I didn't go to college right after high school. In fact, I didn't even know how to go to college right after high school. My mom was the only person I was ever close to who had any college education--and she graduated with her associate's degree in paralegal studies when she was 35.

So, after an extraordinarily dismal high school career, I floundered.

(How dismal? I was ranked in the bottom 10 of my graduating class. To be clear, I mean the literal bottom 10--not the bottom 10%.)

Then, after a few years of floundering, I realized I wanted to make something of myself--and enrolled in a course at my local community college. Through a combination of summer classes, CLEP tests, hard work, strategic transfers, and the support of my wife and daughter, I graduated 3-and-a-half years later with one bachelor's degree and two master's degrees.

Prior to me, my parents were the pinnacle of academic achievement on both sides of my family. My dad graduated from high school. My mom got her associate's degree at 35--however, neither a high school diploma nor an associate's degree translated into any sort of permanent economic security. We were homeless at times, and every house my parents ever owned was foreclosed on.

And again, my parents achieved more academically than either of their families combined. Only one of my four grandparents graduated from high school. My uncles were all high school dropouts. The only people I knew with four-year degrees were the teachers who had long since (and for good reason) given up on me.

The barriers to a college education for a student attempting to become the first in his or her family to earn a bachelor's degree are significant. Some of those barriers are financial; however, the most difficult barriers can be psychological.

I grew up believing there were certain types of people who went to college, and certain types of people who didn't. Like the product of a bizarre version of a Kentucky stud farm, I believed I was bred to live a life of irregular paychecks and subsidized housing. Yet, fear of repeating my parents' lives pushed me toward a community registrar's office.

Fear may have brought me to the registrar's office, but the success I had as an adult learner in college was the best preparation I could have had for entrepreneurship.

I learned that I could do something no one in my family had ever done. I learned how to tune out doubters and disbelievers--some of whom were my own family. I learned how important having a good partner is, along with the importance of having a supportive spouse.

(Fortunately for me, my partner and my supportive spouse have always been the same person.)

More than anything though, I learned that there aren't certain "types" of people who graduate from college, who start businesses, or who accomplish really big things.

Your life isn't predetermined by your DNA or your family's history. Whether it's entrepreneurship, education, or anything else, the only difference between people who succeed and people who don't is a willingness to take the first step.

It's true that college doesn't teach you how to be an entrepreneur--and recent research from SurveyMonkey shows that most small business owners are not college graduates.

However, it is a lot harder to succeed as an entrepreneur if you haven't had prior experience with achieving a difficult, time-consuming, unlikely goal. For me, that first difficult, unlikely goal was earning a bachelor's degree.

Whatever your big goal is, know that there isn't a certain "type" of person who's done the things you're trying to do.

There are only people who jump in and take a chance on themselves, and people who don't.

Be one of the people who take that chance.

Published on: Jun 25, 2018
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