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Qualifications

Qualifications

Qualifications

Sometimes people ask about my qualifications.

It’s a fair question with a simple answer: I have none.

There’s absolutely no reason I should be doing pretty much anything I’m doing these days.

I was a high school dropout and a juvenile delinquent. I learned to drive by stealing cars, but since I was a slow learner, I kept crashing them into mailboxes. (A long, true story.)

I wasn’t especially dedicated to my first part-time job as a 14-year-old dishwasher. Whenever I received a pot that was especially difficult to clean, I walked outside and threw it in the dumpster. This strategy worked well until the restaurant ran out of pots. The owner and I had a discussion, and it was agreed I should find another means of employment.

I abandoned a series of other part-time jobs by not showing up to work. No notice, no phone call, no request for the check to be sent in the mail.

I did make it to college, where I performed fairly well—once I learned to work the system. My degree was in Sociology, a fun and interesting subject that led to exactly zero job opportunities. By the time I graduated, I didn’t want a job anyway, so I bought and sold coffee instead.

I never learned higher math—not any kind, and not at all. No algebra, geometry, calculus, or anything else you’re told is essential for adulthood. I snuck into grad school without taking the GRE, which is a good thing, because when I took a practice test later, I placed in the 15th percentile for quantitative. (To which I wondered: Wow, who are all the people less than the 15th?)

My first quarter in grad school I had to prove competency in statistics by passing a course. This was a disaster from start to finish. Imagine being thrown into a classroom where every word is foreign to you. Sink or swim, right? There’s actually another strategy: just tread water. My strategy was: show up to every class and never be late. I sat in the front row and asked meaningless questions to demonstrate I was paying attention. (“Could you repeat that last part?” “What would happen if you switched those two numbers around?” “Oh, I see. That’s interesting.”)

On the day of the final exam I looked at the paper and understood virtually none of the questions. I wrote gibberish on the front side and drew an arrow to indicate something on the reverse side. On this side I composed a list of “Top 10 Things I Learned During Statistics Class.” I made sure a few of them actually related to assigned materials, even if I didn’t understand them.

I somehow received a B- and placed a thank-you gift of coffee beans outside the professor’s door. Then I dropped out of the program, but that’s another story.

When I first went to Africa, I was given a job carrying boxes around and managing a warehouse. I was fairly good at the box-carrying part, but then I learned that more skills were required. Dude. The boxes need to be placed on pallets. The pallets need to be shrink-wrapped. Talk about bait and switch!

Someone showed me how to shrink-wrap a pallet, and then someone else showed me again. Then the first guy showed me one more time—“Hey, let me give you some help with that pallet”—but soon they could all tell I was a lost cause. I’d dutifully wrap my pathetic-looking pallets, with way too much shrink-wrap and boxes protruding from all sides, then someone would come along after me and do it right.

I never learned any languages, but one time I got roped into doing French-English translation at a conference. I had very low expectations for my ability to handle this task, and these low expectations remained unmet after the first session. I approached the organizers: “Uh, it’s OK if you want to bring in someone else,” I said. “Oh,” they said, “we already have.”

These stories may sound like they are from long ago, before I found my way in the world. Perhaps. But let the record show I still have virtually no marketable skills of any kind.

Among other deficiencies, I don’t know how to do anything mechanical whatsoever. I used to say I could do nothing more than screw in a light bulb, but then light bulbs started getting complicated. It’s off the list now.

All That to Say

If I suddenly had to get a job for the first time as an adult, I have no idea what I’d do. Yeah, I’d figure something out, but the prospect terrifies me.

When I think about what I’m actually qualified for, it’s a very short list. I’m qualified to stand behind a counter and accept your money, preferably in exact change and closely supervised by someone who carefully counts the cash register after my shift. I’m qualified to be the man at the donut shop who informs you how you can acquire an additional, original glazed merely through the purchase of two others.

At best, I’m qualified to make $11 an hour with no benefits.

When I walk through the First Class security line, I smile at the employee tasked with the job of keeping the peasant travelers out. I’d like to think I smile because it’s good to be nice, but it’s also because I know the secret: I should be that guy. I’m just an imposter.

When I’m asked to speak to companies, I look out at the people in the audience. Sure, some of them are occupied with their iPhones, and if alcohol is involved, some of them are a little tipsy. But given a large enough group, I can look and see that some of them are hanging on every poorly-phrased sentence I produce. They write things in their notebooks that presumably relate to what I am saying, as if they should remember them or follow-up on them later. Why? No clue. But this much I know is true: I’m damned fortunate.

Yes, I should be that guy asking if you’d like to add on an order of fries at the fast-food restaurant, the guy who just kept doing menial work with no purpose because he was never qualified for anything else.

But for some reason, I’m not. For some reason, I escaped the life I deserved and found a life on the other side.

What This Means

All of this means a few things for you and me both.

First, forget about what you’re actually qualified to do. It’s irrelevant and no one cares.

Second, if you never learned higher math either, it’s nothing to worry about. You’ll be fine.

Third, if I can somehow craft a livelihood out of virtually no qualifications or marketable skills, surely you can too.

Fourth, when you do find something that works for you, you should be very grateful, every day.

Because when you’re qualified to do nothing but operate a cash register under close supervision, and the world somehow entrusts you with greater duties, you’d better treat these duties with the diligence they deserve.

I don’t care if you’re a religious person or not, every day you should pause and ask the powers that be “Really? I get to do this? I’m not living on the streets, begging for spare change?”

If that’s the case, and you are in fact doing anything other than handing out donuts, inspecting tickets, or sitting on the sidewalk all afternoon, join the club of the surprised. You’d better say to yourself, as I regularly do: I have no idea how this happened, but damned if I won’t do everything I can to preserve it.

Regardless of your actual qualifications, there’s one thing that no one can give you and no one can take away: the will to keep going. For that task, you are supremely qualified.

###

Update: The “Working from the Road” class mentioned on Friday is now sold out—thanks for your interest.

Image: OW

170 Comments

  • Mark says:

    I predict this kind of storytelling will be the soul of net-writing–if it ever evolves into a genre unto itself. The more I deviate from the “right way to do my job” (educate), the more the kids learn–the more praise I get. I think that’s weird, “I’m not doing what the textbook dictates.”

    Perhaps “niceness” is one of the most salient vices for positive change in the world (?)

    My “qualifications” (grad school), have been incredibly irrelevant.

    Thanks for the insight. Obliged!
    M

  • Amy says:

    Amazing post, Chris. I completely agree with “Forget about what you’re actually qualified to do.” In the past, I would’ve been incredibly scared to start my blog- I don’t have any formal writing training… I didn’t even go to “real” college. I try to take the “F**k-’Em” approach and do it anyway, even if it’s scary and I don’t know if anyone will want to read what an uneducated girl will have to say. But people come and comment and write me touching emails, and I am so grateful for it. I think everyone has a niche- even if you think you don’t fit into the standard, why not make your own?

  • Steven Crisp says:

    Great post. Such an interesting tale to follow.

    Coincidently I also received this quote in the mail today. Perhaps you will agree with it:

    “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — JK Rowling

    S-

  • Kent says:

    Awesome!

    I really like that this post works to dismantle the natural tendency that people have to think that they don’t live up – that they’re not good enough. That kind of thinking is what keeps people down, second guessing and feeling inferior.

    When I finally beat down those voices in my head, I was able to “hear” my intuition. It told me exactly what I should be doing in life.

  • Joe Sweeney says:

    Best article I’ve read in a long time. I run a sales consultant company which allows me to travel and work virtually. When explaining to people I’ve been on vacation and traveling for the past two months I get a lot of blank stares which are usually followed up wiyh questions about being a trust fund baby (which I am most certainly not) or a question about what I “really” do. I like you Chris am not different than anyone else except for my unwillingness to go to work for somekne else and my love of life which I refuse to spend behind a desk. Life is meant to be lived.

