about work and education

I got a comment from a Swedish reader called Karin a while ago:  

Taru! Jag tänker ofta på det här med utbildning. Vet att du inte har någon eftergymnasial utbildning. Hur har det definierat dig? Har det satt käppar i hjulet för dig? Är det något du vill göra? Vad säger du om dagens samhälle och system där det mer eller mindre bygger på att alla ska ha en universitetsutbildning? Vart tror du samhället är påväg? Måste man ha en universitetsutbildning för att klara sig? Hade gärna velat höra dina tankegångar då du själv nämnt detta tidigare men inte djupare än så.

Translation: Taru! I often think about education. I know that you do not have a post-secondary education. How has it defined you? Does it put a spoke in the wheel for you? Is that anything you'd want to do? What about today's society and the system in which it is more or less based on that everyone should have a university degree? Where do you think the society is heading? Do you need to have a university degree to get by? Would like to hear your thoughts, you've only briefly touched this subject earlier.

Disclaimer. Do not use me as an example if:

- You look for safety and stability at all times.
- It is important to you what people think about your life and career path.
- You prefer comfort before challenge.
- You can't imagine yourself being broke.
- You know exactly what your life calling is as far as work goes and you wish to learn all in relation to it.

You may take my advice if one or all of these apply to you:

- You value life experience and adventure before comfort.
- You do not mind taking a random extra job in between profitable self employment.
- You don't mind being broke every now and then because you know you'll always survive (somehow).
- You appreciate challenge
- You trust yourself and that things will solve themselves as time goes by and while you do your best.
- Uncertainty and the unknown is exciting.
- You want to develop and refine your personality before you decide which exact path to take.
- You realize that life is about the journey and thus you want to experience as much as possible.
- Freedom is of utmost importance to you.

To start with, I can tell you that I have never really thought of getting a degree of any sort. In fact, I couldn't wait to get the hell out of school with its non-practical teachings and get to try my own wings instead. Due to a high degree of absenteeism in high school, I didn't even finish with appropriate documentation. I would say that learning has always come easy to me, my teachers were always pleased with the level of my knowledge and my knack for remembering and learning things very easily. It just wasn't what I felt my life needed at the time. I wanted to know real things. About real life. And I have always wanted to love what I do. I did not love school.

I studied three years of Business and Administration in high school (for non Swedes: Swedish high school normally happens between the age of 17-19 and you study your orientation of choice). But even though I attended classes very seldom (too busy partying and hanging out with friends), I think I am the only one in my class that have actually founded and ran my own businesses later on in life. It seems to come naturally for me.

The fact that I was distracted by more fun things in those early years hasn't really hurt me that much, it rather helped me gather a lot of important social knowledge. I worked in a variety of different places to support myself: food stores, cleaning hotel rooms, booked conferences, served at restaurants. And whenever later on that I stumbled upon a business idea (first one came at 21), I made everything I could to make them happen. My motivation was fueled by the strong will of being free and becoming independent. I did not want to give away my valuable time, energy and manpower to people who profited of it more than myself. I wanted to be on top of all things. I guess I was born with an innate sense of "I can do this" and "if they can do it, so can I".

I think a higher education might be really good for certain professions and careers, but for an aspiring entrepreneur with a lot of will and ambition, it is not necessary. A course or degree in business administration/economy/management might be helpful. But even without it, I know of people who've learned everything they know by themselves. Because they're curious and want to learn. I have since I was very young relied on my own abilities. And I've always been very good at absorbing information, at making use of ideas that come my way as well as picking people's brains on important knowledge.

I had always wanted to become a business owner. So I made sure to surround myself with people who were business owners and learned all I could from them. I wanted to work in fashion. And without any prior experience but rather a keen interest in it, I called up fashion brands in NYC, booked meetings with them, flew there alone to bring their brands over to Sweden and that was the start of opening my own fashion store. 

When eating out and partying was the most important thing in my life, I started a web portal for tourists visiting Barcelona, recommending the best of nightlife, dining and shopping that the city had to offer. When I wanted to take my passion for travel to another level, I founded a blog around that interest and made money out of it. I have always loved photographing, so I made sure to find clients to build my portfolio.

Now that (vegan) food and nutrition is my most recent passion, I have founded a company in which I cook and bake healthy, organic, vegan food (that is after I've spent almost a year of working for other restaurants, catering companies and cafés here to gain experience). I'd always strive for turning my interests and passions into money makers just so that I didn't have to waste time on someone else's dreams and ideas. Sometimes my attempts had good results, but they have all turned into valuable lessons regardless of outcome.

The fear of failure has never held me back. The potential worry of not knowing enough has not stopped me either. I have always made sure to learn what I needed to know. I've taken help from people more knowledgeable than myself. Practiced all what I could. I've never received financial help from family, instead I invented ways that would help me bring my ideas to life. I think also that since I grew up with not having much, I was never afraid of being broke in search of entrepreneurial success. Being penniless every once in a while is a risk you must take living the way I have done, with the background I had. 

