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Creations > Credentials

By January 5, 2023No Comments

“Have you ever heard of SUNY Geneseo?” I asked with anxiety pulsing through my body.

“No, I haven’t” she retorted.

“Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, no one has.” I thought to myself.

“My ex went to an Ivy League,” remarked the girl I was seeing. To her it was a mundane statement, to me, she might have well stuck a danger in my heart. .

Not because she was using it as a weapon of superiority, but because that one statement validated a deep-seated belief at the time and it immediately made me feel inferior. 

At age 22 I had the belief, perhaps instilled in me from my environment and culture writ large,  that your Alma Mater was one of the strongest social signals for “intelligence” and was its own form of “social currency”. A single authentic Harvard hoodie could secure your way into better employment options, increase your mating opportunities, and serve as the trump card in any small social interaction. 

The “best four years of my life” were spent numbing my emotions with alcohol, retaining next to no useful knowledge, and treating my body and mind like it was a garbage disposal. It wasn’t a higher education for me, it was a lower one. Worst of all, outside of New York State, barely anyone had heard of my Alma Mater SUNY Geneseo. After $60k out the door, I was starting to realize that some products have different ROIs.

Hot damn was I wrong.

Finding The Portal

My despair was rooted in using analog mental models & problem-solving techniques in a digital world. Thank God the internet changed everything

Social signals are hyper malleable & opportunities are next to limitless all thanks to technology. 10 years ago, the biggest flex a 16-year-old could have is a new car, now (for some) it’s unlimited Uber. 

Ten thousand followers on Instagram, where you can showcase your skills and ability to command an audience, can fetch you more clout than a Princeton degree. Hell, depending on the industry, your portfolio online is more valuable than your diploma from University. A sea of green tiles on your GitHub profile paired with working applications is far better proof of your competency as a software engineer than a Computer Science degree.

I came to this realization, and subsequently, my life changed, when I was sitting alone on the pews of an empty old church while working for an affordable housing agency outside of Pittsburgh in a low-income neighborhood during my time in AmeriCorps NCCC

My laptop was propped open on top of a decades-old rusted chair, functioning as a desk, as I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook – as one did in 2013. My buddy Kegan shared a blog post by James Altucher, the clickbait title grabbed my attention, so I opened a new tab to read it. 

You’re always just one piece of writing away from a personal transformation.

Honest to God I couldn’t tell you what the article was about, but I can tell you the exact section that changed my life. It was the part where James reminisced about speaking onstage with other accomplished professionals. Amongst them was Mark Cuban, a couple of other billionaires, and then some author I’d never heard of.

The crazy part – he held this writer in greater esteem than Mark Cuban, the uber-famous King of Shark Tank. The author’s name?

Tim Ferriss.

I googled Tim, and then my brain proceeded to break. Who was this guy? Like, what did he do for money? What world did I just stumble into? 

What is Digital Nomadism, how could so many people have online businesses, and why did every smart person have a blog? And why the hell don’t other people talk about this? I thought the internet was for cat videos and Charlie Bit My Finger

That link to the four-hour blog might as well have been the wardrobe to Narnia.

Through Tim, I found a new world of entrepreneurs, bloggers, and podcasters all educating their audience, effectively for free, on anything you could think of; nutrition, fitness, podcasting, persuasion, etc. 

I had found The Portal, my portal to be exact, that I had been looking for my entire life. 

I could learn, ad infinitum, for free from competent people on the other side of the country, sometimes on the other side of the globe, without permission. No Prof needed to assign me books to read, I became my own educator.

These were the college professors I was looking for. This was the Higher Education my soul was yearning for. I wasn’t a shit student, I just hadn’t found the right material to unlock my curiosity. 

I found internet college and never looked back.

Best part about internet college? You never graduate. You keep learning and leveling up and meeting peers online to feed your intellectual curiosity. Within this new brave new world-wide-web creations trump credentials. My despair was evaporated at that moment, my education wasn’t over, it was just starting. 

From that moment forward I approached my life differently. I stopped caring about credentials and focused more on creation & skills acquisition. Online creations were the new honest social signals that you could take you places.

I filled my Evernote with web clippings at a rapid pace and I launched piss-poor niche websites that never got traction, but that didn’t matter – the only thing that mattered was the act of creation. 

All the issues in my life; mental health, nutrition, dating, career progression, etc. now had open and accessible answers. It was just a matter of finding the honest signals in a noisy internet world and then integrating the teachings.

My portfolio of projects isn’t anywhere near where I want to be, but that doesn’t matter.

I’m on my way.