I was in the car with my mother one evening, perhaps twenty three years ago or so — we had just gone to the mall and had pulled into the driveway. Right before my mother was about to open the garage door, she turned to me and said that she wanted to tell me something important. It was that there were many things that could be taken away from me in life and one that could never be taken away and that was an education — once I had it, it was mine forever and that is why it was important to stay in school and get a university degree.

Over the course of my life I have met many very intelligent people that never spent a day of their lives in University and they did not seem worse off as a result. I began to see how my mother’s lesson still held true — these people were still well educated but their teachers came in many forms. The Rabbis of the great written work Pirkei Avos wrote that a wise person is one who learns from everyone he or she meets.

With that in mind I was intrigued to read about the Thiel Foundation 20 under 20 Fellowship which specifically encourages men and women who have innovative ideas to pursue those ideas and gives them grants of up to one hundred thousand dollars to help them do so.

University is a tremendously valuable experience, but when entrepreneurs are ready to launch, they should do so immediately, rather than sticking around to satisfy expectations of a full four years of college or eight of grad school,” said Elon Musk, who co-founded Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and PayPal. Musk himself stopped out of his graduate program before classes began to co-found his first company Zip2, which he sold to Compaq for $307 million.

When I was in university I had many ideas that never panned out, chiefly because I had no source of funding and I was spending so much time focusing on getting the degree — well, it eventually came. (That is a story to come one day, rest assured!)

I am quite impressed that there is now an outlet for people who have brilliant ideas that could drive innovation in our country and only require a little money to get on track. It seems that while education is something that cannot be taken away from you, it doesn’t necessarily have to come in the guise of a four year stay at a university.


  1. I admit to being surprised for your support of Thiel, Gordon. I side with your mother on this one:

    Society is materialistic. The university used to be a safe haven where ideas mattered and thoughts were given greater standing than finding ways to make more money. Peter Thiel believes higher education is a bubble ready for the bursting — but you can only agree with Thiel’s thesis if you also believe students attend university to get a job. I don’t happen to purchase his premise. I believe students should attend university in order to learn what they do not know.


    1. Remember that until recently I only had a theoretical degree 🙂 However, my support for Thiel is certainly limited. I think University is for the majority of people who do not have such clever ideas. Moreover, I should have added — after they get out some particularly brilliant ideas they should certainly go to University to get a good rounded education!

      1. You didn’t have a diploma for a decade, but you STILL DID THE TIME ON CAMPUS — and you cannot deny the results of that determined education.

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