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Steve Jobs In Praise of Dropping Out 1014

Posted by timothy
from the also-please-start-cool-companies dept.
atlacatl writes "Wired reports on Steve Jobs giving a graduation speech: 'Jobs, 50, said he attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon but dropped out after only eight months because it was too expensive for his working-class family. He said his real education started when he "dropped in" on whatever classes interested him -- including calligraphy.' The irony: that most students were graduating. I wouldn't invite him for a high school graduation. Imagine all the 'hard' work teachers, parents and guidance counselors put into brainwashing every kid that he/she must go to University." (Jobs was speaking to the graduates at Stanford University.)
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Steve Jobs In Praise of Dropping Out

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:07PM (#12809026)

    Ug... Job's touting dropping out will undoubtedly start a flurry of "ask.slashdot" questions similar to:
    Posted by Michael in an alternate universe
    from the Still-in-the-parents-basement dept.

    hey d00dz, i wanna drop out like Steve Jobs did! i also wanna leet sysadmin job. i aint got no skoolin' or relevant experience. the job has to let me wear my floorscent green hair down to my ass and let me show my 130 tattoos. and don't forget the piercings in my eyebrows, nose, lips, tongue, septum and 2" holes in the ears. and it has to pay $100K a year or i aint geting outta bed and i'm 2 leet to start at the bottom and work my way up because I AM UNIQE!
    The world owes me a living! so what do u /.ers do?
    Thanks, Steve.
    • by selfdiscipline (317559) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:55PM (#12809405) Homepage
      one man's insightful is another's flamebait.
      Personally, think that many people are just resentful of the fact that intelligent people do not need to go to school to get ahead.
    • by adam31 (817930) <adam31@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:08PM (#12809511)
      Remember that this speech was given to students graduating Stanford... not high school. Whether a degree is worthwhile, in the context of the audience, is moot.

      The point of the speech is to encourage students to "ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING". Graduating isn't the top of the mountain, it's base camp. It's not an accomplishment unless they use it to propel themselves. blah blah blah. Potential is for losers.

    • by Andrew Cady (115471) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:00AM (#12809795)
      This is an absurd and offensive characterization. A huge number of competent people lack the professional qualifications, connections, or luck to escape underemployment. This is particularly true in the software industry today, as opposed to a decade ago.

      The disconnect between professional requirements and competence is a serious social problem. There are certainly incompetents without qualifications, but there are plenty of amply competent (potential) workers without them -- what do you say to those?

      Steve Jobs hardly offers a solution. He entered the business at a time when hundreds of new businesses testified to the potential for entry. Today, the barriers to entry are far too high for the mere ability to produce a superior product to suffice, and it is plain to observe that there are no new entries to speak of. Of course, this is the fate of every market; any serious economy of scale means coalescence to oligopy sooner or later. So, what do you say to today's young Steve Jobs who cannot find his way to a job interview?
      • by TinyManCan (580322) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:39AM (#12809968) Homepage
        I don't think that you are correct about the barriers to entry being too high to start something new.

        There are technologies which have radically changed almost everything about peoples lives in the last 10 years. Do you really think that every product or technology is as good as it can be.

        I don't think that there has ever been a better time to start a new disruptive companies. Startup costs are at an all time low, your ability to communicate to the masses has never been higher.

        Maybe I'm just an optimist.
        • by Andrew Cady (115471) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @01:10AM (#12810115)
          I don't think that you are correct about the barriers to entry being too high to start something new.
          I meant in that specific market (PC manufacture). Barriers to entry are small in new markets and progressively rise with time. There are of course always new markets, but even the initial barriers to entry are often prohibitive.
          There are technologies which have radically changed almost everything about peoples lives in the last 10 years. Do you really think that every product or technology is as good as it can be.
          Do you really think superior product is sufficient for success? (You must be new here!) Anyway, the nature of modern technique is that any new product can be duplicated by a larger company that will be able to achieve a much higher scale of production, acquire capital, materials, labor, and publicity at a much cheaper price, and afford a far greater up-front loss. There are certainly areas in which a new business is possible, but it requires a lot of luck to find yourself in one.
          I don't think that there has ever been a better time to start a new disruptive companies. Startup costs are at an all time low, your ability to communicate to the masses has never been higher.
          This is of course nonsense by any objective metric. The number of successful businesses being started today is smaller than ever and getting smaller. The best time to start a business was surely at the beginning of the industrial revolution, or any time before that. After industrialization, competence becomes a commodity.
      • by killjoe (766577) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @01:18AM (#12810164)
        I went over to the apple web site and did a few random searches for jobs there. Virtually every single one requires a degree although some say "or equavalent experience". Most flat out require a degree.