    Keep working hard, counting your blessings and dreaming BIG!

    Joe

  • bonitarose says:

    My oldest daughter is starting her first year of college and suddenly feels so much pressure. I keep trying to tell her to just enjoy this time in her life. A diploma doesn’t make the man. Never has, never will.

    Thanks for writing this for all of us.

  • Andrew says:

    While it makes for a great story and a (hell of a lot) of inspired spin-off blogs, not everyone is going to be able to run with it like you have. You might have zero ‘qualifications’ but initiative, get-up-n-go, marketing skills, all that sort of jazz, you’ve got it in truck-loads.

    When the earthquake hits, the zombie apocalypse descends and the buildings come crashing down, people won’t be frantically hunting out the bloggers or internet spinsters, they’ll be looking for the qualified.

    Times are tough (& possibly getting tougher), the ol’ piece of paper, regardless of how relevant it is or related to your true calling, will still help put some food on the table while you’re working on plan B.

  • my favorite post you have ever written because this is me! And your post made me feel so much less shitty about the fact that I am also totally unqualified but still I haven’t written 6 books, spoken to thousands, been on Oprah… blah blah blah, but I can’t cook, can’t spell, can’t fix a car, certainly can’t shrink wrap… am dyslexic, etc. I can still feel like such an idiot but your tone in this post really made me feel so I love celebrating this! Thanks Chris!!

  • Somehow I managed to be qualified to be an airline pilot. After 7 years flying metal tubes through the sky, and reaching the status of captain, I still had no idea how I was qualified to do so. I still looked like I was 17 years old.

    I started a business and with no formal training (again, I majored in aviation), became the guy to call when you needed to launching your business.

    I love what I do and am thankful every day for it. I’m especially thankful for the people who hire me, even though I have no qualifications.

  • Meredyth says:

    This post was exactly what I needed to hear. I am diving into the application process for grad school, and I am plagued with insecurity about not being qualified enough. But there is a difference between qualifications and the essence of who we are. Thanks for that timely reminder!

  • Anita C says:

    Loved this post. I used to date a guy who dropped out of high school and worked as a janitor, but he was a genius. He would help me with my college physics even though he had never taken physics. Anytime he wanted to know something (web programming, playing an instrument, fixing something, photography) he would sit down and learn it and within a year, usually be doing it better than people who had gone to school for it. I realized from watching him that a degree is a piece of paper and while you can learn a lot from school, you can learn even more by interacting with people who do what you want to learn and by trial and error experimentation. Jobs are for paying the bills, life is for learning and living.

  • Candice says:

    Having few or no qualifications can actually be quite freeing. If you have an engineering degree, everyone expects you to be an engineer. But if you have a sort of useless liberal arts degree, no degree at all, and no training, there’s no box for people to try to fit you into.

  • Roxanne says:

    Your post arrived at a good time, two hours into another crappy Monday morning where I was wondering why I’m doing what I’m doing, and not what I want to be doing. The excuse I’ve been using for 15 years is “I don’t know enough”. If I don’t know enough at this point in my life, I never will. Thank you, Chris.

  • My Dad did a career test on me when I was in my early teens, and very seriously (and with a look resembling manic despair) told me I wasn’t qualified for anything. In my final year of high school I did another one and it said I was qualified for one thing – coroner. So I figured the best thing to do was stop taking tests. I applied for my first job because a guy I really liked at Uni offered to take me to dinner if I would go with him to the career info night. I got the dinner and the job, which was lucky because I had no idea what else I was going to do.

    The weirdest experience though was one year when I was out of work and desperately job hunting – I had two degrees, ten years of excellent professional experience and still couldn’t land a job. The most common response was that I was over qualified. I learned one thing from that process – I was applying for the wrong jobs. It took me another five years to realise I should just stop applying for jobs altogether. That was a light bulb moment!

  • kim says:

    It’s about the stories we tell ourselves. Can we do something? What do we tell ourselves and why? If we think qualifications are important, they will be and we will need them. If everyone we know thinks we need them, then we probably will. But, if we are able to break away, think for ourselves and connect with others who believe what we believe, the world will start to change. It has, you’ve shown that.
    Great post.

  • Thank you so much for posting this today. I’m in a huge transition period of my life and feeling very overwhelmed and woefully unqualified to do anything except run a cash register – even with my completely useless college degree.

    This was exactly what i needed to hear today.

  • Chris Walter says:

    I remember there was a time that I thought that anyone with an official title such as contractor or manager automatically knew what they were doing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It really comes down to the quality of the person and not the qualifications that someone else assigned them that really matter.

  • Alison says:

    Outstanding. Honest, raw, and real. It’s not what you have but what you do with it. Thank you for this.

  • sicl says:

    you can communicate…a rare gift, especially since you are driven to communicate.

  • Greg says:

    Great story Chris! Your description of your life growing up seemed like you lacked motivation for your schoolwork and job. Running this blog and writing your books seems like it takes a much higher level of stick-to-it-ness.

    Do you think the school/jobs were something you just weren’t interested in and therefore not motivated to do, or do you think you “grew up” and learned to put in the effort?

  • Andy Traub says:

    Thank you for summarizing my life.

  • Annette says:

    Really enjoyed the article and definately believe that many of us teach very well from experience.
    Education is a wonderful thing and for some an opportunity. For others like myself it was a total waste of time. I day dreamed my way through school and college and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do tomorrow never mind for my future. My education evolved through living. Funnily enough at 50 I decided it I was very good at coaching people to reach their goals, whatever they may be.

  • Janelle says:

    Wonderful post, Chris. I just recently had a discussion with a friend about how, after acquiring two degrees, I now feel that college is a waste of time for most people. Instead of going deeply into debt to get a piece of paper, I’d rather see people learn through assistantships, mentorships, etc. This whole notion of paying money to receive “qualifications” in many fields that are really just common sense is bollocks. Of course, I’m not speaking of highly technical or specialized fields. But in general, if you want to do something, do it. Scholar John Henrik Clarke was an unschooled, self-taught man who wrote, lectured and changed academia by doing what he was passionate about. Action is the most important qualification.

  • Love this post Chris, because it hits at what I agree is the heart of the matter, and I believe the point of your article. Whether you have 5 college degrees, were a juvenile delinquent, or both…. Nothing matters but the inner will to keep going and make things happen.

    A great quote I have hanging in my bedroom says “No one drifts to greatness.” Indeed, and neither have you. Instead, you figured out what you love, how to do something to make it into a living, and you possess the will to make it happen. That’s inspiration if I’ve ever heard it.

    Thanks for a great article today – an excellent way to start the week!

  • Thank you for saying what many of us have taken a lifetime to know – not having the “right” qualifications can be an advantage, not a handicap, and not a reason to feel shame when asked the question: “What are your qualifications?”

    Some of the most brilliant, successful people I know and admire (yourself included) would never be able to get a “good” job in the traditional sense, but went on to create lives and careers that far exceed “good”.

    I love what Paula Dean said when a lady in her audience asked her what college she went to: “College? I drove by one once!” And then she laughed her famous laugh.

    Barbara Sher got a degree in Anthropoly. Try and get a job with *that*. Yet she scraped by and with sheer guts, a lot of determination, and a brilliant mind, has lived a life many envy.

    Brains, creativity, and drive will take you places no mere credentials ever will. It would be nice if they gave degrees in those, but as far as I know, no one does.

  • Mae says:

    All I have to say is that when I read what you’ve written, I feel courage wash over me.

  • Tarun says:

    I very nearly gave up on my day today. I am on a two year assignment to teach inner city kids in Delhi, India. Its a tougher job than I thought it would be. Its testing me and my ability to absorb and act on feedback a lot. Your email said a lot about the ability to keep going.

