quitterAre you too cool for school? 

It is with mixed feelings that I marvel over the success of several notable dropouts.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been reminded of several notable dropouts from school, Steve Jobs (Reed College), Bill Gates (Harvard), and Elon Musk (Stanford).  For those really interested, we could list many many more.  Maybe the term ‘dropouts’ is a misnomer, as people dropout at many different points. Jobs and Gates dropped out of undergraduate programs, Musk out of a Ph.D. program.  Nonetheless, all are quitters.

So, what’s so bad about quitting? 

I guess the problem would be making the perceptual exposure bias mistake of overgeneralizing the glory of dropouts.  I’m sure there are far more dropouts that are very disenfranchised with their choice than there are Microsoft, Apple, and PayPal success stories.  A common theme among those who dropout successfully is the jump to something bigger or more important.  For Gates and Musk that was the case – dropping out to start a company around some high-potential biz.

I guess formal education is always a value proposition. What do you expect to gain from school vs. the cost of school (time, money, opportunities, etc.). If the costs are too big, dropout. Like most things, however, estimating the value of an opportunity is hard to do. Given the risk it seems like education is common sense.

Ok. Common sense… Pro-Education: Slow and safe wins the race.  Pro-Quitter: No guts, no glory.

I’m reminded of a point a former professor once made – “common sense” is a bit confusing.  It can argue both sides of most discussions.  Example: Two heads are better than one.  Wait.  Too many cooks spoil the broth.  Hmmm.  Looks like there is no easy answer to quitting.