Kids Should Do What They Want (And Why Derrick Rose is a Genius)

I Just Found Out About Sudbury Schools

I was bullshitting doing research on reddit the other day, when I came across somebody talking about going to a school with no grade levels, no classes, no grades, and no tests. The students just did whatever they wanted to do. All day, every day.

What in the world?

Yep, its called a democratic school. Also, known as a Sudbury school. Apparently, they exist all over the world.

The Sudbury name comes from the most well-known and prominent such school in North America. Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Sudbury Valley

Sudbury Valley

Kids show up in their pajamas. Play video games all day. Some play basketball. Some chill and play cards. They just do whatever. They. Want.

I honestly think… it’s freaking awesome.

Naysayers will say… oh, but how will they learn reading? How will learn math? How will they learn these sorts of academic topics without teachers and without being forced to learn them?

Well, they’ll probably learn them the best way possible… when they, themselves determine that they want to and are ready to learn them.

But, No!! We’re supposed to force every kid to wake up at 6AM, get to school at 8AM, sit in each class for the same 45 minutes, learn the exact same things as the rest of the class, raise their hands when they want to go the toilet… blah, blah, blah

But… why?

Why should kids do all of these things?

What benefit is it to force information down kids throats that they don’t care about?

I can’t believe I’m just now hearing about Sudbury schools. It sounds like a genius idea.

So, some kids sit around playing video games all day. Or playing card games all day. Your point? I had friends that did both of those things in college. [READ: My 5 Biggest Regrets About Going to College]

I’m actually quite sure the Sudbury model works. Allowing kids to learn what they want to learn, at their own pace sounds loads better than forcing subjects on them and forcing state-wide tests on them.

Kids don’t care about state-wide exams. They don’t. It’s a joke to them.

The biggest problem with the current education system is trust. Adults don’t trust kids to make their own decisions. Which is a bit sad. At 27, I’m no more capable of making my own decisions than I was when I was 7.

Now, you can say I haven’t matured at all in 20 years, but I would say you’re wrong.

No, I’m quite sure the Sudbury model would work for any kid. And, be more beneficial for any kid.. than traditional education. And, I’ll give personal examples from my life and refute any issues the naysayers have with such a “school”.

Of course, one common “concern” is…

What if the kids just played video games all day?

To that my response is: that’s great. Now they have more time to play video games without school getting in the way.

Think about it.

Kids were going to do it anyway. My high school generation was one of the first to have cell phones – guess what we did? Sat in the back of class and played snake on our phones and tried to beat each other’s high scores. If it wasn’t for those crazy teachers in the front of the class telling us to pay attention and turn off our phones or they’d confiscate them, I’m sure we could’ve done even better. Gotten even higher scores.

Hell, even when I got my MBA, most of the classes at Hult seemed to have theme song. Funnily enough, they all had the same theme song. It was the Angry Bird’s theme.

So, really school just gets in the way of our video game playing anyway.

And whose to say you don’t learn anything from playing video games?

Video games increased my vocabulary… much better than vocabulary tests or even the SAT ever did. Why do you think I know words like “Exhibition” and “Fatigue”? They were in my first NBA Live games, back in 1995.

I'll still own you on this game man. Who wants some?

I’ll still own you on this game man. Who wants some?

Also, in all honesty here – video games were much better preparation for my first job out of college than anything I ever learned in school was. But, that could just be me. I mean, my job was in finance – which basically a just a big video game involving money anyway.

More About Why the Sudbury Model Works

In some ways, when school wasn’t getting in the way, we did participate the Sudbury model in my elementary school days: we had recess, and the after-school program.

Guess what I remember more about my time in elementary school?

No, it’s not anything I learned in any of the classes. It’s recess and the after-school program.

It was great times.

When we wanted to play basketball, we played basketball. When, we didn’t have a basketball, we played Octopus (“You may now swim across my ocean!”).

Sometimes we sat around and drew pictures. I loved to draw. Pencil sketches. I was quite good. But, one kid was definitely better than me – I think is name was Jon. He was a year younger than me. I wonder what happened to him. I hope he kept drawing. I hope school didn’t get in the way of his talent.

Sometimes we would play games like Connect 4 or Guess Who? Sometimes we would even watch movies. Sometimes we’d get in fights.

It was awesome. I made friends for life.

Hmm.. are you a bald guy?

Hmm.. are you a bald guy?

What’d we do in the classroom in elementary school? Well, for the most part I don’t remember much.

But, I do remember one thing.