    I do feel very often that, life is crazy tough but hey, I’ve always been god’s lucky child and I need to make the most of it. You reminded me to feel grateful.

  • Katy says:

    As someone barely employed and never sure how to explain what I’m qualified to do, this is what I really needed to hear right now.

    It also reinforces that going back to school is not the answer.

  • Foghorn O'Kalashnikov says:

    Well you may not have qualifications (er, aside from the degrees) but you have the ability to sell, the ability to build a myth/brand, the ability to be a road warrior, the ability to stick to it through a degree program, you’re a people person and you have remarkable self confidence and openness. It’s not terribly nonconformist to say and ignores the amusing “but … but …. I once left a job without phoning in! I’m a bad boy!” but those ARE marketable abilities – this describes many real corporate salespeople. Guys who never actually went to college and once tagged a garage wall when they were 13 too. Successful ones who make a lot of money. But here you are and good for you, mate, too many people are less than happy including some salespeople.

    For anyone who doesn’t have the same ballsy salesy wiring, maybe don’t get fired up on youtube vids of commencement speeches and free ebooks and throw a small business owner’s stock in a dumpster or blow off maths class if you have either opportunity. You may never need either the former’s boring nonconformist reference or the latter boring nonconformist ability, hopefully you don’t! But just in case …..

  • Wow. On paper I am qualified to do a few things, but that sense that I’m not really qualified continues to dog me, after the degrees, the experience, and sometimes even after the repeated glowing feedback.

    The idea of going with what is “right” and what I’m drawn to often leaves me feeling totally terrified, but so what? So did doing what I was qualified to do! At least doing what I love leaves me feeling engaged and inspired!

    So I choose to continue to wade in and offer what it is that is useful and helpful to others, even appreciated by them. Seems to me that it’s the only “right” way, qualifications or not!

    Appreciatively,
    Christine

  • Alex Newell says:

    “Join the club of the surprised”…Um, where do I sign up? Or is this it?

  • Rocky Tilney says:

    Your collective experiences are your qualifications. Every stamp in your passport is another degree in the field of life, culture, art, transportation, and society, amongst others… Keep writing and traveling, you’ll be among the most ‘qualified’ person many of us will know.

    We’d still like to have you come talk with us here in Silicon Valley. Will you be in the neighborhood soon?

    All the best!

  • What does it mean to be qualified? In one sense it means having a college degree – even a Masters or PHD – and using that information to shape the world.

    But is that true anymore? In 5 years of business schooling (I junked around a bit as well) I never learned how to use the internet, start a blog, advertise online, or do anything related to what I’m working on now. It isn’t because they don’t want to teach it, but in the year I have been out of school things have already changed dramatically.

    You, on the other hand, have the skills and qualifications to excel at this kind of life. You are a story teller and a naturally trust-inducing person. People want to follow you, to buy from you, etc.

    In addition, you work hard at the things you love. Maybe it came with age or maybe it came with the desire to travel the world but you’ve proven you’re willing to do the work necessary to get things done.

    You may not be classically qualified, but you certainly aren’t unqualified.

    That gives me a lot of hope.

  • Gene says:

    Your last paragraph reminds me of Victor Frankl who wrote the classic book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl’s father, mother, brother, and wife were killed in a German concentration camp during WWII. Frankl also was in several camps.

    His story of service and selfless sacrifice despite his environment is amazing. He wrote that his enemies may take his life, his family, food, clothing, and shelter, but the one thing they could not take from him was his attitude.

  • Gayle says:

    I loved this post, Chris, and shared it on Facebook. I am a Sociology major too at the moment (will graduate at the age of 58) but when I went back to college last year, I totally knew going in that I was doing it FOR MYSELF and not for any other reason. I hate working for anyone else – there I said it – and that is just how it is. But, school is tons of fun when you are just doing it to learn – and getting good grades too – BECAUSE I give a shit about the material and what the professors are saying. I have had awesome professors too – very lucky. Thanks for this awesome read – it made my day.

  • Brianna says:

    Yep, exactly. I am only slightly qualified to do the jobs I do and it’s only because I’ve done them before – journalist, working with preschool kids, writing. There are many people in my life who think I’m wasting my life and my time, but I’m slowly figuring out, the older I get, that doing what I love is more important that doing what society deems I should be doing (using my teaching credential). I am a million times happier living a creative life than I ever could be spending my days boxed into a curriculum and teaching cute little kids how to take a test.

  • julie Kucinski says:

    Love.

    Thanks for removing about 3 half-formed excuses in my reptile mind this Monday.

    Forget Silicon Valley – I’d love to see you reach kids who don’t have a lot of support, hope or opportunity or people who’ve been out of work for a while. A huge swath of America needs to know that settling for a job at Wal-Mart (or worse) is not a necessity.

    Who says the American dream is dead? It’s just not easy and now it lives in more places.

    Keep rocking it Chris.

  • Whew. There’s hope. I’m not very good at holding a steady job, either. When a friend or family member loses their job, I’m sympathetic–then I add I’ve been fired from more jobs than they’ve held in their entire life. True.

    Good morning, Starshine. The earth says “Hello”.

  • Ish says:

    Great article! I have to say that I wasn’t the least surprised of reading a post like this on here. There are always so many similarities I can reflect on in your blog and many great people that have crossed my path seem to have led a similar kind of life.

    For a long time I have been looking for clues of the ‘science’ behind these remarkable people. I really wonder why they are who they are. If anyone has thoughts about this, I would be glad to hear them.

  • In Rajastan India my friends began a Walk Out vs. Drop Out community. Meaning and work comes from choice and curiousity. I love this blog. I also love that you now have enough of a following to be able to say these things straight out. Or have you said this straight out from the beginning?

  • Ivan Bickett says:

    This is GREAT to hear and SCARY all at the same time! As a new full time self employed individual, this is my 3rd day!, I am having to transition my thinking to NOT being focused on qualifications. Up until now it has always been, “Do you have the degree and past work experience to do what we want?” And I’ve been able to say, “Yes!”.

    Now, it’s, “Can you get done what we need you to get done?”

    On Sat and Sun I was just thinking, “Do I need to figure out how to show people how my Masters degree will justify using my services?” And I kept thinking, “I think that’s irrelevant now. The key is providing the value that the client is expecting.”

    This has been a great eye opener and confirmation of my own thought pattern all at the same time!

    ~Ivan

  • I think one of the most important things is caring about what you do. If there’s no emotional investment the work is meaningless to you. I never knew your background to that extent. Thanks for sharing. It’s an inspiring story for many.

  • I really admire your courage; it takes a lot to admit shortcomings (or traits that may be perceievd as shortcomings). I’m in a slightly different boat – I just graduated college and, although I’m intelligent and well-qualified, every interviewer has said I’m not aggressive/assertive enough. I have a lot to offer, but companies are looking for a narrow set of traits and overlooking how the “negatives” might not be all that bad. I have zero support from anyone in my life, but necessity breeds innovation and I think I need to start exploring different facets of self-employment. Getting a “real job” doesn’t hold much appeal anyways.

    I love what Cynthia said “Meaning and work comes from choice and curiousity,” and I agree entirely – every aspect of life should entail continual learning and personal growth. Thanks for a wonderful and inspiring post!

  • Kim says:

    Inspiring. Hopeful. Magic.

  • Edith says:

    Luck. It is underrated.

  • Marsha says:

    You have found your unique genius and your ability to sell it. The extreme disfunction in all other aspects of your adult career preparation and those expected pathways forced you to find yourself for your own well-being. Congratulations for finding yourself. Others can learn from your story.