But I must say that without my best friends, there have been moments when I would have struggled more. I don't know how many times I have had to call my friends from the other side of the world, asking for a quick loan. And obviously since always paying back to the people that have helped you is a fundamental core value of mine, they still would never hesitate helping me out would there need be. And they know I would always do the same for them. Extremely thankful for the people I have in my life and whom have saved my ass many a time.

Back to your question: I don't experience that I have suffered from not having a post secondary education, because I have never wanted or felt that I needed one. But if I would've been a person that wanted to become something that needed a higher education, I would have made sure to get my degrees. It all depends on whatever you want to do and where you see yourself in the future. If it's a lawyer you dream of becoming, I would recommend you studying hard, but combine it with practical knowledge. If you'd want to become a psychiatrist, I would not recommend you jumping onto a five year long education without some proper life experience in your baggage first. If you dream of one day opening your own art gallery, I'd probably recommend you date a gallery owner and or different painters/artists, and then taking help from books and dear Google to get your feet wet before you send in your application to an art institute. Because how can you know what you want to do for the next four, five years if you barely know yourself and the world you live in?

A university degree is good, but not everything. There are many other ways to learn. There are many potential mentors out there that sits on all the information you're looking for. I promise you it's a hell of a lot more interesting spending good times with someone who's gone through it all, rather than wasting five days a week in class.

My years of jumping in between business ventures has been a good learning curve for me. An elongate time that has allowed me to experiment with life, with my own ideas. Imagine if I would have signed up for a design school and studied to fashion designer at the age of 21, and only a few years later discover what I discovered while running my fashion store. That the fashion world is a schizophrenic industry in which you are supposed to change your opinion four times a year. An industry that is filled with vanity, corruption and constant marketing of unethical products and ideals. I feel that I have avoided disappointments and confusions by always following my instincts and gut feelings rather than the "normal" way that might've been expected of a young woman.

I don't necessarily recommend my way of dealing with education and work, it's not for everyone as you hear. But for myself who strive for living life to the fullest and learning by living - my personal non-strategy has worked the best. I have never had a dream of becoming a university educated person. My dream was rather, if anything, to become an intellectual, wise, objective person rich with life experience. My dream was never to get a fat paycheck from a big company. My dream was rather to afford paying myself a decent salary made from my own passions and my own hard work. If I wanted a degree, I would have gotten one. If I would have been absolutely sure of what I wanted to work with for the rest of my life, it would have probably been reasonable to get a university degree. But I've always felt that what I am and want today, might not be the same as next year. Therefore has school not appealed to me much. I am always changing, refining and I never want to stop learning.

Sure, the times in life when I've been a little lost (that always happens in between functioning business ventures), I might have toyed with the idea of taking a class in writing or philosophy, just to add to my personal knowledge bank. But I simply do not think I am the sort of person that need a university degree. I think I will always be able to sort myself out and do the things I love doing. Because I have both the drive, and the knowledge in how to achieve goals. I do not let things such as other people's opinions or the lack of education come in my way. I make sure to surround myself with people who have faith in me, and I read and study all what I am interested in, by myself. I would say that I currently spend approx. 20 hours a week studying about food and nutrition for example. Because I think that will help my current business. And all the physical practicing and experimenting that I occupy myself with on the daily, adds to my expertise as well.

Making a lot of money is not super important to me. But making enough to live a comfortable, happy life in which I can afford to travel and see my family and friends more often, is what I strive for. It will have to take the time it takes, because it will only be achieved by me working with the things I love. And for a period in my past when I thought a tonne of money was super important, I made sure to try that world out by dating very wealthy men. I realized after a few years though, that it wasn't what made me happy. Money doesn't buy you happiness. It only gives you opportunities. But if you aren't happy and content from within, no material or money in the world can help you. I am glad I have gained that knowledge by my own personal life experiments.

Doing the things you love, surrounded by people you love and respect, are the two most fundamental core values in my life and even though my 32 year short life so far has proven to be ever changing, ever evolving, I think that simple philosophy is here to stay.

Although I'm very content with the experiences through good and bad that I've earned in the past. And also very pleased with what I'm currently occupied with. There are still many things I would have wanted to try out. I see life like an inviting playground, so many intriguing things to choose from. These are some of the interesting, challenging things I may or may not try my hands on in the future:

Author - Music Producer - Restaurant Owner - Documentary Video Host - Hotel Proprietor

But most of all, the things that has always been the same and probably will remain until I die: Freedom is everything. And I really want to enjoy my life and keep improving and refining myself and the little world directly around me.

Here you can read about some of what I have been up to in the past.