        If Steve applied for a job at his own company he probably would not even get interviewed.
        • Yeah, sad that you have to buy a company you started in order to get a job there.
        • I went over to the apple web site and did a few random searches for jobs there.

          Me too; I kept winding up on this page [apple.com].

        • by ebuck (585470) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @07:52AM (#12811372)
          It is an intresting dilemma, but lest we all forget:

          Jobs didn't apply at his own company.

          If you feel that you have the skill to go out and make money, there's basically two routes:

          1. Convince someone else that you are worth what you desire to earn.
          2. Start a company.

          Jobs picked #2. To start a company, you need no credentials, but the list of required skills vary dramatically. You don't need to graduate to start a company, but you need to keep the company alive. Usually keeping the company viable is much more effort than getting a degree.

          Now if you're running a successful company, you want to hire people with degrees. In part because people with companies are already working for themselves. In part because you can't run a company where everyone is seriously about to jump ship to set up their own shop.

    • by jonnystiph (192687) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:36AM (#12809952) Homepage
      Ug... Job's touting dropping out will undoubtedly start a flurry of "ask.slashdot" questions similar to:

      Your comment was funny, and well put. However, I am a Linux Sysadmin, with many tattoos (no piercings or long hair however). I can say that Job's had many of the right ideas. I dropped in on many college classes, because I didn't have the money either.

      The result, is a very well rounded education. Also the ability to teach myself skills that are relevant to the work place. The key is really self-drive. If you REALLY want to learn, there is little stopping you. College is great from some. Myself, I honestly prefer a self-teaching method. It really comes down to your choice of learning.

      So yes, there are many people out there that think they can avoid the work of college by dropping out and landing a "leet job", and there are at least a few that care enough to work even harder to teach themselves.
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:07PM (#12809028) Homepage
    ...but a lot more drop out because they are stupid.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:19PM (#12809127)
      Larry Ellison (Oracle CEO) gave at Yale University to the Graduating class of 2000. What follows is a transcript of the speech delivered by Ellison at Yale University last month:

      "Graduates of Yale University, I apologize if you have endured this type of prologue before, but I want you to do something for me. Please, take a good look around you. Look at the classmate on your left. Look at the classmate on your right. Now, consider this: five years from now, 10 years from now, even 30 thirty years from now, odds are the person on your left is going to be a loser. The person on your right, meanwhile, will also be a loser. And you, in the middle? What can you expect? Loser. Loserhood. Loser Cum Laude.

      In fact, as I look out before me today, I don't see a thousand hopes for a bright tomorrow. I don't see a thousand future leaders in a thousand industries. I see a thousand losers. You're upset. That's understandable.

      After all, how can I, Lawrence "Larry" Ellison, college dropout, have the audacity to spout such heresy to the graduating class of one of the nation's most prestigious institutions? I'll tell you why. Because I, Lawrence "Larry" Ellison, second richest man on the planet, am a college dropout, and you are not. Because Bill Gates, richest man on the planet-for now anyway-is a college dropout, and you are not. Because Paul Allen, the third richest man on the planet, dropped out of college, and you did not. And for good measure, because Michael Dell, No. 9 on the list and moving up fast, is a college dropout, and you, yet again, are not.

      Hmm ... you're very upset. That's understandable. So let me stroke your egos for a moment by pointing out, quite sincerely, that your diplomas were not attained in vain. Most of you, I imagine, have spent four to five years here, and in many ways what you've learned and endured will serve you well in the years ahead. You've established good work habits. You've established a network of people that will help you down the road. And you've established what will be lifelong relationships with the word "therapy." All that of is good. For in truth, you will need that network. You will need those strong work habits.

      You will need that therapy. You will need them because you didn't drop out, and so you will never be among the richest people in the world. Oh sure, you may, perhaps, work your way up to #10 or #11, like Steve Ballmer. But then,I don't have to tell you who he really works for, do I?

      And for the record, he dropped out of grad school. Bit of a late bloomer.

      Finally, I realize that many of you, and hopefully by now most of you,are wondering, "Is there anything I can do? Is there any hope for me at all?" Actually, no. It's too late. You've absorbed too much, think you know too much. You're not 19 anymore. You have a built-in cap, and I'm not referring to the mortarboards on your heads.

      Hmm ... you're really very upset. That's understandable.

      So perhaps this would be a good time to bring up the silver lining. Not for you, Class of '00. You are a write-off, so I'll let you slink off to your pathetic $200,000-a-year jobs, where your checks will be signed by former classmates who dropped out two years ago.

      Instead, I want to give hope to any underclassmen here today. I say to you, and I can't stress this enough:

      LEAVE. Pack your things and your ideas and don't come back. Drop out. Start up. For I can tell you that a cap and gown will keep you down just as surely as these security guards dragging me off this stage are keeping me dow..."

