You Need More Than Your Academic Education to Survive

June 2nd, 2016 by Nick Notas 5 Comments


Our parents taught us the value of education. We were pushed to study hard, get into a great school, and achieve that fancy piece of paper.

Most of our generation entered this world proud of those accomplishments. We believed all that work would pay off and provide an easy, sustainable life.

Only now we’re all realizing that a college degree doesn’t mean we’re going to get the job of our dreams. In fact, the value of our degree is diminishing as more people get them and more people get higher level degrees.

The merits of a prestigious school are dwindling, too. Many employers don’t care about the university you attended. They care about your portfolio and experience, interview skills, and connections.

Many people are applying to dozens upon dozens of jobs with no success. This trend is only going to continue as more jobs are replaced by technology. We’re already estimating 5 million US jobs will be replaced with robots by 2020 and another 80 million replaced in the next 10-20 years.

And most of all, we have a generation who spent their entire life focusing on academics that can’t attract the people they want into their lives or maintain healthy relationships.

I have nothing against education. In fact, I think education is at the core of human survival. But we need to start thinking of your primary education as more than just an engineering degree from MIT.

This isn’t the industrial age. This is the information age.

The most important skills in life aren’t taught in school anymore.

I’m talking about things like…

Making strong friendships and business connections. Managing your finances well and learning “hacks” to save money. Developing your self-confidence and leadership abilities. Being a creative, out-of-the-box thinker. Find out how to actually be happy and fulfilled.

The beauty about all those things is that because we live in a connected, digital age, there is no better time than now to self-educate. And the only way to survive in this modern world is to embrace the 6 critical forms of alternative education.

You need to start educating yourself through…


Your ability to build strong bonds with other human beings will seriously affect just about everything in your life.

Most studies show that 70-80% of new job hires are done through referrals. In my experience, that almost never happens by going to a business networking event, talking about work for 5 minutes, and trading business cards. You’re better off pushing past small talk and getting onto other (potentially personal subjects) as if you’re old friends.

In general, you need to make real friendships anywhere and everywhere. Then think about how you can make those people happier, laugh, or help them out in some way. In turn, good friends will naturally want to return that value. Sending out mass amounts of resumes is not the smartest avenue anymore.

Building more romantic connections helps you become a better partner. It forces you to deal with different people and better communicate your boundaries and expectations. It lets you see what you want or don’t want in someone so you can choose healthier relationships. And that all leads to a mindset of abundance. 

Most of all, new connections with all sorts of people broadens your mind. It shows you new points of view and challenges your way of thinking. This is why I advocate traveling so much. Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds shows you just how tiny your current world really is.


Putting yourself in new situations expands your comfort zone and leads to self-confidence. It helps you discover passions and develop skills that you would have never expected. It is only when you get your hands dirty will you find out what you truly enjoy in life and feel fulfilled doing.

Experiences allow you to see problems you hadn’t thought of before and devise ways in which you can solve them. Which, especially now, is an incredibly valuable asset because there’s no better time to be an entrepreneur. You can build apps, write books, offer services, create apparel, or come up with an endless amount of other ideas. And you can do all this on the side, while working full time, and having fun with it.

And in a world where 62% of Americans have less than $1000 in the savings account — bonus income is always a good thing.

I recently met a former attorney who loves to travel. He would often visit different countries and realized how cumbersome and annoying a big suitcase could be. He wanted a carry-on that was extremely durable and sleek for the modern professional. But it didn’t exist…so he built it.

He kickstarted Minaal backpacks to huge success, quit his job, and is now focused on the company full time. He found something more rewarding than he could even imagine which provides a great product to thousands of people. None of it would have happened if he hadn’t pushed himself to see other parts of the world.

If you want to learn more about yourself and love who you are, it won’t happen if you’re watching YouTube videos every night. When you look back on your life, you will cherish your experiences the most — especially with the people you care about.


Many people do everything in their power to not be wrong or “fail”. They continually take the safe, known routes in life and pat themselves on the back for avoiding any pain. But by doing so they are doing a massive disservice to their personal growth and their ultimate potential.

Because failure may be one of the best teaching tools life has to offer.

Failure is only an enemy if you see it as a personal defeat. But if you recognize it is as an ally in which to gain feedback and make better decisions from — you become unstoppable. There is almost no individual or business in life who hasn’t failed repeatedly in order to achieve monumental success.

I challenge myself to try everything in various ways. I try not to hold onto preconceived notions of the right way to do things or to automatically follow how everyone else has done it. I’m always looking for alternative methods to approach a new venture or problem. This is why you’re seeing newer companies constantly shake up industries and dethrone big players.

I’ve embraced a willingness to fail and to see how I can fail faster. This forces me to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions rather than be complacent. And I attribute so much of my business and interpersonal success to this powerful idea.


Now obviously, blind repeated failure is not a smart way to live. You’re just going to end up frustrated and demotivated. You have to find ways to come out stronger from your experimentation and experiences in life.