In 3rd grade, and especially in 4th grade, we actually had a math class where you learned math at your own pace. There were books in the back of the class, and you would go through the books at your own pace, and take the test on book when you were done. It was great. Everybody was on all different levels of books of course. I was pretty competitive. I was 2nd in the class, behind only one girl. By the end of 4th grade, I was all the way up to pre-algebra. And, chomping at the bit to learn algebra next year. I liked math. It was fun. [On Similar Lines, Read: How I Used To Ace Accounting Courses; And What It Means For How People Learn]

Then, something stupid happened.

Our 5th grade math teacher chose not to continue with the books where everybody learned at their own pace. She said doing so “left some people behind.” Oh okay.

Well, when she made that choice, I made a choice too. I chose to become an asshole. I sat at the back of her class, talked to my friends, ignored her, made fun of her, etc. She never respected me as being good in math. Even when I got questions right, she wouldn’t acknowledge it. Her and I never got along. Silly lady. She was wrong about everything anyway.

And, that leads me to my next point…

Teachers don’t have real power.

Even in a traditional school system. The teacher is in front of the class teaching to the students. Who has power over what the students actually learn? The teacher?

No. Kids don’t care about the teacher.

The kids care about… their peers. Peers have influence. Teachers don’t. If I’m 10 years old and I make a bad joke about my 5th grade math teacher, all my friends laugh, but the teacher gets pissed off and sends me to the office because she thinks I’m a brat. Guess what? I think she’s a dumb teacher. So, she thinks I’m a brat, I think she’s a dumb teacher. That power struggle never gets rectified. My friends think I’m hilarious, so I don’t give a shit anyway.

That’s why I find the democratic power of the Sudbury type schools interesting. If a students behavior pisses off the other students and they vote on it. He has to listen. Or he has no friends. So, he’ll make the behavioral change. His peer group has influence, whereas a teacher never would.

Nobody wants to be the teacher’s pet in that model – because there is no such thing. You live with and through your peers. And that’s really how it should be.

What else? Oh… the kids won’t learn? Right.

Sure they will. They learn how to make decisions for themselves, and they learn how to make friends and work in teams to get stuff done. They learn how to fight for things they believe in and persuade their peers that they’re right about something. And those skills matter way more in life than math, science, and reading do anyway… [Similarly: Keep Things Simple, And They Will Be Easier]

Oh, but they still will learn math, science, and reading… they’ll just learn them whenever they feel like it.

For the most part kids actually like learning – especially science. Have you ever met a kid who didn’t like sharing new scientific facts he/she just learned? No, you haven’t. The world is fascinating to them, and they love learning about it. Until school ruins the fun.

So, yeah, I just found out about the Sudbury model, but I am very intrigued by it. It sounds great. I gotta do some more reading about it. Maybe talk to some people who run some of these schools.

What else?.. what else?

Oh yeah, there was something in my title about Derrick Rose. I almost forgot. I saw someone on the internet the other day, presumably from Chicago, who was condemning Derrick Rose as a bad role model. Saying he cheated on his SATs and he never faced any repercussion for it, and that that makes him an evil, bad person and things like this.

Which is just silly. Derrick Rose is hero, a genius, and a true American.

As talented as he is at basketball at only 6’1″ only speaks to his years of handwork and dedication at his craft. What better role model than that?

As for the cheating allegations, well, think about it, with that much basketball talent, do you want to waste away playing for some Juco program? No, you want to play for a top basketball school like Memphis. For a top coach like Calipari. Derrick Rose is just a great businessman. A great strategic thinker. He knew where his talents lie – in playing basketball. And, he knew where his talents didn’t lie – in taking standardized tests. So, he outsourced the part that he wasn’t particularly skilled out – just like a true American. Genius.



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College for Free: How to Be a Genius


Freshman year at UT, I knew a couple of guys who didn’t attend the school, but were on campus everyday. We kind of thought they were weird, didn’t necessarily respect them, but we talked to them, because we found it funny. Interesting. They were mainly there – to just pick up college girls. Guys in their 20s, no job, not in college, just random guys who lived in Austin. What better way to spend their time than on a college campus where 20,000+ girls mostly aged 18-22 are located everyday? It’s actually not a half bad idea when you think about it. Maybe these guys were geniuses.

They got the college experience without paying for college. They made friends, went to parties, slept with college girls. I hung out with one of these guys a couple of times. He even started sitting in on some classes. Just for fun. He wanted to see what they were about. He’d even take notes and even took a couple of tests – writing whatever fake name he wanted on the test. Since he wasn’t enrolled anyway. It didn’t matter. He’d never see his score. It didn’t matter. He took the test just for fun. Just to “see if he could”. I thought he was crazy.