      (At this point The Oracle CEO was ushered off stage.)
    • Of course, your post completely ignores the real issue: That they shouldn't have gone to college in the first place.

      The US has gotten so fixated on sending kids to college that we've lost sight of the reasons why we wanted them there in the first place. As a result, the quality of education has been declining, while the amount of debt our kids pile up before ever starting a job has been rising. And how many of those kids use their college degrees to do amazing things like sell real estate or become plumbers. i.e. What did that degree buy them other than a wad of debt?

      That's not to say that education is a bad thing. But people always get the best bang out of an education when they know they want it. Sending them to school before they know what they want to know only devalues it for everyone. Teach your kids to wait until they're ready. Then they can be sure that they really want to take on a college education.
      • ...whether they are prepared for it or not.

        College isn't just about the degree and the career. College is about a way of critically evaluating the world around you.

        Of course, you get out of it what you put into it, but I'm willing to bet that most everyone who dropped out of college after the first year will wish, within the following ten years, that they had stuck with it.
      • by OSXCPA (805476) on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:35PM (#12809666) Journal
        I left college after 2 years because I was bored to tears. Joined the Marines. Went back to college 6 years later *highly* motivated and enjoyed the heck out of learning - took CS classes for fun. My fellow undergrads, mostly straight from High School, hated their classes and hated me - I was the jerk who didn't listen to them whine about how hard their schedules were, or how much different classes sucked. My experience - most of them were too immature to appreciate the opportunity they had, and they had insufficient life experience to know that they should feel passionate about anything at all, let alone learning. Long story short - if you are burning up to go to school, go. If you aren't, be honest with yourself and do 'something else' until you figure out what you want to study. Don't let $ keep you back either - I worked my way through school. It is possible, but difficult - and I wouldn't have it any other way. Whatever you do, light your own ass on fire to get something worthwhile done - no one will teach you that. Hard work is it's own best reward.
        • I know what you mean. In fact, I'm in the exact same situation. I left college cause I wasn't motivated. But since joining the military I've found a new motivation to excel in everything I do. Also since joining the military I've become very impatient with people who tell me about their "hard times." So I'm looking forward getting back into school once I'm out, and I'm looking forward to kicking ass.
        • by dietz (553239) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @05:28AM (#12810889)
          Yeah, I'm in the same boat now. I dropped out of high school, fucked around for a while, worked in the computer industry, and eventually decided I wanted to take a few classes again. Once I went back (when I was ready), I realized how interesting school can be.

          Now I'm a math major and hope to go on to get a PhD... not because I want to "do something" with my degree (I like programming, so I'll just keep doing that) but because leaning is fun.

          Dropping out was really a great thing for me, really. I had fun and crazy times rather than sitting in school wishing I was having fun and crazy times. Now I'm older (and know how to manage the somewhat-less-crazy fun around a schedule better) and can be in school and enjoy it.
      • by jrcamp (150032) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:11AM (#12809853)
        The fact is that most people will have to go to college to obtain a successful career. I would imagine that the dropouts who become billionaires would average out to be a statistical fluke.

        We live in a different world today than 100 years ago when the elite sent their sons and daughters off to college. Back then, those going to college didn't have to make a living. They already had all the money they needed. They went for pure academic reasons. Your argument is that these circumstances still apply today. They don't.

        Today you have a wide middle class instead of just the poor and the rich. Today regular people can go to college. Today regular people can gain successful careers from an otherwise poor upbringing. But today most people must go to college to obtain the standard of living desired.

        Sure kids should also want to learn new things and expand their mind. It is still an academic institution, after all. But you cannot discount the fact that the reason parents push their children into going to college is that they need it to survive. And, perhaps, to make sure they don't live in their basement for the rest of their natural born lives. Of yesteryear it may have been normal for children to live their whole lives in the ye ole log cabin.

        Things change.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:14PM (#12809543)
      He is a success story. He made a lot of money and is world famous.

      Looking back on his life, there will be certain items that he deems to be "important".

      Looking back on anyone's life will also yield certain "important" choices or events or whatever. Those are items that shaped your life.

      But that does not mean that someone else can imitate those choices and get a similar life. As you noted, some drop out because they're smart, but more drop out because they aren't. It isn't the dropping out.

      And I don't believe that Steve's "experience" with cheap college life and calligraphy would mean much if not for a certain Steve Wozniak.
    • by reporter (666905) on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:36PM (#12809679) Homepage
      As usual, Steve Jobs is arrogant about his capabilities. Perhaps, Jobs should also discuss his fortunate endowments that other people do not possess.

      I am referring to physical good looks. The "Economist", a while back, reported on a study which indicated that height is important and seems to be correlated with financial success. So, too is good looks.

      A good example is Pamela Anderson. She has little acting talent, but she managed to latch onto television role after television role.

