Mike Gilliland and Euvie Ivanova talk about the importance of self-education and how creating your own curriculum can help you make a career based on your core values and passions in this episode of the Future Thinkers Podcast.

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Euvie: I recently got an email from a young man who had just entered college and it was his first semester in college. He was so confused about his path in life, what he should be doing. It seemed like he was just going to college because that’s what he was supposed to do, but he had no idea why he was doing it. We wanted to [00:01:00] talk about education and to address some of these questions that I’m sure a lot of people have. Even people who have maybe already gone to school and now they’re working in jobs but they have no idea what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.

Mike: A lot of people have that approval seeking attitude when they’re trying to make decisions for their life. I see this in Reddit all the time in a lot of the technology subreddits. Young people are like, “How can I get involved in nanotechnology? How can I get involved in these different industries?” They’re seeking [00:01:30] permission from people, they’re seeking advice about their own lives.

Euvie: They’re seeking a script which to follow.

Mike: Exactly. We want to dive into the psychology behind why people are looking for these scripts and why they’re doing certain things like going to school and listening to their parent’s advice about what they should be doing in their life. One of the things I want to talk about is our stories, why we went to school. Both [00:02:00] Euvie and I went to school after high school and we studied things that we thought we would gain a career out of after we finished. Why don’t you tell your story Euvie? What did you go to school for and what did you expect would happen?

Euvie: Yeah. I just wanted to make a side note for those of you guys who are not from North America. When we say school, we mean university or college. Yeah, I went to university straight out of high school. I’d always wanted to be an artist. When my dad pressured me [00:02:30] to go to school, that’s exactly what I did. I thought that I would compromise my dad’s desire for me to get a higher education and my own desire to be an artist. I studied things like languages and philosophy and photography and art history. By the middle of my second year, I was so frustrated with my professors because it seemed like they were just talking out of their ass.

It seemed like they had no experience in their own field, they had never actually worked in that profession. Their knowledge was entirely [00:03:00] theoretical. My photography professor, his photography work was terrible. I couldn’t imagine how he could be teaching photography while not having been a good artist. I dropped out of school and then I was working for a year and a half. Then I went back to school. I thought that I would study something a bit more practical, but something that I was still interested in. I studied psychology. Although I had fun studying it, [00:03:30] eventually I realized that what it was preparing me for was to just be a worker bee. With a Bachelor degree in psychology, my options were to work some crappy administrative job, or maybe be a counsellor, or maybe I could work at a lab again for minimum wage.

Basically, my options didn’t match what my aspiration in life was at all. I dropped out again in my fourth year of university. I tried both things – I tried studying something practical, [00:04:00] which essentially made me a worker bee, and I tried something creative, which was bullshit in a different way because those professors had no experience in real life.

Mike: Do you think there was a viable job opportunity for you in those areas?

Euvie: Yeah, but I had to create my own job and I think that’s exactly the point. If you want to do something creative, you have to create your own job. You can’t rely on the system to provide that job for you. That said, I think there are still jobs that you can go to school for [00:04:30] quite successfully – like if you want to be a dentist or a lawyer, then probably going to school is the best option for you. If you want to do something a bit more independent, not even independent, that’s not the right word… If you want to do something creative or social related in the social sciences, then I think you got to think about it from a business standpoint rather than an interest standpoint.

Mike: How did your parents respond to you dropping out?

Euvie: Very frustrated, very disappointed. My dad’s reaction was, “Why don’t you want [00:05:00] to learn?” In our parent’s generation, they think that going to university is the only way that you can get a deeper understanding of something. Of course, that’s not true today where entire university courses are available online and there are so many books being written by experts, by people who are actually working in the field, they’re actually experiencing these things and experimenting with these things.

Mike: Maybe from an entrepreneurial standpoint, it looks like they’re teaching because they couldn’t do it. [00:05:30] I think, in a lot of cases, that may be true, especially in business or in arts classes and stuff. I went to recording arts, studied music production, and I figured I was really passionate about music and I was going to make this career in music. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I was going to figure out a way and become a recording engineer. I assumed – and this is what I think a lot of people did that went to that school – that because a course existed in recording arts there must be tons of jobs [00:06:00] available for people taking recording arts courses.