  • Pam says:

    I loved my graduate program. I had finally found a flexible creative field, something I had been searching for. But, other people seemed to have found this field looking for something different, especially when they graduated. Once out in the work place I was truly disappointed but I was also confused. How come my interesting creative work was now so boring and, at times, sad and offensive? Hmmm. Finally one day, instead of coming home getting into bed and pulling the covers over my head I said, “I quit”. From then on, things are way better. Sure, I still get stuck but not having a “real job” means I do have a “real life”. I don’t do what my hard earned graduate program “qualified” me to do, thank God!

  • CJ says:

    Infinitely helpful that I found this post today, Chris.

    Also, FWIW, you seem superbly qualified for the thing only you can do.

  • Lisa says:

    This post was incredibly meaningful to me – and not to mention, perfectly timed. After working in the same industry for 10 years, I lost my job, and my list of “qualifications” is a pretty short one. Without a college education I have 3 choices: get in a job in the same soul-sucking field, take a menial low-paying less-than-I’m-worth job, or create my own job that fits my life perfectly. Of course the first 2 are easier and less scary than the 3rd, but once I put the 3rd option on the list, I realized it should be the only one. I believe we all have something meaningful to give back to the world, and in my case (and many others) we don’t get to give that in the traditional 9-5 job – our growth gets ‘stunted’. Finding the courage to use your voice to then inspire others to do the same is is one of the best “qualifications” a person can have. To hell with higher math!!

  • Kristen says:

    What I love most about this is post is you never mention income or expectations. The world is full of people doing things that make them die inside a little every day just so they can keep their big salary and everything that comes with it. When you free yourself to do what is meaningful to you, even if it means you make less money, have fewer options, or “disappoint” a few people, you allow your best self to come alive. Ultimately, you end up having and giving more to the world–to your family, your friends, and the greater good. It’s unfortunate more people cannot let go of the elusive money tree long enough to see just how amazing they really are.

  • Alisha says:

    I really enjoyed this post. The raw truth that it encompasses and the stop worrying about things that really don’t matter aspect. Funny enough, I recently googled “MBA programs in the US that don’t require a GMAT”……math/analytics is not my strongpoint either!

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for giving me hope and reminding me to be grateful for where I am at this moment.

  • Katy says:

    I left my 31st job just over three years ago. I’m thinking about getting another one, but it gives me this creepy feeling, not unlike when I signed up for the Navy because I could. Not. Find. Anything. Else. And I was just that desperate for cash. (Don’t worry, I was able to get out after a month of boot camp.)

    So, the other day, I asked my friend what job he thought I should do.

    He replied, “Huh, what haven’t you done yet?”

    “No, no, let’s focus on what I don’t want. I don’t want to have to show up at a certain place at a certain time each day and bend over and take it from The Man.” Just thinking about this made me break out in hives. On the inside.

    “Well that eliminates 98% of the jobs.”

    Damn.

    With 250 college credits under my belt, I thought, Hey, perhaps I’d become a tutor. So I found this company, and they had me take a bunch of tests to see what I was qualified for. I have a pretty high opinion of myself, so of course I imagined I’d pass them all.

    But when I saw some of these questions — like geometry proofs that I could do blind folded when I was 16, or organic chemistry molarity word problems that I could do easily at age 20 — I couldn’t help but be struck by how absolutely useless those classes had been. Curse you, Educational-Industrial Complex! I want my money back!

    Also, I didn’t score higher than 50% on any of those tests. Whoops. Turns out lecture-based learning really IS the worst way to learn something.

    You know what I hate? When people ask me what I “do.”

    Uh…I breathe oxygen and metabolize food and I can make the most incredible butter nut squash soup and I can do the butterfly stroke pretty well and I aspire to play the erhu.

    Why don’t people just ask each other, “What do you spend all day doing, even though you hate it, just because they give you money. Like a whore?” Because isn’t that what they’re really asking?

    Your post today was just what I needed to hear. It also reminds me a little of Seth Godin’s story. Thank you.

  • Rob Britt says:

    I have sort of the opposite problem, yet most people think it’s a gift. I am qualified for a number of things, and I’m good at quite a few. And I’m unemployed and you’d think from the number of applications that are collecting dust in hr offices around the country that I must be a problem employee, but I’m just unconventional. I don’t fit in well. I make suggestions that usually end up being applied and improving a business, but because it didn’t have anything to do with my position, it becomes unconnected to me. I wouldn’t much care, except for my unemployed status. Online I’m a knowledgeable “go to” guy for many people but that somehow I don’t pay the bills.

    sorry. just pondering things. Did you ever end up someplace, not really know how or why, and you just started typing? yeah. um, I write like I breathe. Most times I don’t think about it, it just happens..

  • This is one of my all time favorite posts! I made up my job, my business, and my life, and while it isn’t all roses and rainbows all the time, it damn sure beats the alternative! Gotta have the freedom, flexibility, and variety – they are the reason I never joined corporate america and quit trying to shoehorn myself into a job-job. Thanks for shining a light on this today, Chris. :-)

  • Thanks Chris! I know exactly how you feel. I have a half-degree in theology, yet as a manager, one of my staff has a Ph.D.
    Its Thanksgiving in Canada – and I’m thankful.

  • I’m sending this one to all my friends. I’m a comic author (I’m relaunching my webcomic pretty soon), and I intend to build an empire with my work. I plan to do this gig without a formal art school education.

    I have so many friends who are interested in a career in the arts. Some are into comics, some want to do character design for video games, or just general illustration. However, few of them are actually creating work for the field they’re interested in. My friends are waiting for “qualifications”! They’re waiting til they get their degree or until they get accepted into whatever art school. They’re waiting to be taught, they’re waiting for it to be some sort of homework/job assignment.

    I have been in this comic gig as a fan long enough to see that the people who are achieving real, controllable success are the types who would have obtained it whether they went to art school or not. I couldn’t stand to “wait” for qualifications! If that means that the crappy stuff I come up with right now is the best I can do, then so be it. Qualification or no qualifications, you have to create a lot of crap before you can bust out a masterpiece, so I might as well get it over with.

  • Reid says:

    Chris’s story seems to be a perfect example of the value of practical skills like writing and marketing, at which he obviously excels, vs. more academic concerns like stats or other advanced math. For anyone who had the same thought, I’d highly recommend Michael Ellsberg’s latest book.

    Oddly enough this was probably one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read on AONC. Thanks for sharing Chris.

  • Cricket says:

    Funny–I’ve been reading your posts for a while and have never once wondered about your qualifications. Your writing resonates with me and so I believe it. And yet I worry a out my own qualifications and if it’s all enough. Great post! I loved it.

  • Kimberly says:

    Love this. I can only hope that some day I find myself sitting next to you on a long flight (in first class, of course).

  • Penelope J. says:

    An uplifting post. Thanks for sharing your personal information and experience. It means a lot to someone like me. Our qualifications are what we project rather than what we learned in school/university. How many MBAs have lost jobs and don’t know what to do? You are a communicator, in both the verbal and written senses. They are your talents and qualifications. You did not need to waste your time learning higher math to do that.

    I’m a high-school dropout with two semesters at university. Like you, I never learned higher math. Yet, because I could write, at 18 (lying about my age), I landed a job in a New York ad agency, which led to a career as an executive (and eventually, V.P.) in international advertising at a time when the workplace was male dominated. After retirement, I worked as an English teacher, a Hispanic research analyst/report writer (fluent Spanish), a newspaper columnist, and am currently trying to publish a motivational book about making a new start in midlife after professional job loss.

    As you said, there is something you should never give up on: the will to keep going. It’s people like you who inspire me. I’m 68 and have plenty more to achieve in this life.

  • Aaron says:

    Great stuff as always, but greater. Encouraged and challenged by your words and surprized. I wouldn’t have taken you for a car thief. A drop out yes, but a car thief no. You have tapped into a reality in our world that we humans don’t often understand. You spoke of religion and thankfulness and I am thankful that when I look to the scriptures that I follow, I see Jesus choosing ordinary uneducated men (fishermen, farmers, revolutionaries, etc) to be his disciples, to hand over the job of sharing the good news to the entire world. We don’t need the best and the brightest to start a movement, we just need those who will believe and act.

