A couple weeks ago I did an "I Am A" on Reddit about being a former pickup artist, which meant that thousands of people could ask me questions about it. And they did. The questions flooded in faster than I could reasonably respond to them, which meant that sometimes I didn't answer in as much detail as I should have.
In a hurry to finish a question I wrote "There's more to life than picking up girls, of course, but I'd say that social skills are probably THE most important thing in life."
It struck me as an obvious statement, one that wouldn't need justification even if I had the time to provide it. Some people agreed, but a couple violently disagreed with me.
What? What's more important than social skills?
I guess if you find yourself being attacked by a ninja, you might have a good case that for you self defense would be more important, but for the rest of us I don't think anything trumps social skills.
Someone emailed me recently, asking for advice on whether or not to go to school. It's no secret that I'm a proud dropout, and a lot of times I get the idea that people email me about this stuff because they've already made up their minds and want to have their instincts confirmed by SOMEONE, since almost no one will tell you to drop out.
I learned a little bit of Chinese in college, a tiny bit of Japanese, and I took a good SCUBA diving class. I took a psychology class which hasn't left too many memories, but I'm sure I got a few good things out of it. Mostly, though, I learned how to socialize. I made friends, many of whom I still have today, and created memories with them. I made mistakes, too, and started to fill in the mostly-blank map of social dynamics in my head.
I replied and told him I'd consider going to school, not for the classes or the degree, but for the people. Stay, socialize, and then drop out when you're ready.
At the risk of sounding like the hippie I'm often accused of being, it's the shared experiences we have which define life's highest peaks. I'm a huge nerd, so I get a great amount of enjoyment from my computer. Working alone on a tough problem (like trying to make my phone system even more insane) is fun and rewarding. Writing gives me a hearty sense of satisfaction sometimes. Playing Monkey Island is fun.
But there's no substitute for an adventure with a friend, the unconditional love of your family, or the delicate dance of flirting with a girl. I forget that sometimes when I'm huddled away behind my screen.
That's why I stick up for pickup. I don't do it for the shady marketers who promise to teach you how to become a player. I don't do it because I think it's a completely pure and wholesome practice that has no dark side. I don't do it because I like arguing with idiots.
I do it because to me it represents prioritizing social skills, and I don't know anything more important than that.
As I've been immersing myself in poker, I've been overwhelmed by the parallels with pickup, in theory, practice, and in my experience as a student.
I'm not sure if this is pure coincidence, my mind trying to find a pattern where there's not one, or a genuine underlying pattern that probably extends to other areas of learning.
Pickup is the only other thing I can think of that I learned rapidly and by immersion. I made it my world for a year or two. As a result, I remember the learning process, whereas something like web development I can't really remember because I've been learning gradually.
I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.