There must be some sort of job after graduating. That was the hilarious thing about this is that the supposed experts in that field, the people who are at the top and supposedly teaching us how to be like them – be experts, be recording engineers, this thing – they’re teaching something that is in an industry dying and becoming antiquated. The music industry has gone through huge decline. Digital piracy has changed everything [00:06:30] about the way musicians make money. Musicians have far less money to spend on recording, because record labels aren’t spending a ton of money on musicians anymore. There’s a lot more of an independent approach to recording – people just buying their laptops, getting their software, and they just go ahead and learn how to be their own recording engineer.

This whole idea of recording engineers is this dinosaur job. It’s going away. I discovered that about a year of [00:07:00] the way through my program and I ended up quitting my program. I think the common thread in both of out stories is that we believed that school would create opportunities for us and that didn’t happen. My parents actually didn’t really like the idea of me going to recording art school, they were like, “Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunities in trades. Go study how to be an electrician or a plumber or something.” They were looking around them and just being pragmatic. [00:07:30] They were like, “That’s what’s happening now, you should go do that.”

I can understand your point of view of the parent that believes higher education is the only way to get education, to go to school, go to university. That’s the interesting thing, is that belief is this mentality that I think is left over from the industrial age when people had to perform the exact same kind of job day in and day out, when they still needed people to follow a system and pump out widgets on a factory [00:08:00] line. I think those beliefs are putting people in a really dangerous position, because they’re trusting a system that doesn’t work anymore.

Euvie: A system that’s changing really, really fast. Jobs are getting automated, people are losing their jobs like crazy right now in the west. There’s actually a cool infographic I found about how likely is your job to be automated and taken over by robots in your lifetime.

Mike: Is your job repetitive? Robots.

Euvie: Is your job manual? [00:08:30] Robots.

Mike: Basically, anything that’s not creative – robots.

Euvie: Yeah.

Mike: Which, in our opinion, is it creative? Robots. Eventually.

Euvie: After the singularity, yeah, exactly.

Mike: I think the problem is people are still deluded, they still think that… I guess on both of our sides, we believed that we could pursue any desire, any whim, and that markets and jobs will just bend over backwards to accommodate us, “There’s definitely a job. There’s a school, so there has to be a job at the end of the education tunnel.” [00:09:00] That’s where we were wrong.

Euvie: I think this is a typical generation Y mentality. Generation Y is people who are between I think 18 and 33. We were raised in a time where that whole self-empowerment, “You are a unique snowflake,” that was really big. No child left behind, that mentality. We were raised with this idea that we were so unique and people will just bend over backwards because we are so talented and jobs will just appear [00:09:30] out of nowhere to accommodate our talents.

Mike: Then society reinforces this idea by these billion-dollar businesses – Facebook and Instagram, these kind of things – that give people that celebrity light at the end of the tunnel, “I could be famous, I could be a big successful billionaire by doing the exact same things that they did,” and that doesn’t apply anymore.

Euvie: Yeah. Also, we have this huge cult of celebrity, which is also the same thing. These superstar athletes, superstar musicians, and fashion designers who [00:10:00] people aspire to be like without actually thinking of what goes into it.

Mike: You talk to the average person who’s maybe a bit more pragmatic and realizes, “No, I’m not going to be a Rockstar. No, I’m not going to be a professional athlete.” The future starts to look pretty grim, because there’s this pressure to be pragmatic about everything, like, “I don’t have time to discover myself, I’ve got pay bills. If I don’t go to school for something, I’m just getting behind the competition. Everyone around me is just going to be [00:10:30] launching ahead and I’ll be left behind.” That belief I think is so silly because it reverses the order of what you should be doing, where people think they’ve got to go to school, then they’ve got to go get a job, they’ve got to save some money, buy a house, get some stability, then they can figure out what they want to do with their lives.

That is so fucking crazy and backwards, because that never happens anyway anymore. That security doesn’t exist anyway. [00:11:00] You’re striving trying to find this light at the end of the tunnel that just never shows up. The ironic thing about it is that by focusing on what you truly want, there’s so many more opportunities and there’s so much less competition to build your own business, to build your own service, to find a need and fulfil it with your unique skillset. Why do people still have this assumption that school is going to prepare them for a job? Maybe people who haven’t had a long-term career [00:11:30] don’t understand that employers are no longer looking for certificates, they’re not looking for any of that shit.

