Have You Enrolled In “Downtime University”?


As a society, we have some funny ideas. One of the strangest, in my opinion, is the approach that many people take towards the concept of education.

Education, for many, is that thing that happens early in life. We “become educated” (or so it is thought) so that we can positively contribute to society, and learn skills so that we can earn money (that we later put back into society through the process of consumption). Once we are “done” school, our life shifts to another phase – one that is more focused on “doing” and “consuming”

I recognize that not everyone thinks this way, but many do. It saddens me to see traditional bookstores disappear, while new reality TV shows blossom. I believe this trend is routed in the consumption based paradigm that pervades society so strongly.

Even education is seen as a “consumable” good, rather than a way of living. I consumed my fair share of traditional education – going to University for over 8 years and obtaining multiple degrees, including a graduate degree (not to mention over $100,000 of debt in the process). I enjoyed the expensive experience, however I am uncertain of the cost for value of the “good” at this point in my life – especially since I am not making in a living in the area that I went to school for (nor do I have any plans to do so).

Really however, I didn’t think that there were other options. I thought that traditional schooling was the only way to have a successful and prosperous life. Not only that, but I thought that an expensive education was the only way to learn. 

This understanding (that expensive education is the only way to learn) is a big fallacy that I’ve since come to learn just isn’t true.

It may have been the case for my father’s generation that schooling was the only place to learn – literally. Other than a major public library in an urban center you just couldn’t get the books otherwise. Clearly however this isn’t the case anymore. Name a University Course – I bet without spending much money (and far less than the cost of tuition) I could get access to all the course material online. So the only thing I’m missing out on, these days, would be the incredible quality of teaching from University Professors who are far more concerned about students learning than they are their own publications and research grants (those who’ve been to University will immediately catch my sarcasm…)

Simply put, University is not the only place to learn. It’s not even the most efficient place to learn, and it is easily the most expensive. Certain regulated industries (law, medicine, etc) require an “institutional stamp of approval” to begin a career, but for the vast majority of subjects, especially entrepreneurialism, the University experience is highly overrated. 

I remember one very positive interaction I had about the subject of learning with one of my law school professors. Truly he was an exception to my general experience with Professors, and for that I am very grateful. He taught me that “school” was not about learning – school was about school. Learning was something different, and didn’t need to happen within the walls of the school. In fact, most of the learning that truly “sinks in” is self-directed.

When he taught me this I was doing an independent research project on a subject that he had a particular interest in. I asked him if he took a lot of courses on the subject, or whether his PhD had focused on this area, when he was a student, to which he answered “no”. I was confused, and I asked him how he obtained his knowledge. His answer was simple and awesome. He smiled – pointed to books on his shelves – and said: I read books.

He reads books! I marvelled. No professor gave him permission to know a subject. He didn’t have to take a test. He simply read books, and that gave him knowledge. 

You could almost shut down University based on that concept alone.

About 4 years ago, in conjunction with my changing careers from lawyer to entrepreneur, I realized that there was so much that I wanted to learn that I hadn’t learned in school. I then made a very empowering realization that I had hours and hours of “downtime” in my life, that was either empty, or that I was filling with useless TV watching. Some of the “downtime” included simple things like doing the dishes, walking the dog, or driving. I decided that during this downtime (which would soon include any 10 minutes of space that I could squeeze in, at any time) I would create my own University:

I would call it “Downtime University”

What did I study in “Downtime University”? Mostly business and marketing (since that was what I wanted to do), but I soon took a couple courses in search engine optimization, then quite a few in philosophy, then a bunch in evolutionary biology, and religion, then quite a few in physics, then a couple more on marketing, a bunch on leadership, and then I found a niche and I’m pretty much doing a graduate degree in flow psychology and self-esteem studies right now.

My studies are ongoing. Estimated graduation time: Never

How did I do it? I read books – just like my professor said. I did it though Audible.com (and no I don’t get any $ from promoting Audible). I easily listen to 4-5 books a month by squeezing in a couple hours of downtime each day. I’ve been doing this for years. Since I’m interested in the subject matter I retain far more than I ever did as an undergraduate, or even a law student.

I have learned strategies that have paid off big time financially. I have learned about happiness (something they never teach in school anyway). I have learned how to run my brain (again something they don’t teach in school). My “Downtime University” has been so much more valuable than my traditional education, and it’s cost a hundred times less.

Enrol today. Study when you want, how you want. The returns are incredible. Join me in the graduating class of never!


3 comments on “Have You Enrolled In “Downtime University”?”
  1. Dom says:

    Love this!
    I didn’t finish college(did two years at community college), and sometimes I think back and regret it. But I have a great career(although, I hope to transition to becoming a full-time entrepreneur), and I know if I went back just to finish, it would just be to fulfill the societal expectation of being a college graduate. Not because I truly desire it. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Dom. My opinion – for what it’s worth 🙂 – only do it if you truly value what it teaches you. Do it if you truly want to learn the content and feel that it is the only way to get the content, or if you are being true to yourself. There is nothing wrong with keeping the promise to yourself to finish school. But “societal expectations”…. never have that as your main motivation. Never make decisions on societal expectations. That is a sure fire way to be unhappy. Do it for you, if you do it at all. If you don’t then no worries either. The most important thing is how you feel inside, not what others think of you.

  2. amber says:

    This is such wonderful advice. In our modern lives we have sold ourselves on the idea that college is just what you do after graduating high school, and that it’s the only way to find success and happiness. Wrong. I love your advice to readers about Audible. Do you have a list of favorite books you’d recommend? I’m an avid “reader” (listener, really!) and would love new suggestions.

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