Imagine yourself as a high school senior (or maybe you are a high school senior) applying and getting accepted into college. Your family and friends are asking what your plans are, where you want to go to school, what you want to study, and how you plan to pay for college.
At 17 or 18 years old that can be quite a lot of pressure. You know that accountants, supply chain managers, and nurses are all in high demand. All of your friends seem to know what they’re doing. They know that if they can grind out what most people refer to as the “best four years of your life” and get that degree, that they can count on $60,000 or $70,000 a year, a nice house, a couple of kids, and a vacation here and there.
For some reason, this just doesn’t sound like something you can pour your heart and soul into. You know what you’re passionate about, but you constantly have friends and family in your space trying to make sure that you “make the right choice” and just do what people have been doing for the last 250 years, when what you really want to do is spend every single day of your life doing what you love, creating a life you don’t have to take a vacation from.
In his famous TED Talk “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek talks about how successful people, businesses, and organizations are successful because they always start with why they are doing what they are doing.
Well, put yourself back in the shoes of that high school senior, and ask your friends and family why. Why should I spend the next four years of my life doing all of this stuff I’m not sure I even really want to do? Why not travel? Why not volunteer? Why not live on an island in the middle of the ocean? Why not take the time to write that book? Why not do what’s important to me?
For a long time, the answer may have been, “Because at the end of the day, they can take your car, they can take your house, they can take your money, but they can never take away your education.”
Sorry, but that excuse just isn’t going to work anymore. With the introduction of MOOCs, you can now learn from literally anywhere in the world—as long as you have an Internet connection, you can take courses from the world’s top universities, for free.
MOOCs allow you to invest your resources into whatever it is you are passionate about, instead of into a piece of paper. In one of the most economically trying times in our history, building a passion-driven workforce—one full of people who can educate themselves, on their own time, at their own pace, and according to their own interests—is an exciting thing to imagine if you are a 20-something experiencing the hardships of a world you did not create.
MOOCs themselves start with the most basic question: why. Why would you spend your spare time learning for free online, when the courses you are taking aren’t even accredited?
The answer is simple, because you want to build a life that starts from a place of passion. Now you can do that, all for the price of a little time. And hey, that sure as heck beats paying $100,000 for a piece of paper.
Tony Rhodes is a self-directed learner living in Hawaii. He is passionate about learning, farming, food, and meeting people.