      Contrast her with Meryl Streep. Streep is less attractive but worked very hard to achieve what she accomplished.

      Jobs, like Pamela Anderson, is blessed with good looks and a winning personality. Most of us have probably worked with people with such physical endowments. People with them have a much easier time in life than people without them.

      Not surprisingly, the average height of a CEO is above the average American height. So is Jobs' height. Before he tells people how they should mimic him, he should first ask the people around him to forgive him for his arrogance.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Bill Gates must have become the richest man on earth because he's hottt. Ballmer too. Certainly being good looking helps you in the work place. Handsome people make more (on average) than homely people, so says a couple of surveys. It's built into our genes, unfortunately... this love of beauty and wanting to associate ourselves with it. But don't believe for an instant that being good looking means you are successful. There's plenty of strung-out washed-up porn stars whose shoes I never wanted to wear. Loo
  • Bah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:09PM (#12809041)
    I think Jobs' success is in spite of the fact that he dropped out of college, not because of it.

    He also dropped acid in his younger days. That a good thing too??

    • Re:Bah (Score:4, Funny)

      by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:11PM (#12809061) Homepage Journal
      He also dropped acid in his younger days. That a good thing too??

      Worked For Me. :)
    • Re:Bah (Score:4, Informative)

      by roman_mir (125474) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:12PM (#12809076) Homepage Journal
      He also dropped acid in his younger days. That a good thing too?? - sure it is a good thing. He is different from you and I am different from him and you are different from me. Is that a bad thing? He needed to know what he needed to know. Maybe if he was a 'normal' person he would have never tried acid in the first place, but would he create Apple? I think not.

    • Re:Bah (Score:5, Funny)

      by eh2o (471262) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:19PM (#12809128)
      Actually LSD is a great stimulant(*). Good for unhindered creativity and cultivating an appreciation for the big picture. In other words, "Thinking different".

      In fact, I'm suprised Mac OSX doesn't ship with a sheet of the stuff.

      (* do not try this at home)
    • Re:Bah (Score:3, Funny)

      by rubycodez (864176)
      see, he stopped dropping acid and ported NeXTStep to beige box 486, and now the Mac's going to Intel. Someone get that man some Mickey Mouse Blotter!
    • Re:Bah (Score:5, Funny)

      by vwjeff (709903) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:28PM (#12809209)
      He also dropped acid in his younger days. That a good thing too??

      Well, that explains the original iMac.
    • Re:Bah (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Stormwatch (703920)
      > He also dropped acid in
      > his younger days. That a
      > good thing too??

      Let me rephrase this: "He also hired John Sculley in his younger days. That a good thing too??"
    • Re:Bah (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr2001 (90979)
      He also dropped acid in his younger days. That a good thing too??

      Frankly, we'd all be better off if more people were willing to broaden their mental horizons.

      I'm not saying that acid (or any other drug) makes you smarter or gives you better ideas, but it does let you look at old things in a new way, and it changes your thought process temporarily so that you'll come up with different ideas and connections than you would've otherwise. Especially on subjects like your own life, personality flaws, and futur
  • by zanderredux (564003) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:09PM (#12809042)
    ...like "do not think that you, freshly-graduated students, are better than everyone else. It takes more than a degree to really stand out."

    Sounds like good advice to me!

  • No but seriously kids...

    It was all about the acid trips. /steve tokes
  • by suso (153703) *
    Jobs founded Apple when he was 21, not 30.
  • by mjpaci (33725) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:10PM (#12809058) Homepage Journal
    ...and it worked for him AND Gates dropped out of Harvard and it worked for him, doesn't mean that it OK for everyone to drop out.

    In general University/College is a GOOD thing. However, some people's paths take them elsewhere.

    --Mike
    • It would be interesting to see the percentages-- though of course it would be difficult to come up with the numbers -- of succesful drop-outs vs. succesful graduates. Having a couple high profile drop-outs gives that option a lot of exposure but tends to ignore the huge number of drop-outs who are actually beginning/continuing a pattern of failure.

      And of course, no one path is for everyone. Not everyone should spend the time getting a degree. But I would wager that many more would benefit from a degr
    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:51PM (#12809374) Homepage
      Neither Jobs nor Gates really made any great breakthroughs in science or engineering, either. Gates was a pretty good programmer, and Jobs had a friend who was a pretty clever hacker (i.e., Woz.) Gates had the connections and acumen, and Jobs had charm, a smart friend, and some cunning. Good for business. But frankly, I don't think either of them, or the other college-dropout-tech-millionaires, really go into the "great minds" category. Business success is about work, energy, networking, and leadership, things which are not the exclusive provenance of the university.
  • Good For Him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mean_Nishka (543399) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:11PM (#12809073) Homepage Journal
    You know what? Good for him.