  • Renee O'Leary says:

    Sorry to go against the tide, but I am very qualified for what I do – I have to be. I am an activist against the tobacco industry. I’ve spent years reading everything I can find about my foe, and I keep on top of the information I need. I’m communicating with people who are engaged in the same goal. I spend many hours thinking through how the industry will counter my efforts. I entered university at square one at 50, and with my BA and MA, I made sure to obtain the tools I need for my activism, and enjoyed school too. My activities qualify me for what I do.

    There are arenas where you can fake it, and yes, luck is nice when you get it. But for what I do, I must have every skill and contact I can grasp. If I didn’t, the cigarette industry would make short work of my efforts.

  • Thorn Coyle says:

    Your story sounds similar to mine, sans the juvenile delinquency. I come from a working class/working poor family. I also dropped out of high school. Got a C in my statistics course in college! Despite a lot of talent and prodigious brain, I also wasn’t qualified to do much more than run a cash register. I’ve had many, many strange jobs since age 12 because I was always driven to take care of myself and live independently. Always worked with an eye on saving up time rather than money because I wanted to do things like write, read philosophy, dance…

    My turning point toward the red carpet line at the airport came the day I stopped saying “I have no marketable skills.” That was all it took. That, and several years of life unfolding, of course.

    Thanks for writing your story. I also feel grateful every day. It’s the key to all successful magic.

  • Wow. Thank you.

  • Donina says:

    Thanks for such an honest and true post, Chris! You debunked the myth of “success” and “expertise”. You offer insight and wisdom (and humor) about what it takes to press through to do what you love to do.

  • Mandy says:

    This was nice to read this Monday morning. I’m at my job–a good job with OK pay but not fulfilling. I convince myself to stay because I don’t think I’m qualified for anything that may be more interesting. Well, that and I don’t want to work for someone else anymore. :)

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve had a crappy weekend worrying about my job and you made me realize that everything is going to be ok. :)

  • Laura Simms says:

    Wow. This is my all time favorite post of your, Chris.

    Almost everyday I chuckle as I get paid to do what I do now, a “job” which I invented. You are a big part of the inspiration for me taking the leap.

    Higher math. Nope.

    Thank you,
    Laura

  • christinasc says:

    This is a Key Point: Recognizing Value where others dismiss it. This is where a lot of inventors get it and the general public is submissive to the status quo. ” You have to believe in yourself ” – Sun Tzu

  • christinasc says:

    I do think though, that if you want to be an olympic athlete, or neurosurgeon you do need the foundation and the hard work to qualify. There’s no short cut there.

  • Qualifications are not the same as education. We might debate the need and the place of qualifications – and as I get older I see less value in them.

    But education… That’s a different story entirely. Where would we be without access to knowledge, to skills, to learning?

    Cathy

  • joseph says:

    best post in a while……

  • Raye Cage says:

    I used to think that I needed to get a degree, certificate, or some kind of something to put on my wall to prove that I was qualified to do whatever. But as I get older and start learning things for the sheer enjoyment of it, because it feeds my soul, I have stopped worrying about my qualifications. I am reading “How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb, one of the Da Vincian principles is “Curiosita – An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continouous learning.” That’s is now my goal in life and business!

  • Wasim says:

    This was a really touching post. Some of this feels so close to home for me personally. In school I got a report once that said I sit and day dream while the teacher is taling ot the class and still up untill this day I’ve always wandered what was wrong with day dreaming. I still do it.

  • Jennifer says:

    I loved this post Chris. When I was in high school (10 years ago) I wrote an essay on post high school schooling and how I felt it was not necessity to a successful career and life. I was pushed to go to college but instead joined a non-profit and was able to travel the world and help people. Later on I decided I wanted to be in the art field and graphic design was going to be my key. I went to school for 2 years and realized, its not about the degree, its about the passion and talent that shines through you and your portfolio.
    This post really inspired me. I just moved last week to Portland with no job or money but a portfolio and a faith that i will find what i am looking for. A creative outlet that somehow might help people and hopefully make me some money. Lots of companies want that 4 year degree, but I believe my passion and talent is going to land me some where great. Thanks for the post Chris!

  • Burton Kent says:

    You may be “incompetent” or unqualified at many things, but so what? It doesn’t matter what you can’t do, as much as what you can do.

    You’re qualified at writing, marketing and travel. And I haven’t been to your summit but I’m sure some additional qualifications are hidden in what you did there.

    You rock. Loved this post. Also loved a quote by Janelle (in the comments): “Action is the most important qualification.”

  • Tara says:

    Thank you for this, it was exactly what I needed to read today. I have been having a crisis of self-confidence, feeling paralyzed about moving my life to the next level due to fears of inadequacy. You have inspired me to stop the negative fear-inducing self talk and start believing in my capacities which I have always known were there.

  • On my feet yelling bravo…bravo…love it…

    Thank you.

  • This gave me flashbacks. “Do you have any children,” asked my window washing boss, before completing the question, “that you know about?” That was my first job out of college, got fired after a week, and look back on the last 20 years wondering how I got from cleaning windows to doing what I love.

    Brilliant essay!

  • Mike Carlson says:

    You put a tear or two into this full grown but immature man’s eyes with this one Chris. Sometimes it’s really hard to play in a world where you don’t feel like you fit in. I’m working at it, and you provide hope.

  • Qualified to make $11 an hour with no benefits? I absolutely love it.

    I have to say, though…

    You’re writing is enjoyable to read, and I have a short attention span. So, I’d say you have some skills.

    Anyways, this was awesome and inspirational. :)

  • monika hardy says:

    most people write this off as – you, Chris Guillebeau, are one of the lucky ones.
    but look at all the comments.
    and think about all the people elsewhere.. doing just this. doing their thing.. rather than fitting in.

    yeah. we are all weird. normal is a myth if we believe we can be ourselves.
    let’s do that.

    thank you Chris.

  • Love this post, and the comments. I agree with others Chris that you probably do have an exceptional skill-set and drive in carrying out your plans for ‘world domination’ and that not everyone will be able to replicate this. And I also think having qualifications and ‘something to fall back on’ can be great, because sometimes life or the economy throws us curveballs and we may just be grateful for that boring/uninspiring job for a time. HOWEVER, I think the essential message is that, most of the time, we need to have more faith in ourselves and our abilities, not less. Find what you want to do, make a plan, and then do everything in your powers to do it. Understand that, while you may find some shortcuts, you will inevitably need to develop vast reservoirs of skill and experience in what you do (though this does not mean you need a bit of paper). You will also need to work hard and have incredible faith in yourself, because there will be no shortage of naysayers and critics eager to tell you why you can’t do it. I’m leaving my 9 to 5 in a few weeks to (hopefully!) establish a freelance writing career. Good luck to all of us who hope to live life with passion and purpose.

  • moom says:

    I do know a bit of math (though I failed the preparatory course twice as an undergrad), speak two languages well and have skills in more and have a PhD (though I got all three degrees in a total of 7 years the minimum possible). But I still feel like I’m not really qualified for what I do – I am a full professor at the top university in the Southern Hemisphere. The truth is that most people at this level are not that confident either. But you just have to get on with things and not worry about it… There’s nothing wrong with getting qualifications and solid training, but don’t waste time on that. Mechanical, technical, language skills are all useful, some people will succeed without them but like Chris they have some other skills obviously at putting things together (which is what I’m good at too, I’m not a specialist at all).

  • Jean-Gardner says:

    Great post! I completely get what you’re saying and it is refreshing.