They don’t care that you went to school, because they already understand that school doesn’t adequately prepare you for the real world, for the world that is changing as fast as it is.

Euvie: By the time you graduate, all that stuff, all that information you got in school is outdated anyway.

Mike: What do employers look for?

Euvie: Experience and fit. Are you the right type of person for the job?

Mike: I think experience is the key word here.

Euvie: [00:12:00] Yeah. When you’re applying for it, they’re looking for experience, but how do you get the experience without having the job?

Mike: It always seems like something that gets pushed off, that there’s not enough time for, it’s not worth it, “I don’t know what I want and I don’t have the time to figure it out.” Would you say that that is based out of fear?

Euvie: I think it’s the fear of your own success, because people perceive the risks as being greater than what they really are. I think the real risk is following the existing script, [00:12:30] because it doesn’t work anymore. Your risk of failure is much higher than you think it is. Besides, you’re competing against millions of other people who are doing the same thing. Instead, you could be competing against just the few ones who are a bit more brave and are taking the alternate path.

Mike: Yeah. I think people are afraid of the uncertainty, that’s why they’re looking for the script all the time. They’re afraid of what lays ahead of them when school isn’t telling them what they should do, [00:13:00] when employers aren’t telling them what they should do, when parents, society – they’re afraid of that vacuum that is left behind when all decision, all gatekeepers are removed from the picture.

Euvie: They have to decide for themselves and that’s scary.

Mike: I think you know what I’m going to say here, I’m going to give you three seconds. We’ll say it at the same time. What is the ultimate solution to that fear of uncertainty? Three, two, one. Education.

Euvie: Education.

Mike: Yeah. [00:13:30] That’s something we’ve both learned on our own is that when we pick up these self-development books, when we pick up these business books, when we pick up industry related books, we get more confident about our decisions, we lay out a framework for executing plans, we start seeing the world in terms of opportunities, of how we can take advantage of opportunities and provide value. That confidence just comes from education, just comes from knowledge. In a world where [00:14:00] institutionalized education cannot provide that for you, I think a lot of people are left wondering, “How do I figure out what I should learn? What is the script to learn what I should learn?” They’re still, again, looking for that script. I’m curious of what your answer is to that. How do you discover what you need to learn? How do you make your curriculum?

Euvie: I think, first of all, you got to figure out what your real values are, the deep, deep values. I’m not talking about, “I like money and I like cars, I want to have a bigger house.” [00:14:30] Those are not values, A, they’re status symbols, and B, they might be interests. I think you got to think about the deeper values. What do you care about? For me, it’s challenging the status quo, creativity, propelling the world forward in technology, in self-development. Those are my values.

Mike: What about your business values?

Euvie: Enabling other people to be creative and enabling other people to help [00:15:00] make the world a better place.

Mike: My value, my upmost value with our business, is inspiring people to do what inspires them by telling stories. I love stories, I want to use storytelling to inspire the world to make a dent in the universe. That’s what our whole business values are. It’s interesting, when it comes to making tough decisions about hiring, firing, ideal clients to work with, how easy those decisions become [00:15:30] when you just have to look back on your value system and you decide, “Does this fit, yes or no?” You don’t have to emotionalize the decision anymore, you don’t have to worry about. “Does it fit my values? No? Then I do not do it.” It makes life so much simpler and easier, and you get this added benefit of attracting the kind of people that share your values. If you’re working only with people who share your values, that’s a fun work situation.

Euvie: Yeah.

Mike: That’s your answer – [00:16:00] eliminating that fear and creating your own curriculum is understand your values.

Euvie: Yeah, number one thing.

Mike: How do you understand your values? How do you figure out what is important to you?

