Education, business, opportunity. The questions abound: What is the right school to attend? Is college the answer to securing my financial future? What if I major in a subject and then decide I’m not so interested in that field? Do our local yeshivos provide a good enough education, giving our kids the tools to support themselves, their families, and the tzedakos that are so important?
As an individual speaking for myself, and on a community level from my experience at the JCC focusing on helping people find work, mentoring or starting a business, I’ve come to realize college is important, but often overrated, and may not be the right answer for everyone.
College may teach you some things you need to know, might be a springboard to financial growth, and will definitely leave you in a lot of debt to pay back for the next couple of years. However, no matter what subject you learn in school, it will have to be supplemented with real-world experience. A friend, who’d received a scholarship to Harvard Law, after spending three years in school and getting a great offer at a law firm, confided in me that his experience in the real world had almost no resemblance to what he learned in school.
My mother always used to say, “If you’re a motivated person, a good education will land you a good job; but no education will land you a good business.”
That’s because when you’re smart and motivated, the life experience you gain as you work your way up from the bottom of a company or career becomes more valuable than any college education because it’s practical and useful.
When young people ask me for business advice, I always suggest that they choose an industry they like, are interested in, and enjoy. Then, choose a successful company in that area and do whatever it takes to get on board, even if that means getting paid less than you’re worth. The experience you’re getting is like a free ride to college, and it will pay off in the long run.
A hot topic in recent years has been that local yeshivos, especially Chassidish ones, deprive students, of a proper education. The claim is that this leads to a generation of impoverished slackers who won’t be able to make a living. I agree that a good education including mastery of English and communication skills, as well as understanding the basics of maths, is necessary for everyone. However, time and again, I’ve witnessed what Chazal tell us, “Nothing stands in the way of desire.”
I’ve seen people overcome the odds because they were driven. At a construction trade show this month at the Meadowlands Exposition Center, over 200 companies exhibited with close to 4,000 attendees. They were mostly from the Chassidish community, and let me tell you, the successes and profits of these businesses were simply astounding. Impressive would be an understatement.
The JCC of Marine Park hosts similar events to help business and individuals grow, and we Baruch Hashem have seen the same phenomenon. In February, the JCC hosted an e-commerce conference of close to 700 people at The Palace, and we held a real estate conference this past month at the Dyker Heights Golf Course for 600 people.
The events were attended by numerous successful community members who want to “pay it forward” by mentoring young entrepreneurs or giving seminars to share with others the tips and guidance they need to enter the marketplace or expand their success.
In conclusion, listen to your mother and follow your family’s advice, but remember that your attitude and determination can make you a “master” even without the degree.