However idealistic, Chahal makes a good point about how education is the foundation on which a successful business is built upon. If a person's educational foundation is weak, cracked, or incomplete, entrepreneurial dreams are more likely to remain as dreams. 

The flaw of this argument is that it assumes all colleges (and schools) are equally worthwhile as mechanisms for building one's educational foundation. As PayScale's intensive College ROI study demonstrates, not all colleges are worth the investment. 

If I'm a Stanford Computer Science major, turning down $100k to drop out is a pretty easy decision. Put me at university (i.e. environment) with a negative ROI and suddenly dropping out for $100k might be like winning the lottery -- a no-brainer to accept.


Silicon Valley is making progress in making education more affordable through MOOC's and the like. If the Gurbaksh Chahals' of the world are ultimately contributing to this cause, perhaps kids should be listening to Silicon Valley after all.

innerscorecard
innerscorecard

This article completely ignores the opportunity cost of school as it currently exists in the US. Not just the time commitment, but the massive tuition, which even adjusting for inflation, is at all-time highs.

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