    One thing that I’ve begun to notice is how many successful people were really unsuccessful at going through the grist mill. Many of the richest, most successful people in the world were dropouts. I think they may have compensated for their lack of education or book smarts with “the ability to implement” in their respective areas. “Book smart” people tend to over-think and over-plan.

    Anyway, please keep blogging, we all benefit from reading your fresh insights and motivations. Thanks so much!

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    Well I now belong to The Club of The Surprised because you are so funny, Chris and I never saw this side of you before. I laughed so much reading this, especially the bit about you sitting in the front row asking meaningless questions to prove you were paying attention. You are so drole. I love it. We should remember not to take ourselves too seriously as well.
    And to Katy……..when people ask me what I do, I usually reply, ‘When?’

  • Jobber says:

    So… how about those of us who actually went to school, worked our asses off to learn stuff, and actually gave a shit about our futures? Bunch of suckers we are, right? Shouldn’t have bothered? What an uplifting sentiment.

  • Very encouraging post Chris. Thanks for sharing your life with us!

  • Tristan says:

    A very humbling, honest and thought-provoking article Chris. I studied all of last year to get a degree which, up to now, I’ve still not been able to ‘use’ in a professional sense. I did it mainly for myself becuase I was interested in it – not for the piece of paper itself – but it does go to show how experience is much more valuable than paper.

    Great essay.

  • Zach Negin says:

    My friend Joe emailed me today and asked “Did you read the Art of Non-Conformity newsletter today? It’s my favorite thing I’ve read of his since ‘Brief Guide to World Domination’.”

    Here was my response:
    I did in fact read the AONC post today – I agree; it’s one of his best written pieces thus far. I’ve been thinking about why I think that, and after re-reading it just now, the first thing I came up with is his unbridled honesty, both of his experiences (“I learned to drive by stealing cars…”) and of his thoughts (“I smile at the employee tasked with the job of keeping the peasant travelers out.”). His writing is free of judgement, both of himself and his experiences. It’s not a rag-to-riches story (or at least I don’t think it’s intended to be). It reads like a speech that a coach would make.

    Again, thank you for doing what you do.
    -Zach

  • Hicks says:

    You seem to discount writing as a qualification and its clear from your blog that it’s one you should count. I’d argue it’s one of the most important skills of our age. It’s surprising how difficult the basics of good writing are to so many people and as e-mails have become a primary mode of communication in business, that’s a pretty big liability.

    Being able to think analytically, communicate effectively and write a sentence that is easy to read and makes sense to your audience are skills that are applicable to a huge number of industries and professions.

  • Sharon says:

    So many times we attribute super-natural abilities to successful people – thinking they are somehow more qualified and blessed by the gods than we are. Thank you for being so honest. Your site has meant the world to me.

    When I was laid-off I sought employment, and was so freaked-out about not having a job I couldn’t think. Lucky for me I didn’t get a “job,” and used the time to discover what I really wanted to do (and not what was expected of me to do) – how to make that possible (this site has been very supportive) – and how to become the person I want to be – doing the things I enjoy doing – and how it can help me to help others.

    Just recently I knew I turned a corner when things didn’t work out like I had hoped – I didn’t have my usual melt-down of fear! My mind accepted “that” loss but it also began accepting the many other opportunities to be discovered – and somehow, I felt a wave of “courage” wash over me (see Mae’s post above).

    I feel as though I’m on the verge of something awesome! In fact, I just got a great idea while writing this post! :)

  • Tom Sawyer says:

    Great article. I think most would agree that while you don’t have any qualifications, you do have many admirable qualities – and these make all the difference. Resilience, resourcefulness, general people skills – I work with a lot of people who possess plenty of qualifications but none of these qualities.

    It’s easy to guess which I’d prefer. Keep up the great work Chris!

  • Jackie says:

    Thanks so much for your honesty and humility. It made my day. :D

  • Gee and I thought I was pretty sly getting into college and on the dean’s list without a high school diploma, you sir have bested me. I’ve been wondering for years why all the hoopla about math, I saw some quote that math stops many people from passing the police entrance exams. I am still trying to imagine what kinda math you need to be a cop. Speeding, ammo sizes, if you have 5 perps traveling at 75 miles per hour…..

  • Haha!!

    You are, however, very qualified to write! That was the best blog post I’ve read in awhile! Thanks for the inspiration and the laughs.

  • I think one of the most overlooked quality looked for in employers is there lack of qualification. i think it’s great for many instances they have no habits, haven’t been corrupted and because of this can only create things other than the status quo.

  • This is such a great way to dispel the myth that those around us are imminently more qualified than we are. As someone who didn’t go to college, I worry at times that I don’t have the right qualifications to be doing what I am, yet alone anything else. When in reality all that’s missing is that piece of paper that others seem to think is important. I’m intelligent, driven, and resourceful – enough so that I’ve been working in management for most of my career. And now, thanks to you and the incredible community of like-minded people out there, I’m moving toward creating my own lifestyle and business. Your vulnerability and honesty in sharing your story is beautiful. Thank you.

  • This one is a keeper.

  • moom says:

    It’s not qualifications that matter but what skills and abilities you have. But qualifications are often an easy shorthand to confirm that someone has the skills. And if you really do have the skills then it’s not hard to get the qualification to prove it. For example, in scientific research which is my field, someone might say: “I can do research, I don’t need a PhD”. If you are such a great researcher then getting a PhD should be easy for you.

  • David says:

    Chris, this article was amazing on so many levels! You managed to do something a writer rarely does and that is to touch the soul of your readers.

  • Carolyn says:

    And you keep proving that dedication to your passion is really the biggest qualification of all! That will let you go after what you need to reach your vision. That’s why so many of us listen to you. You’re just like us, except with more flight mileage. ; )

  • noelle says:

    Ditto to the favorite post comments. You rock Chris.

  • alton says:

    Your best post ever. Thanks.

  • Carolyn Barndt says:

    LOVE. THIS.

    I’ve been clobbering myself ever since a close friend unceremoniously (but very sanctimoniously) “dumped” me for what amounted to being utterly unable to force my decidedly square peg into a round hole. I have a “useless” philosophy degree, and have worked a string of entry level jobs I felt OK about for twenty years. Recently it’s been slowly dawning upon me that the reason I can’t find my niche in the world is because I HAVE TO CREATE IT.

    Thanks for going on ahead and showing us it can be done.

  • Lisa says:

    Inspiring–thanks, Chris. Public schools were formed and designed by industrialists with the purpose of making workers and consumers, NOT as we’re led to believe to educate us. (Really, look it up! They didn’t even try to hide what they were doing!) We are trained from childhood to think that we must find our place in their world–some of us know there’s a better way out there–we just have to find it!

  • Bg says:

    Dear Sir, Your article just encouraged me my whtever-I-like-I-do attitude. Thanks.

  • Michael Pinter says:

    What a Fantastic Post! I have four kids, my oldest is in High School and my wife and our friends are constatntly discussing all of the old-school paradigms like “if our child fails math, she won’t go to a great college” or “My child needs to get into Yale” etc. I laugh at these thoughts because I believe, that the past two decades have shown us clearly that anyone who belives in something(e.g. Steve Jobs) can accomplish anything without college, and without the ususal “formal Education” Today, a 20 year old can start something on the internet that they love and belive in and make more money than our parents ever dreamed of. Chris is a great example of that and this post makes it even more clear to me. I would much rather my children figure out what it is they WANT to do with their lives and then go do it, no matter where it lands them, then follow the “traditional” path and end up making good or even great money doing what they thought they were SUPPOSED to do with their lives.

  • Sylvia says:

    You’re not unqualified. You know how to write and put your thoughts together in cogent fashion, and that’s a skill you had to learn. You have analytical abilities. You obviously have marketing abilities. In fact, I’d say you were the quintessential salesman. I bet you even read books, something a lot of truly unqualified people never do. And you’ve been very very lucky.