Euvie: Obviously, we’ve talked about Simon Sinek and start with why. First, ask yourself what do you really like doing, what do you enjoy doing, what are you passionate about? When you do this thing, does time fly and you could do it all day long and you don’t get tired, you just love talking about it to others? [00:16:30] Maybe go a step deeper and ask yourself, why do you really enjoy it? Try to get to the bottom of it to find what your core value is. Things like freedom and creativity, helping other people to achieve their highest potential. Things like that.

Mike: What about people who can’t think outside of the box. When you ask them what they would do ideally, if they had any option, and they think of a different script but still a script, “I want to be this job [00:17:00] because there’s a framework already built for it, because I think I would enjoy it and I would get paid okay for it.” How do you respond to those people, when they just respond with a lack of imagination? I’ll answer my own question. I think… It’s such a typical question but what would you do if you had a billion dollars? What would you do with your time then?

Euvie: Sometimes that’s still not enough for people to figure out. I think in the western society, especially with people doing so many things that they don’t really want to do, [00:17:30] people would resort to just pleasure-seeking activities. If you ask that question of a teenager, a lot of them would say, “Man, I’d just party all day long.” In reality, you’d probably get sick of it after a couple weeks and then start thinking deeper. Maybe you should just do that. Maybe you should just… No, I’m not giving that advice, no.

Mike: Take a boat load of ecstasy and then just go nuts for a week. Perfect.

Euvie: No, I am not giving that advice at all. [00:18:00] Maybe that’s why people take a gap year after they finish high school, they go and backpack in Thailand to find themselves. Although, I don’t know how effective that is. Maybe it could be, maybe they realize that just pleasure-seeking activities don’t provide any meaning in your life and, after a while, you have to find something that you really care about.

Mike: Yeah, that’s a tough one. I feel like all of our desires and goals and values [00:18:30] have been defined quite concretely in the last year. That was after we started traveling. I don’t know if it’s because of traveling or because of the networks we’re hanging out with now. It’s probably a combination of things. I’ve definitely, from traveling, learned that it’s not external things that make me happy, it’s internal things. It’s my internal self-talk, it’s how I get up in the morning and what do I say to myself when I first get up. What do I believe [00:19:00] my day’s going to look like? That 100 percent dictates my happiness. I don’t know, I’m a bit sceptical to think that going off and experiencing all of these things to define for you what you want, I don’t know, I’m a bit sceptical of whether that works or not.

Euvie: Yeah, I don’t think it works and that’s why I was saying I don’t really know if that’s a good path. I think maybe just getting it out of your system. When I was a teenager, there were a few things that I was not supposed [00:19:30] to do. One of the things was pursue my passions, I was not supposed to do it because I had to do something more practical. That was being an artist. I wasn’t supposed to be doing that, not seriously anyway. Also, of course, there’s the other things like I wasn’t supposed to be partying. I think I lumped those two into one thing, because I wasn’t supposed to be doing both of them so I was doing both of them because I was rebelling.

That’s why I said that maybe people just need to get it out of their [00:20:00] system and eventually they’ll realize that that’s not their life’s calling. That could end in some unhealthy habits for sure.

Mike: Actually, in just hearing you talk now, I think I might have figured out what it was for me that helped me really define what I wanted to do. It was setting a couple of baser goals and achieving them, then setting more goals and achieving them, then setting a few more goals and achieving them. Then realizing that I can set my mind to things and I can make them happen, so why am I [00:20:30] setting the fucking bar so low all the time? Why is the biggest thing I want to accomplish in the world is to get to Thailand and I don’t think of anything past that? That’s what I realized after I arrived, I was like, “Wow, this was way easier than I thought it was. There’s so much more out there that I could achieve. Why was I setting the bar so low?” I think that now has bled into everything where I still am fighting against myself not to [00:21:00] think small, I’m trying to challenge myself to think bigger and bigger and bigger. That definitely opened the flood gates for me, what I thought was possible.

Euvie: I guess a lot of people do have that. If you ask them what do they really want to do, they automatically think of something and then maybe dismiss it because they think it’s not possible.

Mike: How do you build a curriculum for yourself after you’ve discovered your values, what you care about? I would say just pick up a book.