    I don't think the point of his speech was that dropping out is cool. It was that hard work and determination are what you need to be successful.

    Say what you want about Jobs, he's a gifted businessman who knows how to sell. He had the right product in the 70's at the absolute best time.

    Your mileage, of course, will vary :).

  • by figleaf (672550) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:19PM (#12809122) Homepage
    He cheated his friend and partner Steve Wozniak out of money before the early days of Apple.
    And when Wozniak set up his own company in 1986, Jobs threatened Wozniak's suppliers against doing business with Wozniak.

    Just because Jobs did something in his past doesn't mean that is a good path to follow.
  • by admactanium (670209) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:20PM (#12809135) Homepage
    in and of itself. but the point he makes is valid. in my field, a degree isn't really that useful and prospective employers rarely care if you've completed college at all. i know many successful people who have no college degree (myself included).

    college degrees, especially these days, are a guarantee of nothing other than having a piece of paper. for many people and many fields the real learning is accomplished by doing rather than absorbing theory.

    i dropped out, and luckily i have done very well for myself. but if asked by younger people who are still in the system, i certainly wouldn't RECOMMEND people leave school unless they already had a very clear plan of their future.

    the educational system is geared towards very specific professions at the exclusion of many viable, valuable professions that don't require their teaching. i don't believe it's done out of any malice but rather just a lack of information.

  • by log0n (18224) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:21PM (#12809148)
    I never finished college and it has yet to hurt me professionally, financially or emotionally (partly I didn't have the money, mostly I didn't really find it useful for my goals to bother coming up w/ the money - and I went to a good 4 year east coast school with an extremely good comp sci program).

    If you're talented, smart, and *most importantly* not lazy, not having a degree doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. With those assets you're more than capable of working around and moving beyond the confines of the traditional 'system' most people end up dealing in (IMO, because they aren't talented enough, smart enough or lack the work ethic to do anything to change things).

    Degrees are nice and they do make joining the higher class system (white collar?) easier, but IMO, a lot of people also use degrees as a crutch for rationalizing avoiding the need to do anything meaningful.

    If you're talented, smart and actually enjoy hardwork, the world is your oyster. Persuing a degree may even be a distraction from you obtaining your purpose and potential.

    $.02
    • by Nasarius (593729) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:38PM (#12809270)
      If you're talented, smart and actually enjoy hardwork, the world is your oyster. Persuing a degree may even be a distraction from you obtaining your purpose and potential.

      Try doing real, novel science without a Ph.D. Sure, you can go into IT or even software engineering without a degree, but there's tons of interesting stuff that you simply won't be able to comprehend without years of school.

      I mean, have you seen the cool toys physicists get to play with these days?! ;-)

    • by GoofyBoy (44399) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:44PM (#12809324) Journal
      >If you're talented, smart and actually enjoy hardwork, the world is your oyster.

      Um.. the same could be said if you are good-looking, born with rich parents and get along with everyone.

      The point I think is that most people are not talented enough, smart enough, enjoy hardword enough, good-looking enough, have parents who are rich enough or get along with enough people and so need all the help they can get, including that university degree.
  • by TPIRman (142895) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:32PM (#12809240)
    To recap, more accurately: Steve said that he dropped out of college because it was too expensive, and it was the best thing that happened to him. He said that his "real education" didn't start until he took up classes again with a greater appreciation for their value in his life. He took calligraphy classes when peers were telling him that calligraphy had no relevance to career, but he gained a greater appreciation for elegance in ordinary things (sound familiar?). Etc.

    This is not an anti-education message. In fact, it is a message strongly in favor of a liberal-arts education. In Steve's original college career, he was going through the motions -- going to college because that was the thing to do. When he started learning again, he was doing it out of a personal desire to learn, and with more genuine motivations. And he was taking classes to improve himself and his outlook, not just to get nuts-and-bolts information that would advance his career. Steve's saying that you have to invest yourself in learning and appreciate its value where you might not expect it.

    Those of you who are oversimplifying this into a "street smarts" vs. "book smarts" thing have watched too much of The Apprentice. This was a speech about the personal value of learning and the importance of an open mind and broad perspective.
  • by Timbotronic (717458) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:35PM (#12809255)
    "I never let schooling interfere with my education"

    btw, anyone else here feel the urge to slap those students dressed as iPods?

  • I dropped out... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ktakki (64573) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:41PM (#12809299) Homepage Journal
    I left music school after 5 semesters to go full time with a band. It wasn't uncommon there, since the freshman class numbered 1500 and there were usually about 150 to 200 graduates, mostly music education majors who needed the sheepskin.

    Two years later, I was driving a cab. I did that until I saved enough money to build a small recording studio, which I ran while playing in another band and doing live sound on the side. By the mid-'90s, I had a gig as a 3D animator and graphic artist, skills that had previously been hobbies for me. That led to a partnership in a media services company that also did software development. We sold out before the bubble burst.