    Personally, I think the last thing the truly unqualified need to hear is another justification for not knowing anything.

  • This is the reason I come here. This is the reason I subscribed to your blog. This is the reason why, if I had the money, I’d attend your conference and buy your products.

    It’s because of THIS.

    It’s because I’m also not qualified to do anything and I’m already 25 years old. Because I’m both terrified about my future and at the same time still ambitious and believe I have the potential to be great, despite having no qualifications.

    It’s because your story allows me to believe that I’m going to be okay. That I’m not the only one and that maybe, just maybe, I will make it.

    If I’m grateful for my life as it is, I’m definitely also grateful for you, your journey and your wise words.

    Thank you.
    :)

  • Kim Kircher says:

    In high school I worked hard to get all As. When I graduated with a 4.0 GPA I imagined that number would follow me around my entire life, magically opening doors for me. Not once in the 20-something years since I left high school has that number made a difference in my life. I currently work as a ski patroller and author. And no one ever asks what grades I got in school.

  • Affecting positive change is a pretty good qualification for a human being. Cheers.

  • Jeff Fleak says:

    I was 16, and just found out the fry guy died (literally), I was promoted from the broom. I was the happiest person in the world. Then realized maybe just maybe I should not be in charge of hot oil. I moved on to making really cusioned waterbed rails. I can’t believe they let me go. After years of college and all the preverbial corporate jobs for twenty years since, I’m back finishing up my education and could not be any happier. Sometimes it may take awhile to figure it out, but it will be worth it in the end. Thanks for the great post.

  • Cherri says:

    I had a great time reading your post! I laughed out loud while at work. I could just see 14 year old Chris dumping pots in the dumpster. I would never have even thought of that possibility. I agree with what you say about “qualifications” or lack there of. However, you are a talented communicator and that must be a qualification of some sort.

  • Sara says:

    Hi Chris. I’ve been reading you for a while now and have never commented. But I couldn’t resist this time, because I needed to tell you that I think this is the best post you have ever written. Bravo, and thanks—for this one and all the others I never said thanks for :)

  • Of course! How else did I get here? Believed in all the mainstream hooey and just couldn’t follow through. I’m grateful for my employment every day, though. It’s a bit like baseball: a game of failure, but even a .333 batting average is Hall of Fame material in post-season. And who taught them the game? And, by the way, what’s the singular for plethora?

  • moom says:

    But Chris did go to college and even to graduate school. And Steve Jobs and Bill Gates also went to college. Jobs dropped out after one semester but stayed on in Portland for the next three semesters auditing classes. Both he and Jobs decided they didn’t want to complete their degrees but both benefited from their college experience. I think it is wrong to say from these that college is useless and my child doesn’t need to go to college. And I bet Jobs and Gates would have scored 800 on the GRE math test (which is real easy actually and doesn’t involve calculus etc.). Most people don’t use calculus day to day unless you are an engineer, economist etc. But calculus thinking and statistical thinking can be very useful in making sense of the world. You can really tell when you are arguing with someone who doesn’t have this kind of background and can’t think statistically about things…

  • Phil says:

    @ SARA (H-LESS) surely the singular of plethora is ‘one’.

  • Joe says:

    Chris, I thought this post was awesome, but it made me mad at the same time. Because I wish I had all that time back that I stressed over feeling like a fraud, and not being qualified to do big things in life. Maybe it was just youthful insecurity. Now that I’m older, I realize I’m still not qualified. This article went a long way in pointing out that, for most of us, it really doesn’t matter…

  • Dude … possibly your greatest post ever. Seriously. And thank you.

  • Love it. People often treat qualifications as permission to do something. They don’t feel they have permission to do professional work in an area unless they have the qualifications. We work at getting degrees and certifications so we can have permission to work in a certain field or give advice in a certain area.

    Just like a college degree doesn’t guarantee a good job, qualifications don’t guarantee someone is competent in their field. It only means they passed some test.

    Thanks Chris

  • Jim Johnson says:

    This is a wonderful call to action and a removal of excuses. I’m actually sending it on to my son, who is a sophomore in HS. It feels a little dangerous to have him read this! Quit school! Succeed! I’m afraid, but I know it’s the right thing. Couple this with a recent post on Tim Ferriss’ blog and I do believe he could break out of the standard path and love his life. Where do I find some balls?

  • Daniele V says:

    Best AONC post ever.

  • Lainer says:

    You’re more qualified than most of our politicians. Count yourself lucky.

  • John Sherry says:

    Even though many industries demand a qualification or degree, the modern world is where most graduate and hold a degree in life lessons that they then share with the world. You can’t study surviving cancer or backpacking the world through retirement but you can be a professor of experience that others want to hear about. Mastery isn’t just on a piece of paper from a campus, it’s from hanging in there, persisting, and getting through life itself, and helping a few folks on the way.

  • Maria Nedeva says:

    Great writing and a good story, Chris. Strangely, only the other day I was asking myself the question why is my employer paying me well and having a problem finding the answer. And I went all the way in education and qualifications. Brief story: expelled from nursery but learned a lesson – sometimes it is better to loose a battle to win the war. Then pretty close to plain sailing through school, university and two PhDs in two different countries (and fields; one in Sociology).

    The competencies that help me earn my keep are not the ones learned in all these educational institutions; they are the ones that are my gift and I have developed, used and continue to work on. Research, analysis and writing,

  • Sage says:

    So Good….. What a post. That is exactly the type of sharing that makes the internet not a waste of space.

    Still pondering what all the takeaways could be. But then that might not be the point.

    Bravo
    ~Sage

  • Kim says:

    I could write basically the same post about my own skills. I can’t do higher math, can’t give correct change without a calculator, couldn’t wrap pallets for that matter either. But somehow I’ve gotten where I am and it’s the same faith in the universe that will hopefully get me where I want to go next.

    Thank YOU for the great post.

  • Nina says:

    I quit my job a few months ago and am trying to figure out what to do next and people keep asking me what my qualifications are, now more than ever. I love your post, one of my favourites so far. Thank you!

  • This was inspired. I did as many of the right things as I could to get the jobs I’ve had and no matter what they were, I always thought someone else should have gotten the job. So, those feelings are common to all of us.

    I think it is because of folks like you that we can see it is the crappy voice that holds us back and not our ability to do something we want.

    Well done, both the post and the living!

  • Simply amazing story Chris. Having only met you once, but being aware of some of the things you’ve done, I would have never guessed 90% of the info you shared. Keep going brother.

    I find myself being very furtunate to have some pretty awesome people in my life. I’m not always sure how it happened, but I learned to quit asking “why” and say, “thank you.”

  • artgrab says:

    Exactly – I’ve spent the last year discovering that I can succeed even though I didn’t do it the ‘proper’ way. My sister did that, and she’s happy, but it took a lot for me to realize that black-sheep status has a lot going for it, too!

  • alua says:

    A very interesting post. I actually have various qualifications (as in: university degrees) and I enjoy getting them (I am a postgraduate research student now), but I totally agree with you: people often don’t care about the qualifications you have. I have been offered teaching jobs (unsolicited) on the basis of being a native speaker, but with no qualifications (or experience) to teach that language, meanwhile, despite being perfectly bilingual, having qualifications and several years of experience, it’s essentially impossible for me to teach EFL in Asia, because most countries have a random “must have passport from specific country only” stipulation.

  • Laurel says:

    Thanks for the best laugh I have had in weeks – I just finished reading it out loud to my husband with pauses to wipe away tears and catch my breath – too, too funny and also too true!

    One thing you are for sure, a great writer with a zany sense of humor!

  • Denise says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing that. I laughed and laughed mostly because I have my own version of your story sans the successful website. Thanks for being so honest and grateful and for flipping on the switch. If I ever meet you, I’ll hug you.

