Turn off autopilot and control your own destiny

■ By David Porter / Contributed

It’s graduation season, and this season seems busier than normal for us. I have a big family, so there is always someone graduating each year, but we’ve had several this spring. Each one reveals little life lessons.
For instance, one of my brothers, who is a year older than me, went back to school and earned his MBA. It shows you’re not too old to make improvements in your life.
My son-in-law graduated from the University of Illinois-Springfield while working full-time and maintaining a family including two kids. It shows that you can achieve the goals you prioritize. He graduated with honors, by the way; just thought I’d throw that in.
Last week, we traveled to Chicago to retrieve my wife’s son, who is a junior at the University of Illinois there. He’s changed his major once and is serving an internship this summer as he explores one facet of his major. He’s a semester ahead in school and still maintaining a 4.0 grade point average; just thought I’d throw that in. The change in major demonstrates adaptability, which is an essential quality.
All of these school situations get me to thinking about what I’ve learned and what I might do differently if I had a do-over. I’m not looking to hit the reset button; I’m pretty well committed to doing what I’m doing. But if I had it to do over again, I would do it sooner—“it” being self-employed owning my own newspapers.
Then again, things happen for a reason. The path I chose—really, the multiple paths—led me to where I am, so maybe I couldn’t have gotten here without those previous experiences.
Degrees can open doors, and some jobs require specific degrees. But degrees do not denote knowledge, and knowledge is power. What impresses me about those around me who have completed or are completing their educational pursuits is that their goals really are knowledge driven.

“Degrees can open doors, and some jobs require specific degrees. But degrees do not denote knowledge…”

For example, my stepson’s internship is not about a degree or a grade. It comes with neither course credit nor a paycheck. He’s doing it because he wants to learn more about a particular area within his major. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best reason to do it.
I dropped out of college because I didn’t think my college path had anything to do with education and everything to do with how much money the school could extract from me. I don’t think that’s everyone’s experience; it was my experience. So, I chose a different path for myself.
In retrospect, I should have found a different school that would meet my needs, but instead, I went to work for my local newspaper. It took me 30 years, but now I own three local papers. I can’t say that I have any regrets about the choices I made. Sometimes, I took three steps forward and two steps back, but it’s a lot easier to criticize the past than it is to predict the future.
My advice to young people who are at an educational crossroads—not that any of them have asked me—is this: Take control of your own destiny. If you’re going to school because you think that’s what’s expected of you but you really have no idea about what you want to do, it’s time for a reality check. Have a plan, man.
You can always change your plan. In fact, you should change your plan. Nobody knows on Day One where Day 10,950 will be. The ability to adapt will help keep you employed. Don’t be afraid to change direction, but whatever you do, do it with purpose. If you have no goals, how will you know when you reach them?
Oh, you can go the scenic route. It can be fun to hop in the car of life and just drive. But “hobo” is not a career choice. “Hobo” is what happens when you wreck that car in the middle of nowhere and you have no money to fix it. Your life is your responsibility. Make it what you want it to be.

© Copyright 2018 by David Porter who can be reached at porter@ramblinman.us. I already have a red bandana and a stick; I’m halfway to being a hobo already.

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