    Right now, I'm vice president of a company that does system administration on a contract basis. Small company in a small market, but profitable nonetheless.

    Not having a degree pretty much precludes working for a large corporation, but I've never wanted to work for a big company. I do regret not getting a liberal arts education, and it's something I'd like to pursue soon, even though I'm in my forties. I'm looking to retire in about five years anyway, so I'll have the time.

    To make it without a degree, it helps to be in a field that doesn't require one (like the arts), to be willing to do menial jobs now and then (like driving and dispatching taxis), and to be able to teach yourself the skills you need (technical, entrepreneurial, etc.). I can't stress the last one enough: without the support of a company behind you, sending you to training seminars and paying your way, you have to be your own teacher.

    k.
  • by toby (759) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:32PM (#12809643) Homepage Journal
    According to one audience member quoted on Macintouch [macintouch.com], Jobs "wondered aloud if computers today would have proportional fonts had he not sat in on that calligraphy course".

    If the late Jef Raskin had anything to do with it, they would; he recalls lobbying for versatile bitmapped displays and not hard-wired fixed width character generators, against Jobs and Wozniak.

    Sadly Jef is no longer with us to defend the account, but he left a detailed history, The Mac and Me [chac.org]:

    In my 1967 thesis, "The Quick Draw Graphics System," I took issue with the display architecture then in vogue. ... There were only a few CRT terminals at the Penn State computer center, and these could display only letters and symbols, usually in green or white on a black background. Hamstrung by specialized electronics -- in particular a circuit called a "character generator" -- that permitted no other use, they could not display graphics. One display at the center could draw thin, spidery lines on its large screen. With it you could do drawings that now seem crude, annotated by child-like stick-figure lettering.

    In this milieu my thesis was radical in suggesting that computer displays should be graphics- rather than character-based. I argued that, by considering characters as just a particular kind of graphics, we could produce whatever fonts we wished, and mix text and drawings with the same freedom as on the drawn or printed page.

    [Later, at Apple...]

    The other Steve, Steve Jobs, was a delight to talk to about less technical aspects of computers. His enthusiasm and business orientation were exciting. They were just starting on the design of the Apple II, and I tried to convince them that they should employ bit-mapped graphics and not have a character generator, but Woz thought that software couldn't handle the character generation task fast enough and Steve Jobs didn't understand why I thought it so important.

    I had a different vision of what a microcomputer should be like, and PARC's programmers and my own work had convinced me that software could do the job. I tried to convince Woz by working out the code to put bit-mapped characters on the screen and calculating timings by counting cycles, but the Steves were not open to the idea.

    The concepts I espoused were far from the mainstream of computer design and for all their mold-breaking thinking, Steve and Steve were very strongly conditioned by the minicomputers they had seen.

    Later in the essay, Raskin notes that Jobs was eventually persuaded to green-light the Apple II's "high res" mode. Only Steve himself knows if an enthusiasm for calligraphy influenced the decision... but even had he not, proportional fonts were already being designed into the expensive research workstations of the day, where the hardware budget was orders of magnitude greater than an Apple II's.
  • by mildness (579534) <bill.bamph@com> on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:52PM (#12809761) Homepage
    Being an IT Professional that "dropped out" like Jobs and Wozniak, it has always pissed me off that Apple requires "A BS in Computer Science" [apple.com]

    Hypocritical fuktoads

    Bill

    • Being an IT Professional that "dropped out" like Jobs and Wozniak, it has always pissed me off that Apple requires "A BS in Computer Science"

      They never say that dropping out of college will help you get a job - ever notice that these highly successful college dropouts started their own company and didn't go to work for someone else? There's a lesson in there for you.

  • by nysus (162232) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:08AM (#12809840)
    For every success story you hear, the other 99,999 are never told. For every genius who dropped out of school to become CEO of an multi-national corporation, there are thousands of other geniuses who wound up broke and unhappy.
  • by vinn (4370) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:17AM (#12809875) Homepage Journal
    I've thought long and hard about this since graduating from college. I've seen a lot of people do some extraordinary things. The person who runs the division I work in (with about 15,000 people) never went to college, and I'm not sure he graduated from high school. He does happen to be a genius and I suspect he would have went to college if it wasn't for the fact he was successful by the age of 18.

    If I interviewed two people for a job I'd always choose the one who had ambition, creativity and a great work ethic. College degrees and intelligence would be secondary. There is a place for that, but with good leadership you can get an ambitious person to do amazing things.

    The other factor that counts is common sense. Understanding the requirements of a job and relating to customers is very important. In a sense, everyone works for customers - our bosses are customers of sorts.