  • Chris Guillebeau at his best ! This is the reason why I like your blog, for these kind of posts where the writer is in full bloom and wonderfully refreshing. Thanks a lot ! :)

  • Darcy says:

    Wow, you sound a lot like me. I bet you’re an ENFP. I’m really glad i stumbled upon your blog, i’m having the exact same issues and reading your blog reassures me that it’s okay not to follow the traditional path as long as i work hard and make smart choices along the way. Thank you! :)

  • Silv says:

    Nice one. It reminds of a past job when I hired staff based on 10% skill, 90% attitude, simply because the job I could teach them, attitude I couldn’t.

  • RichUncle EL says:

    This post hits a nerve in so many ways. How many times have the average person looked at a job they wanted and did not apply because the long list of qualifications needed turned them away. I have felt this way also and even now with a master’s degree in business I struggle to find the right type of work that interest me due to the long list of experience and qualifications and certifications for the financial work I really want to pursue. This world is really based on who you know more than what you can give.

  • Ham says:

    Great post! The formal education piece really hits home….I focused some of my collegiate endeavors on sociology too. Also, have an AA, BA, and MA by ‘learning the system’ and never took a standardized test for any program.

  • Linda Rood says:

    This was the best thing I think I have ever read. So many people look down on people that haven’t went to college. I didn’t but I have a lifetime of experiences that they don’t understand.

  • Tessa says:

    Hi again Chris, it is not where you start but where you finish, as the song goes. Boy, this was an honest, really out there post, and great that you are so honest. You may need to have a professional cv/portfolio written up by a pr media person, who will enhance your experiences to give you great qualifications, nb, see Jeff Goins very simple professional one. You are way qualified, why do you think people respond to your posts? You are human, honest, have a great amount of inborn knowledge that cannot be learned in any university, only in the university of life, dealing with people is what your forte is, so stop dissing yourself, there is a solution to your dilemma. And hey, you have made it, travelled the world, have a great blog site, plenty of love from your community, what more do you want? In your position you can basically have anything you want, if you want it hard enough.

    Great honesty here, luv your posts, and please don’t stop. If you really want qualifications, I am sure you can do whatever you put your mind to.

  • keerti says:

    my definition of qualification : satisfying some “authorities” criteria that one has digested and regurgitated (usually by rote) the experience of someone else (other than the authority), and remember it long enough to get a pass mark! nuff said

  • Kash says:

    I can so relate to your story. Although I am not as “qualified” as you’re, I earn a living from something I was not schooled or trained for.

    We can never get distracted if we look back at how we started, and always count our blessings.

  • Mike says:

    Reading this post, I feel like I was reading into my own life. I even had my first job at 13 as a dishwasher (but I never threw out the pots). Even though, I’ve had odd jobs here and there, I’ve never felt like I could work for someone. Aside from the military, I’ve managed to leave jobs every now and again. Luckily, I had the GI Bill, so I was able to pay for my degree.

    Now I have hopped into social media and blogging with no “qualifications,” but I have the utmost confidence I can do this. Thanks for the inspiration :).

  • Terry Pratt says:

    This is a post to which I can strongly relate – especially the part about qualifications.

    Somewhere along the way, I was rudely shocked into actually quantifying my utter lack of qualifications.

    A good way to do this – the method upon which I stumbled – is to apply with a temporary employment agency. Typically, the application process includes completing a multi-page laundry list of specific qualifications sought by employers.

    In my case, I discovered that out of over 300 listed skills, I had exactly five.

  • Ann says:

    I found your website while reading book reviews in a back issue of Library Journal. I’m a black woman, over 50, & grew up in the country. I plan to return to living closely with the earth. I recently completed an apprenticeship in ecological horticulture; have a certificate in Permaculture; study Biodynamics, natural building, renewable energy, & love farm work. No college degree.

    I think all people need to start growing as much of their own food as they can, and that in doing so, we’ll connect with others in ways that’ll help us create community & support systems, for when times get even tougher. After living my whole life in the u.s., a dream in sleep led me to Mexico & Central America. I’ve been there 3 times in the past 11 years, connecting deeply with a community of rural campesinos (farmers, gardeners, self-sufficient folks). I especially connected with the women, & helped them make contact with groups doing empowerment work in their country, with whom the women can collaborate to create home-based income-generating enterprises that will help the women reach their goals of improving life for their families & community. Planes pollute: build bikes & learn to sail! Blessings!

  • Great article!! Sums up much of my life.. so far

  • I love this post! It’s very encouraging for recent grads who are made to believe they don’t have skills simply because they can’t seem to find a job in this terrible economy. Contrary to what you’ve stated, I would argue that you have tons of marketable skills, particularly in the communications field. This post stresses how important it is not to listen to others and to follow your heart!

  • Amazing post!

    I’ve been fortunate enough to parlay a degree in Psychology into a career that has nothing to do with psychology. And while I’m not thrilled with my job, it serves me well and allows me to live a life I’m content with for the moment, so I’m very thankful for it.

    I agree that paper qualifications have little or nothing to do with one’s ability to perform a service, complete a task, write an essay, etc., except where specialized knowledge or skill is required (as someone said, brain surgeon).

    We’ve set up a system that says a person’s worth is based on qualifications, rather than knowledge. Because of that we’ve lost sight of the value of those who “know” things without a BS, MA, or PhD after their name. I’ve worked with many software developers who have multiple degrees, but can’t program their way out of a wet paper sack. I’ve also worked with several who started at a very young age (the youngest was 9), have no degrees, and write beautiful, elegant code that runs circles around the educated guys’ code.

    Thanks for showing us a different way to think about life.

  • Rhonda says:

    A quote I read today in my novel…”The enemy of best is often good” meaning sometimes we do the bare minimal or simply just good, & don’t strive to be our best! I’m taking this & running with it….hopefully someone else reading this will too! It clicked for me!

  • Bernadette says:

    I can relate to everything you said in this post!!When I recently thought of getting qualified I too sucked at statistics and excelled in social studies. I gave up because I sat through every statistic lecture without getting it. I begged the teacher to please teach me in a way that I can relate. He replied there is no other way to teach you, you just have to understand it. I knew It was all over then.
    How refreshing you are.

  • Ruth says:

    Great post. I don’t think it is about qualifications but i dont think qualifications are wrong either. It is about the person and what they decide to do with/without the qualifications. That is the main question. As much as you say you are not qualified Chris, I believe you are extremely qualified. You are an excellent writer, marketer, sales man and on and on. Many people are in jobs they dont like but dont question the status quo, they accept that this is their life. But then there is people that question things, they may not necessarily quit the job but they can perhaps negotiate better pay, better holidays, and flexible working. It is about the individual person always and whether or not they wake up and take a proactive approach to how they live. Nothing wrong with the job or the qualifications per se. We still need people in jobs, we cannot all be internet marketers but that being said it doesn’t mean that in those jobs we have to put up with poor standards, we can be more resourceful and proactive in ensuring that we create the job environments we thrive in, achieving a balanced work/play lifestyle.

  • I was a high school drop out too :) Actually a boarding school drop out, raised to be a student and never an employee, which eventually lead me to becoming an entrepreneur; couldn’t keep up with the incessant testing/grading/ sleepless nights studying and would have been a terrible employee.

    No regrets!!

  • Nick Johnson says:

    I agree with you mate.
    Education matters for a certain aspect but we can’t say that it’s everything.
    This biggest example is “Bill Gates”, he was drop-out from university and everybody know where he is today.
    So there are many other things which matter in life to get success and reach to your dreams.

    I am the man who have high targets in life and smoothy moving towards those.

  • Mike Howell says:

    Wonderful post. Fascinating replies. Refreshing to know I’m not the ONLY one . . .

  • Sihao Cao says:

    This is a terrific post Chris. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing all those life experiences. I have been very fortunate with many things in my life that have fallen in my favor. I do feel blessed.

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