On a campus with 50,000 people, where classes are held in large auditoriums with 300+ people, it’s easy to sneak in. To pretend like you belong when you don’t. These guys would even eat in the dorm cafeteria. The one that costs $2 for an all you can eat buffet if you lived in the dorms, but $6 if you didn’t. I can almost guarantee you they didn’t pay $6. They probably talked somebody with an ID into swiping them in. Maybe they gave them $2 to cover for it. Maybe they even ate for free. Who knows. I’m sure they didn’t pay $6 for dorm food. No way. These guys were too crafty for that.

It was interesting. It is interesting.

Hustle. Graft.

Like these guys..

Like these guys..

I always respected the hustle. The graft of some folks. In some ways I was a lot like that at that age. At least to the point that’d look for the little wins anywhere. Even that same dorm cafeteria. Sometimes I didn’t even pay the $2. It was easy. Just convince the girls that work there to let you in for free. They’ll do it.

The little wins. They felt good.

Sometimes I did it just to feel a win. Sometimes I did it to show off to friends. I already had somewhat of a reputation for being a hustler – so I took it a step further – show up at the movie theater and somehow get a free ticket. Or if not a free ticket, then talk to the guy behind the snack counter and convince him to give you free popcorn or free candy. Convincing the girl at McDonalds to give you a free soda with your sandwich. It’s funny really. How much you can get by just asking. It amused me at the time. I enjoyed my little wins.

All you had to do was wink at the girl behind the counter, “Hey, throw in a free coke for me too…. c’mon, you can do it. Your boss isn’t looking”. The look on her face when you make such a request. A bit of shock. You can tell she doesn’t get asked this question much. Then the quick darting around of her head to check that indeed her boss is not looking. Her own little thrill. Then, she’d scurry back to the drink machine, get me a coke, and hand it over to me ever so coy. Like she gets to be a sneaky spy for the day.

My friends would look at me, “if you can get her to do that, why didn’t you just get her phone number?”

Because, it didn’t even cross my mind. All I wanted was a free coke.

Little wins everywhere. I once convinced a homeless guy to give me money. I think that was the highlight of my “hustling” phase.

Maybe I should’ve been focused on bigger prizes. Maybe I could’ve gone to college for free like those guys I met freshman year did. Sure they didn’t get the degree. But who cares? Degrees aren’t worth anything these days anyway. The best part of college is the experience – and you can get that without paying for it. Just sneak in and pretend you’re supposed to be there. Flirt with the women, befriend the guys, go to the parties, attend the classes, take the tests. Get the whole experience without the debt.

I have no idea what actually happened to those guys. Maybe they kept doing it for years. Maybe they only did for 1 to 2 years. Maybe they did something stupid and got blacklisted by the campus and were never allowed back. Maybe they did something even more stupid and wound up in jail. Who knows.

It doesn’t matter. For that one year -that year I saw them around on campus all the time – they were winning.

It was more than just a little win….

Maybe they were geniuses.


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My 5 Biggest Regrets About Going to College

1.) Choosing Engineering Over Business

When I applied to the University of Texas, engineering and business were initially about equal in my mind. And with due reason – they largely are rivals at UT in some sense. Cockrell Engineering School, McCombs Business School – probably the two main schools at UT that churn out successful graduates (in terms of salary, career, lifetime earnings, etc). In fact, they are two of UT’s most highly ranked and most selective programs: engineering and business.



On my application to UT, I ranked Engineering as first choice, Business as second choice. I did this partly because I thought engineering at UT was harder to get into than business. But even at time, my interest for business was growing and I started to half-hope that I wouldn’t get into engineering and into the business program instead. But, I did get into to engineering. Of course I did – I had a very well put together and well-rounded application – high SAT score, top 10% of high school class with a very high GPA, very well-written essays (my HS English teacher loved them anyway) – everything was there. (I was loads more qualified than idiots who don’t get into UT and later sue the school.)

After I got in, I was in some respect a bit disappointed. I wanted to switch to business. I didn’t really want to be in engineering. I even asked my high school counselor how do I switch from engineering to business, who do I call in order to switch. He told me to call the recruiter and ask her. I never did. I never acted.

I’ve always regretted it.