    For anyone still in school, don't get wrapped up in your GPA but don't drop out of college either.
  • by Pingsmoth (249222) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:23AM (#12809902) Homepage
    Many people told me in high school that a college degree is the road to success in life, and I have no doubt that it is. But after going to college for five years I have found that my friends who went straight into the workforce or learned a trade at a community college are now the ones who own houses, cars, and generally have much more money than I do.

    On the other hand, my degree allows me to pursue the same quality of life they enjoy, but at a job which will be intellectually challenging and personally rewarding. I just have to wait a bit longer for the tangible benefits.

    That said, I don't think it's appropriate to drop out of high school. College, sure, if you find something else you want to do. But for pete's sake, you really should have a high school diploma.
  • by KrisCowboy (776288) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:29AM (#12809927) Journal
    When the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were making wakes, the PC industry was still a baby and there were enough chances for everyone. Can a college drop-out still become a Steve Jobs in today's world? I bet you got to really really good at what you do to get that kind of opportunities.
  • In other words (Score:5, Informative)

    by appleLaserWriter (91994) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:37AM (#12809959)
    Steve was trying to say that success comes from taking risks.
  • Not Really... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:44AM (#12809990) Homepage
    People who succeed inspite of dropping out of school are those who maybe never really needed formalized learning in the first place. There have always been individuals who learn better on their own and will succeed in the same manner. They're incredibly intelligent but to top it off they're also incredibly self motivated. Those are few and far in between. What people often forget to mention is that in addition to their talents, these people are also very intense people. I've met a few of these people before. They weren't at the same level as Gates and Jobs but a Ph.D. when you're 22 or publishing a major conference paper before you graduated are impressive nonetheless. Most people like to offset their talent by claiming or portraying these people as somehow socially inept or otherwise very weak in other aspects. That was never the case for those who I knew. What I did noticed that they were really into what they did and never wasted anytime. They knew what they wanted and they went after it with a drive that will tire out most people. But they're very rare.

    I've known a lot of very intelligent people but not all of them had the drive or the passion. Unfortunately, many children growing up, especially the intelligent ones, forget the other ingredient needed and assumes their natural talent will bring them success. They neglect school and somehow expect their talents to just kick in and solve all their problems when they need it. Memorization shouldn't be the only part of education but knowing things in advance will save you a lot of time from having to solve them again, probably in a worse way. So, for the rest of us, schooling and formal education are useful. There's no doubt that Jobs is an incredible person, very rare among people. His path to success will no doubt be different and inaccessible to the majority of students.
  • by chia_monkey (593501) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:49AM (#12810015) Journal
    There's quite a hoopla about Steve's comments. I don't really see it as a "drop out, college is useless" comment that everyone (even the headline) makes it out to be.

    More importantly, we need to look deeper into what he said and why he said it. For some people, college probably is a waste of time. If he had stayed in college (pressure from family, etc), maybe Apple never would have come to be. Maybe he would have lost all motivation or thinking differently and would have graduated with his degree and got a job as an accountant or programmer somewhere. For Steve, his personality conflicted with the structured ways of university learning. For others, it could be the kiss of death to not get that college degree. Some people need need the schooling to mature a bit. I'm glad he dropped out, scraped for food, and was willing to do whatever it took to survive and to take his "beleaguered company" back.
  • by hmiatn (891894) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:50AM (#12810019) Homepage
    I was there at the stanford stadium. I found his speech serious and very insightful. People just picks the ironic part of his speech. His main advice is to follow the passion. I talked about his speech here [blogspot.com].
  • The real lesson... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MagicDude (727944) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @01:10AM (#12810120)
    The real lesson should be that you don't need a college degree to be successful ..... but it helps. Stories like this spur people on to believe things like "School is for suckers, I'm going to go make it on my own". For every Steve Jobs, there's a million people who end up working menial jobs at a pathetic salary because they didn't persue their education. Getting an education and getting a good job isn't going to make you a millionare, but more likely than not it'll keep you from being destitue.

    College degrees today are quickly becoming what high school degrees were 40 years ago. Advancement in your job is linked to how much education you've gotten. Whether you know more or not is irrelevant, but having degrees count. I have a friend who is a Lt in the Air Force. He's been telling me how a masters degree is quickly becoming a requirement in order to advance into the higher ranks in his department (He's not in R&D or a repair unit or anything like that either). Another example, a few years back another friend of mine was working a summer job for the county doing road maintainence (AKA, scooping up roadkill). Since he wasn't a total screwball like the other full-timers, he got along well with his supervisor. They were discussing my friend's future at some point. My friend wanted to (and did) go to music school, but the supervisor said that if he wanted, after graduation from college, he could recommend him for a supervisor's job working for the county. When my friend asked how a degree in Music Education would be useful working for the county, the supervisor said the degree itself didn't matter, just that you had it. His own degree was in agracultural sciences. So for most mainstream people, a college degree is the best course of action. Maybe you don't have to go into your major's field, but overall you'll be better of having it.
  • My personal story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @01:32AM (#12810232)
    As someone who dropped out of college last fall to start my own company like Steve did, this makes me really happy that he said that. That being said, it was also totally a douchebag thing to do. Not exactly out of character for Steve though. For those who don't know, around half of Apple's engineers don't have college degrees in engineering.

