Letters to my kids – What should you get out of college?

Fourteenth in the series – letters to my kids

Hey guys,

As I mentioned… there were a few of these half typed – I was able to sneak some time in before the new year finishing these up. This is a great follow-up to the last one as Sam Altman runs Y Combinator so is in the position of being bombarded by an incredible number of people who think they want to be entrepreneurs. He and the YC team are in the interesting position to first pick the ones that actually want to be entrepreneurs vs. “just their own boss” and then picking the ones that have the best chances of being successful.

Now Gabriel, I know you have some time to ponder these thoughts and as an upcoming Freshman next school year this may be a little early. I encourage you to get a head start on the thinking. Your capable of thinking about these things. You should also save these or at the very least go read them later after I’ve posted these to my blog and think about these important decisions.

Quentin… you on the other hand really need to think through this. You’ll be applying to universities next year or at least will have the ability to do so. After our recent discussions around where you want to go to school and what GPA, SAT score, and so on are required you really need to think through the answers that Sam has for ambitious teenagers looking to make an impact on the world.

The real key here is to add value to the world and not waste your life on meaningless experiences that won’t contribute to you being a better person. Often when we’re young we seek out the most entertaining activities and overlook the activities that are both entertaining and are things that add to society or improve us as individuals. Every major shift in society has come through people doing things they LOVE to do. In other words they were truly entertained by the activities they were doing that made them a better person or improved the world. Think about running or playing tennis… you love doing it and you are a better person for it. What can you really do after high school that you’ll love doing and actually adds value to yourself or to the world around you? It may be a startup, it may be school, it may be recording a record, or producing a play, or ….

Sam is spot on though, if you don’t seek out opportunities to add the most value with the smallest level of risk than you’ll be doing yourself a dis-service. You’re also starting out with a fresh clean slate on your personal burn rate, the lower you keep it the more chances you’ll have to start over. The longer you have low or no bills and debt the longer you’ll be able to quit everything and start over… and this is a HUGE advantage in society.

Love, Dad.

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