With Books Like These, Who Needs School?

I love reading, but when I read a book that inspires me to take action and get to work on what I really love, it’s a rush.  No books do that more than the books that recount the tales of the rebels who went against the norm and those that encourage readers to achieve something big.

I’ve only read two books that have given me this feeling.  The first, Masters of Doom is about John Carmack and John Romero, the creators of the game Doom, and the second is Tribes, Seth Godin‘s newest book about going against the system, and taking the risks that are needed to create meaning in a way that people gather and form tribes around. This is not a review of either book, but an encouragement to find, to buy and to read these books as down-to-earth motivators, to move past any obstacles you’ve come across that have hindered your ability to accomplish big things.

I think these books serve an important purpose in showing students how goals in life and ideas behind accomplishment need not be measured in only monetary units, as well as how there’s no one correct path to take that requires strict following of rules of education or business that are so common and that for so many people, dictate the behaviour that’s expected of them.

While Masters of Doom provides by example what happened when two teenagers followed their ideas no matter where it would take them or what it would cost, Seth’s book almost reads like scripture with each of its passages communicating a particular idea, one message at a time.

In talking about the scenario of companies hiring people who have been trained to be obedient, and who are given brain-dead jobs he says:

Training a student to be a sheep is a lot easier than the alternative.  Teaching to the test, ensuring compliant behavior, and using fear as a motivator are the easiest and fastest ways to get a kid through school.  So why does it surprise us that we graduate so many sheep? – Seth Godin, Tribes

In an environment where, minus a few exceptions, school administrations and professors are also the sheep, the system is in a perpetual state of conformity.  That’s why these books are so important.  It’s heresy.  And we need it.

It’s not important if reading these books give you ideas of literally quitting school or not. That’s not what I’m recommending. What’s important is that reading these books open your mind to the idea that systematic education like we know it isn’t the one and only answer.

What do you think?

Are there similar books you recommend reading?

What did you think of either of these two books?

7 thoughts on “With Books Like These, Who Needs School?

  1. Great post. I didn't realize that's what Tribes was about. I'm going to have to pick it up now. As for masters of doom… well that's my all time favorite book so I'm glad I see it made your list.

  2. thanks for the heads up on these books. I know that you're a HUGE proponent of Seth Godin, so I'll add his books to my reading list.

    I take it as a not so subtle cue to investigate a little further when a friend of mine (or anyone really) is so profoundly influenced by a book, quote, reading, whatever it is, that compelled him/her to share it with the world.

    @Josh yeah… you mentioned the book Masters of Doom to me while back.. as well as Founders at Work. Thanks for the recommendations.

    As for recommendations.. I'm not sure if you got around to reading it yet.. but definitely Four Hour Work Week and Think and Grow Rich… I like to mix the old school with the new 🙂

  3. In one sense I feel bad about refusing to make the commitment to read Masters of Doom when Josh lent it to me (thanks Josh I did appreciate that even if I throw it back in your face) and in another sense I don't. This is going to be a very self-centred comment but, Malcolm, take that as a compliment to your writing and choice of subject matter. It has evoked emotion and you have my attention; I hope I have yours.

    So, why don't I feel bad about not reading Masters of Doom? Because I don't need to. I never needed to be taught to think and do as an independent; I've always done that. Increasingly I'm learning how outside the norm that is. I remember as a child my mother commenting on my disinterest in adapting to the crowd. At nursery I was more interested in the piano than the games the other children would play. For my entire school career I did outlandish, eccentric things and had closed ears to the criticism those actions generated.

    How unbalanced I was then. I've learnt a great deal about the importance of people and socialization since. And yet I still relish that fixed stance, that I-don't-give-a-shit attitude that permitted me to spend my evenings learning actual useful skills in music and technology, that would lead me to start my own business, and come here to Toronto, Canada. More recently my independence has lead me to exonerate the traditional notion of the employer and the employee for all the political arrogances and parasitic brown-nosing it produces. And yet, by so many, my worth is measured by how long I've held down a job and how frequently I change my wardrobe. Now I aspire to be an anti-consumer.

    I salute Pete Forde, Kieran Huggins and the other great people I have met here for their anarchistic roots and their alternative lifestyles. I learn from the people I choose to associate with, but largely, this behaviour is something I was born with and no book can beat that.

    N.B. Psychiatrists might classify or label my personality in some way. This is positive because it allows people to be more accepting of the differences between all of us through better understanding. However there is a tendency to view these classification or labels as faults; one should rebel against this.

    1. Thanks for the comment Ollie. Though as funny as it sounds, I'm even more convicted now that you should read Masters of Doom!

      For someone like me, where I don't think that sort of perspective comes naturally, Masters of Doom showed me an example of two people who it did come naturally too, and the power and creativity they unlocked in eachother as partners. They were able to take that attitude that you identify with and really accomplish amazing things.

      For you, you wouldn't learn as much as I did from the book, but you might be able to appreciate it much more.

    2. But Ollie! Actually I was just about to write a post but then realized Malcolm has already said what I was going to say. But to add to what Malcolm is saying I think he's right. You need to read the book.

      When I said I wanted to drop out of school after reading the book it wasn't because the book gave me the idea. It re-ignited my passion to go off and do something different than everyone else and to work at something that challenges me and I care about.

      1. OK. If I'm feeling a lack of conviction I will don a coat and head to my nearest library. I always have reading to do. Tribes sounds really interesting too. Thank you for your thoughts Malcolm and Josh. I hope to see you both in the new year.

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