When I got to UT, I played both sides of the fence at first – but not for long. I met people in engineering, I joined the engineering clubs… but I didn’t last long. The engineering kids wanted to live in Simkins or other weird dorms away from all of the fun that is UT. They wanted to live close to the engineering school so they could focus on studying or something crazy like that. I never bothered to get to know them. I was never interested in living at Simkins. For me the UT experience started at Jester – it had to start at Jester.



That was a real dorm. 3,000 people, 14 floors, co-ed, toilets at the end of the hall, a small room with a roommate who was weird sleeping right next to you, 2 dining halls plus a pizza place, and even all of the athletes lived there. That was COLLEGE. Jester was where everything happened. It was like its own city. Simkins was like the suburbs. The engineering kids were suburbanites. They ostracized themselves. I wanted to be in the middle of it all. I didn’t even like the side of campus the engineering school was on. I spent the least amount of time over there as I possibly could. The rest of the campus was much more interesting to me. I had a lot more friends in the business program than I did in the engineering program.

That’s right – the business school. Stock tickers in the ceiling, the AIM reading room, for some reason I felt at home there. I signed up for the Business Foundations program – a minor in business. Thinking that somehow minoring in business was my escape from the engineering life that I cared so little about. In all the business classes I did well – one of the best in the class. This is largely hidden in my UT GPA.. by how poorly I did in all other non-business classes. When you look at the business classes, you see professors that inspired me like Prof. Baker, who taught business law – who I would exchange emails about driving Ferraris, hang out in his office hours, debate with him about his answers on tests – even get him to change them some of the time. I went to the happy hours he put together. I even ran a study group in his class – essentially teaching his class to my peer group. I made an A in his class easily – a class deemed to be one of hardest in the UT business program. I went to his office hours to seek his advice when I was first considering an MBA.

I never had that kind of a relationship with my engineering professors. I don’t even remember any of their names. I never had any interest. I slept through their classes. I never cared to get to know them personally or took any interest in them.

The writing should’ve been on the wall.

And, it largely was… which leads me to my next regret:

2.) Not Being Focused Enough to Do What Was Necessary to Switch Into Business

I had friends who didn’t start off in UT’s business school, but were able to transfer in after their freshman or sophomore year. This is largely because they took care of business in the classroom. The general requirement to transfer into McCombs if you didn’t start in the business program was that you have to have a GPA above a 3.5 to transfer in.

I had friends who did this and got in. I don’t even think I applied. For some reason the effort was lost on me. I went to a info session about how to transfer in, deemed it was possible, and then didn’t even try. I think to some extent it felt like starting over. You could only transfer into McCombs at the end of the year. So that would theoretically push my 4 year college experience out to 5 years. I was never interested in going to college for 5 years.

I could’ve done it. I could’ve pushed out one year of busting my ass in a program I was ambivalent about in order to get into one more interesting to me… but I didn’t. For some reason. I’m not too sure why. On one hand, it felt like taking a step backwards. I felt like I should already be in the business school. If I would have applied to business out of high school I would have gotten in easily – and now they’re asking me to work extra hard just to get into something I could have waltzed into casually a year ago. It felt odd. Also, it felt like it’d be setting myself back – possibly a whole year if it pushed the college experience out to 5 years. I didn’t have a 5 year scholarship. Also, that’s one more year of lost income while I’m fooling around in school.

I wasn’t passionate enough about getting to McCombs then.. and I regret that. But that is one thing that I’ve learned about myself and it has held true over the years: if I’m interested in something I will work my ass off at it. There’s no time constraint and no limit on my effort. When I’m passionate I will really work hard. The opposite is also true: if I just don’t care about something I don’t put forth much effort.

From day one I didn’t care about engineering. From day one, I didn’t put much effort in. This is obvious… just look at the GPA. My first semester at UT, I had a dismal 2.4 GPA. Just awful. Horrible.

Engineering wasn’t hard. The 3.5 was readily attainable. I just didn’t care enough.

In contrast, my brother actually made a 4.0 his first semester in UT’s engineering program. He’s not smarter than me, nor is he any capable of working harder. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him work as nearly as hard as I do when I’m passionate about something. That’s no knock on him, he’s clearly more consistent than me… and able to put more effort in when he doesn’t care much about something. He did the complete opposite of me and its quite clear to see how different his UT experience was than mine. He stayed in engineering, he made the majority of his college friends in engineering, he joined the engineering clubs and went to their tailgates. He did the things I had no interest in. From the day I stepped foot into UT’s engineering school, I never wanted to be there.

3.) Going Into A Program That I Still Don’t Understand

I graduated with a degree in Corporate Communications. People sometimes ask me what that is. I still don’t know.

