Inspiration – Outliers

By Leon Menezes

In the cacophony of criticism of education and its retrogressive effects on students, we are often told of famous people who actually dropped out of college. The billionaires of the tech world – Gates, Jobs, Dell, and Ellison - are held up as examples of how to thrive without having to don the funny hat and gown come graduation. (It is another matter that they dropped out of institutions we could only dream of joining.)

There is much to criticize with regard to formal education, from curricula to teachers and grading. Yet there is no denying that almost all the accomplishments in science, technology, philosophy and engineering, have been the result of sound academic practice, research and application. Put another way, would you trust an aircraft, or pilot, or doctor who was not academically sound?

When we look at the outliers who have made it, we are talking about a miniscule number of mavericks. Should they be our inspiration? At the same time, we have millions of successful entrepreneurs around the world who have made their empires without qualifications and degrees. Are we as talented as they are?

The point is not to get discouraged or encouraged by the outliers, unless we have that inner spark that will make entrepreneurs of us. Most of us need the benefit of a sound education that, hopefully, gives us the competencies to achieve and contribute well above the average. For those aiming for employment and careers, the opportunities tend to be better for those with quality degrees. Others perhaps have to struggle in the beginning to make their mark. Whatever the personal situation at the start of one's career, there is no doubt that continuing education (in its various forms), is critical to stay ahead of the curve.

If you have what it takes to be an outlier, then by all means pursue your dream. Otherwise, recognize your capabilities and accompanying talents and make your decision accordingly. The road to success is rarely a straight one so learn to be adaptable. This increases your options in the future.

And for those who are considered to be "mediocre" or "without hope for the future" based on classroom assessments; remember that Albert Einstein was similarly judged. Perhaps you will also impact humanity in ways not even imagined.

Leon Menezes

Professor of Practice
MBA (HRM), University of Hull, UK - 1994
Area of Specialization: (HRM)

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