That all starts by taking an honest look at yourself. You have to dig into the parts of your soul and ego most people are terrified of going into. You have to understand your motivations, your fears, and challenge your beliefs and habits.

You start that by asking deeper, introspective questions that force you to answer truthfully.

Only then will you learn more about what you need to improve upon. You will let go of your pride which will enable you to experiment further and give accurate self-criticism. And you will begin to make better decisions and become adept at handling failures and future experiences.

From there you will begin to take the right actions to empower yourself in life. Read more with using my guide to self-analysis here.


If you’re the smartest person you know, then you’re actually the fool. It’s the insecure person who always wants to feel superior and act like they understand everything. Congratulations, all you’ve got is a big ego and a small way of thinking.

Smart individuals surround themselves with people that are more experienced or more intelligent than they are in various aspects of life. They accept that you can’t be the best at everything and that everyone has their strengths. So the best course of action is to learn from those people’s strengths and to share yours with them. There’s always something you’re more well-equipped at that you can help them with. 

I’m not saying everyone you’re friends with has to be a genius. But you should also surround yourself with mentors in every walk of life.

These don’t have to necessarily be paid coaches or tutors, either. This could be your uncle who’s successfully invested in a lot of real estate, your friend who went from a shy boy to a ladies man, or e-mailing a stranger you admire. It’s amazing how many times a genuine thought-provoking question or fun link share can turn into a meaningful friendship. You can even setup a monthly mastermind call with a few friends in different fields.

These people put in the hard work and gotten the experience to know what works and what doesn’t. By starting from their knowledge, you’ve already shortcutted much of the groundwork needed and are that much further along in the process.


It’s easy for our specialized education to box us into certain hobbies or interests. Maybe you spent most of your life focusing on computers and coding to become a software engineer. Now you spend hours on Stack Exchange, building new apps, and learning different languages in your free time. You tell yourself and your friends that your only interest is programming and you don’t really care about anything else.

That’s just bullshit. You often have no clue what you’ll actually enjoy until you’ve learned more about it or tried it yourself. And the more you start to try new things, coincidentally the more your interests start to broaden.

There’s nothing wrong with specializing in something. But if you’re only putting effort into that narrow field, you’re going to suffer in other areas of life and even in your own field

The software engineers that end up getting promotions in their company or pioneering a new product almost always have other skill sets. They speak at conferences, they can manage a team of other engineers, or they understand many different subjects in order to solve all sorts of problems.

By being well-versed in different topics, you became more well-rounded and stronger at what you do want to focus on. They can roll with almost anyone in any conversation and become incredible leaders. And they combine ideas from all walks of life to build something greater than the sum of its parts.

You don’t need to be an expert on every topic. You just need to understand a little about a lot. You never know when something seemingly insignificant will prove useful.

To survive in this world, you need to educate yourself from the school of life.

  1. Shane on June 2, 2016

    I used to be one of those guys who acted snobby since I went to an ivy league school. I put my self-worth into my education and had a superiority complex because I was so insecure. By the time I got into the real world I met people who were much smarter than me that went to no name schools or even didn’t finish school. The best dev in my company never went to college and only did freelance…now he’s teaching all the new hires.

    Now I never try to judge a book by its cover and always try to learn from everyone. It’s made me a better engineer and a more secure guy all around.

    • Nick Notas on June 2, 2016

      That’s a huge step in your personal development Shane. Congrats on being more open-minded. It’s funny, the best programmer I know (who also designed my site) never went to school, either. He’s now a huge asset in one of the best rails companies around. He just self-taught since he was young (using many of the principles listed in the article) and persevered because of it.

  2. Michael on June 2, 2016

    In my heart, I truly believe everything you are saying here. I personally am maintaining a full time job while completing my BA but it does not seem it will bring lasting happiness.

    I’ve always dealt w anxiety & depression & the very thought of opening up to someone sometimes scares me but I am almost 30 years old! What you’ve written has been inspirational. I really want to surround myself w esteemed individuals because I believe I have a lot to give. I really want to become the best version of myself but my values are ‘old school’. I need to break out & understand that the times have changed. Your article certainly proves this.



    • Nick Notas on June 2, 2016

      Hi Michael,

      I’m touched my article resonated with you so deeply. Congrats on working while still getting your degree, that’s not an easy task. It can still be immensely useful to get your degree, it’s just that you need to educate yourself outside of that as well. You have the power to break out of your shell, you just have to start putting yourself out there.

  3. Angel on June 8, 2016

    Academic qualifications are overrated Nick. What I personally value more is life skills. Like you mentioned in your article just now such as making new connections and how to ask girls on dates. There’s more. Like looking after your wardrobe and buying fashionable clothes, learning how to keep fit and build muscle, knowing how to drive a car, how to deal with disrespectful people, learn how to protect yourself in violent situations via martial arts or self-defence. The list is endless. Many life lessons are not likely taught at school which is why I hate school.