Who Needs an MBA (or any Degree) When You Have Hustle?

a kenyan blog

This post isn’t just about MBAs (master of business administration), it’s about higher education in general.

Some folks don’t have access to it; it’s expensive, exclusive and the Kenyan system isn’t built for everyone to have the opportunity.

It’s my hope that after this post, the attitude around what a degree means changes in relation to one’s success, specifically for those who don’t have one…because I don’t think anyone needs a MBA (or any degree) if they have hustle.

I used to think that the more advanced the degree, the better job, and naturally, the better the pay. The reason my attitude has changed is because over the past few years, many of my colleagues have had MBA’s…and I don’t have one. So not only do I play at the same park, I’ve done so without the same credential.

The Reality

Before I get too deep into this subject, I want to make it clear that for certain technical and industry-specific fields, degrees matter.

You can’t become a lawyer without going to law school.

You can’t become a physician without going to medical school.

There’s no way around this reality.

Most would agree that there should be strict regulations and educational requirements for highly complex and sensitive industries.  But in my eyes, everything else is wide open for the rest of us.

The Black Belt Concept

Anyone can get a black belt if they dedicate themselves to doing so (I’m not insinuating that it’s easy…just saying that it’s not out of reach.)

A person who reaches such a milestone will certainly know how to throw a perfect punch – at the air, and a perfect kick – at the air…but in the heat of the moment, they may not have what it takes to truly defend themselves outside the Dojo.

Let’s apply the black belt to a college degree.

Most people, given the opportunity, have the intellectual ability to get a college degree. It’s not THAT hard. And just because a person has a degree, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be good at any job.

I took a number of speech classes in college (hated them by the way), got good grades, but I left campus being pretty bad at public speaking. My grades said I was excellent, but my practical skills proved the opposite. Doing it in the real world is what helped me develop and get better at it.

Just because someone has a black belt doesn’t mean they’re ready for battle. It means that they have a high theoretical understanding of their discipline. You can learn all about swords, understand the dynamics of a sword fight, and have perfect form. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to sword fight.

Organizations are starting to view candidates in this light (Read the Ernst and Young Case). This is part of the reason why GPA’s don’t matter as much as it did in years past. They want people who can drive results; not people who can recite business definitions.

I got A’s in each speech class that I took – and I was pretty bad at the time. If organizations looked at my A, they would think I was a great public speaker…the fact is, there’s no accurate correlation [generally speaking] between grades and real life ability. Same thing goes for degrees.

Hustle is My MBA

I have absolutely no plan to go back to college to get an advanced degree.

Why?

Well because I KNOW that it would have minimal impact on me professionally, as it does for most that do so. I’m not trying to down play the major accomplishment – just saying that in the reality of my world – it wouldn’t do much to serve me.

My colleagues that have a MBA’s did receive some positive impact on their career.  Which is great. I’ve done the same – without the financial burden (MBA = avg. $80k) or time investment (avg. 2-3 years). Their MBAs helped get them to the position they are in…I used another method to get to the same position.

The Alternative

I’ve educated myself by being present and aware; by extending my learning in areas that directly contribute to my ability to do my job. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and taken on projects that have expanded my business intelligence. I’ve maximized on-the-job training. I take complete ownership of my role and responsibilities.

This approach has helped me become the standard in positions that I’ve taken. When you’re the standard, you become the point that others are judged from. It’s a position sure to help progress your career over what any degree can do – in my experience.

If you feel disadvantaged because you can’t fill up the Education part of your resume – don’t fear.

Showcase your skill sets, accomplishments and willingness to self-educate outside of traditional study. Be willing to work harder than everyone else, which will naturally place you on the stage of being the standard. Before you know it, you’ll be working in the same peer group as those who pay thousands of dollars each month to cover student loan payments that they wish they would have done without.

I’m an Advocate of Education

From where this post has gone, you might think that I was against education. But in reality, I’m the biggest advocate of education that I know. I just try not to get caught up in academia and the prestige behind where he or she got a degree (only because it really doesn’t matter and most people don’t care).

A few months ago in a post called Street Smarts Reigns Supreme, I shared that schools such as Yale and MIT offer free online courses open to the public. I actually take courses offered by these institutions based on subjects that I have interests in and that will help me be better at my job.

I have a lot of respect for those who have made the commitment to complete college; under graduate and graduate level. I have a friend who has his PhD and I think it’s the coolest thing in the world. But also I have a great deal of respect for those who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college – because I think they can make just as big of a splash as the next person.

Conclusion

I have a bachelor’s degree. Having it served a good purpose at one point in my career. That purpose being that it satisfied a requirement to get a certain level of job when I graduated. That’s it.

75% (maybe more) of the courses that I took were pointless in the scheme of my life today. Who in the world needs a Matrices class if they don’t care one lick about rocks (I hated that classes).

How in the world can you make a Chinese Dynasty class a prerequisite, but fail to teach young adults how to manage money? The system seems a little twisted.

It’s getting a little too expensive…and frankly, having a degree is more of a formality than a means for preparation.

For those of you who don’t or didn’t have the opportunity to go to college – I think you’ll be okay if you’re willing to hustle. But for those who aren’t so willing to work hard, college degree or not, I’m not sure if higher ed will do a thing for you.

Just because a person has a degree doesn’t mean that life’s any easier…hard work is the requirement under all job descriptions.

To those with a college degree, don’t think you’re “black belt” is all that you need if you want to be successful…it’s not enough. Before my attitude changed, I was stuck in regular run-of-the-mill jobs that paid average wages and it sucked my energy dry.

Bottom line, college degree or not – you own your results…not some piece of paper, no abbreviations or letters after your name, not the state of the economy and surely not any of your excuses. If you want to win – then go do something about it…and win.

I’m not advocating that anyone should pass on the opportunity to go to college. If you can go – don’t let the opportunity pass you by. But if you can’t…you know what to do.

DISCUSSION

I said a lot here and didn’t cover the bulk of my thoughts. College seems like it’s a racket now days; all about hiking up the costs but not truly preparing young adults for the real world.

What are your thoughts on this?

If you have an MBA – do you think it gives you an edge over high achievers? And finally, share anything you’d like on this subject that may offer additional value to the community.

Patrick Mahinge
 

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