    Honestly, Steve is my hero, and this is why. The guy didn't have a product, great technical understand, business skills, personal or social skills. And if he was a visionary, then what was his vision? No, Steve Jobs made his money as a philosopher. He had the philosophy that every computer should be simple enough for the average human to use, and it should be beautiful. Of all the things Steve has fucked up over the years, this one philosophy has remained, and he has carried Apple on this alone.

  • by inkswamp (233692) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @01:48AM (#12810287)
    I sometimes worry that we rely too much on higher ed achievement to judge people in the job market. When I was in college, I saw an overwhelming number of kids there who were only there going through the motions because it's what mom and dad wanted them to do. I saw lots of working toward a good grade, but little in terms of real hunger of knowledge and exporations of creativity and critical thinking. I think the more we rely on university degrees as the measure by which we open doors for people, the more we're going to hurt as a society. I mean, it's valid of course, but it's not the be-all end-all. I see so many jobs with the educational requirements and I wonder how many brilliant drop-outs were rejecting as a society for that.

    It's known that geniuses, by their nature, simply do not fit in. I wonder how someone like Einstein would do in today's invironment.

  • by trudyscousin (258684) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @02:27AM (#12810404)
    Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation.

    Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots.

    I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months but then stayed around as a drop-in for another eighteen months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife, except that when I popped out, they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking, "We've got an unexpected baby boy. Do you want him?" They said, "Of course." My biological mother found out later that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would go to college.

    This was the start in my life. And seventeen years later, I did go to college, but I naïvely chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and no idea of how college was going to help me figure it out, and here I was, spending all the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out, I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me and begin dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting.

    It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms. I returned Coke bottles for the five-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example.

    Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer was beautifully hand-calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

    None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me, and we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts, and since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.

    If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class and personals computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

    Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect th
  • by HuguesT (84078) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @07:55AM (#12811383)
    I don't know why Jobs said what he did, but I don't think it was derogatory or anything.

    Most likely he was talking to a large bunch of smart and educated young people and telling them that today was the first day of the rest of their life, i.e. getting an expensive education is not the end. Some people do not have the same level of education as they do, yet can be successful and smart too. Doubtlessly in the audience there were people who graduated because their parents had money.

    At a college like Standford with the degree also comes the network of peers. It would be a mistake to think that because suddently they are part of a high-level clique they are more intelligent and deserving than others. They still have to go to work and achieve something on their own to deserve any significant accolade.

    In Europe we have some prestigious schools too. At one of them the president was a military man, and always made some speech at graduation. He was fond of telling his graduating students that (1) there are stupid people everywhere and (2) the more educated they are, the more dangerous they are.

    My own university president was fond of quoting movies. There is a classic French movie called "a taxi for Tobruk", a war movie with great dialog, where a couple of people are in a jeep who breaks down in the desert. The two people are a grunt and an officer. The officer decides to stay near the jeep and wait, while the grunt decides to walk and find help. The officer tells him he'll soon die, but the grunt replies "un con qui marche va toujours plus loin qu'un intellectuel assis".

    An idiot who walks always goes further than a seated intellectual.

    Perhaps this is not very different from the Jobs attitude.

    Cheers.
  • by Nijika (525558) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @09:39AM (#12812057) Homepage Journal
    SOMETIMES. It works out really well for people who are clearly not "making it" in mainstream education. Worked great for me. In contrast, staying in school worked great for others.

    It's a lot tougher to guage wether it's the right decision when you're making it though. When I first dropped out of high school I thought I was moving into a long term career in fast food. In hindsight I saved myself about $20k and gained 4+ years of work experience on my friends.

    Since I'm also moving into self-employment the glass ceiling that would face me if I was in a corporate environment with no paperwork is not an issue.

    For those of you who are at a crossroads; When you're making this choice, remember, either way you're actually blessed with good fortune, and making either choice isn't the end of the road, by far.

  • by jocknerd (29758) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @10:01AM (#12812334)
    I've already decided that my 2 year old son won't go to college. Instead, he's going to be a 1st round draft pick in baseball. So instead of studying every night and doing homework, I'm going to have him in the backyard throwing a baseball. I'll do his homework.

    His twin sister will go to college though. She's going to become a lawyer because he's going to need a really good agent.

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