I have no idea what corporate communications is or what a degree in communications is even good for. I barely even know what I studied to get this degree. When getting into McCombs as a transfer student proved too annoying I sought something else. Something that checked all of the boxes: an escape from engineering, at least a minor similarity to business (it included the word “corporate”), intra-year transfers accepted (as opposed to only the end of the year like the business program), a transfer process that wasn’t reliant on GPA (to get into the college of communications you had to have a “well-rounded” application which means if your GPA is shit, just write outstanding essays), and most importantly a chance to still graduate in four years (I ran loads of degree audits, communications was the degree that I could transfer the most credits to). Communications was that something. I didn’t know what it was, and I still don’t – but I knew what it was for me – a way out of college: quickly and with a degree.

Maybe not the best way to chose a major.



4.) Not Transferring to The University of Houston

There was another option besides going into communications at UT. One that did really interest me.

A school 3 hours away from Austin, back in my hometown, had a new program. One UT didn’t even have: a degree in entrepreneurship. It actually ranks quite highly.

I was really interested in it. I researched it a ton – but a couple of things held me back:

1.) Going back to Houston. – what did this mean exactly: going back home? moving back in with my parents? I wasn’t too sure, and I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be back in Houston. I enjoyed being close enough to home to go back when I wanted to, but also far enough where I had my own budding adult life.

2.) Nobody considers UH to be as good of a school at UT. Despite UH’s best efforts to the contrary, it’s just not in the same league… on any level really.

Even with these two cons I was very interested in the program – as it seemed like a much better fit for me and my interests than the things I was currently fooling around with in Austin. I sought out the advice from as much people as I could on whether I should make the switch or not: my college advisors, my cousins, other family members, my friends, etc.

I don’t really remember what they said, but the consensus was really around point number 2 above: UH is no UT.

I stayed in Austin and I stayed in “corporate communications”. Whatever the hell that is I still don’t know.

5.) Not Dropping Out of College

About two years into college I faced the very real decision of just walking away from it altogether.

I had a budding music business that was taking more and more of my time and pulling more of my interest away from my college major that I didn’t even really understand.

I was constantly traveling, but not as much as I could have. Balancing a full-time school load and running a business lead to me getting burned out. I was working so hard most weeks that I was constantly crashing by Thursday afternoon. And if not Thursday, then it was by Friday. Going to bed at 3pm on Friday afternoon because you just can’t stay awake anymore and sleeping all through the night is a rather odd feeling… even more so when you are 20 and in great shape.

There were some plans that weren’t fulfilled. There were conversations that went like this:

Promoter calls: “Can you come down to Atlanta? We are going to Evander Holyfield’s house and he wants to meet you. He heard some of the stuff and he likes what you guys are doing.”

Me: “I can’t, I have a Spanish test.” (Because THAT’S the answer you expect from your CEO.)

I started to realize the business wouldn’t make it unless I could do it full-time. Full-time meant dropping out of college. Dropping out of college meant going away from that safety net. It was a scary proposition.

The business still wasn’t making money, but it was picking up. I thought it was damn close. I thought we were almost about to make it. We were starting to meet people like Kanye West and Chamillionaire. Traveling with legends like Scarface. It seemed damn close.

But it was scary. Dropping out of college seemed like it had no backdrop. It meant the possibility of traveling around for years eating ramen noodles and scraping by on practically nothing. Some told me that that’s what you have to be willing to do in order to make it. “You have to be willing to live out of a van for a year eating nothing but ramen noodles everyday” was the advice I got from a DJ from one of the radio stations in Austin. I knew he was right. I knew this is what it took. I knew how close it was.

Me, "excited" to be with Chamillionaire, circa 2005

Me, “excited” to be with Chamillionaire, circa 2005

I wanted to do it. Or at least I thought I did.

I was ready to be that broke. Or at least I thought I was.

I tried to convince my business partners to drop out of school with me. I tried to convince them to leave school and live in a van for a year eating Ramen noodles. I wanted somebody to come with me. It sounded scary to do on my own. It was a hard sell. They seemed somewhat interested in the idea, but they were scared to pull the trigger as well.

I should have just done it. I was the CEO. I should have just lead by example. They could have joined me in 6 months once things started to pick up.

I still regret it.

Making that decision was a big one. Not dropping out meant I was actually going to graduate from college and it meant putting more effort towards school. Once I started to put more effort into school and care more.. the business slowly wound down and died. I still look back on that like a part of me died with that decision.

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