Euvie: Yeah. [00:21:30] I think first step, if you’re totally, totally new and you figured out what your core values are, read the top 10 books on that subject or in relation to that subject. I want to be an artist. That’s not really a value but let’s say you have that idea. Pick 10 artists in the modern time that you really, really admire and read their biography. Figure out what kind of… Not their script, not to follow exactly what they did, [00:22:00] but what kind of qualities they had. Were they really driven, really inventive? Did they meet as many people as possible? What kind of qualities did they have?

Mike: If you want to be an artist, top five books in that profession. Simulate what it might be like to live that life by reading books. I think that’s the important thing. Sometimes that just paints a picture for you and you can realize whether you want it or not. You can simulate things without having to make a ton of mistakes. [00:22:30] This self-motivation to educate is what frustrates me the most when I talk to people who haven’t read a book in a year, or they’re like, “Man, I wouldn’t listen to an audio book, that would take so long, I’d get so bored. I wouldn’t read a reference book, or a career book, or a self-improvement book, or anything like that.” That drives me nuts, because it’s so easy to change your life by using an implementing other people’s experience who have done it before you.

Why do people assume that they’re so [00:23:00] smart that it’s not worth their time to read something, that they’re just going to go through life just based on experiences, “I’m just going to go out there and I’m going to experience it and see if I want it or not.”

Euvie: This actually brings me to something that I realized recently, that in education there are three pillars and if you’re missing one or two then you’re not educating yourself effectively. These three pillars are: information, [00:23:30] experience, and feedback. Information is when you’re reading a book, you’re gaining insight, then you got to go and apply it. You can theorize all day but if you can’t do something with it, then what’s the point? Once you’ve applied it, you’ve got to get feedback from somebody who understands that. Don’t get feedback from your aunt, or your professor, especially not your professor… No, I’m kidding. Don’t get feedback from your aunt, or your professors, or [00:24:00] your sister, or your mum, or your barber, or whatever. Get feedback from somebody in that industry who’s succeeded at that thing that you want to do.

Mike: Yeah, who’s doing exactly what you want to be doing or a very close variation of it. Ignore all other advice.

Euvie: Yeah. Then once you do that, you’ve got to go back to the first part, you got to get more information, then apply that information again and get feedback again. It’s a cycle. [00:24:30] What I see a lot, in myself included, I would include one of these major pillars. I would dive into theory and not have any application, and I would get feedback but only on the theory part. I would get feedback from the professor, not from the person actually working in that field. I see the opposite, too, people who are all experience but no information. They’re just trying, trying, [00:25:00] trying, trying stuff without picking up a book and learning about… Maybe somebody has already figured it out but you’re still banging your head against the wall.

Mike: The last thing I think we should talk about here is motivation. If you know what you want to do, you know that the materials are out there, you know that the mentors are out there, how do you motivate yourself to achieve that goal, to achieve that vision? It’s to have a vision, it’s to visualize what your life looks like [00:25:30] in this goal, this vision of what you think your future could be. Visualize it down to what your refrigerator looks like, what your kitchen looks like, what your day to day life looks like. When you get up in the morning, when you go to work or you do whatever you want, what does that look like? Try to create visual references for yourself. I think that’s been huge for us is that we’ve done visualization for so long. If we wanted something, we Googled the images [00:26:00] of it, we made a collage of all the things we wanted, and we stuck that on the desktop background of our computer.

That actually has been amazing. I would actually like to publish some of the vision boards I made over the years, because one by one by one, each of those things drops off the list. It’s like, “Geez, I might have been thinking really small.”

A common life script that we’re all familiar with, and that many of us followed, is to go to university or college to study something we’re interested in, graduate with a degree, and then step out to the real world expecting the perfect job to be there waiting for us. That’s what our teachers and parents taught us, because that’s how it was in their time. But let’s face it, the system doesn’t really work that way anymore.

Schools are pumping out graduates at a much faster rate than the jobs that fit those degrees are being created. In fact, with automation, many jobs are actually disappearing. On top of that, more and more employees are looking for experience and “fit” rather than a degree when hiring new employees. Then add on the debt that is created through student loans, and getting a college or university degree becomes even less reasonable.

Fortunately, universities and colleges aren’t the only places where people can get an “education”. More people are now looking into different venues where they can consume knowledge and learn new skill sets independently. These people end up creating job opportunities for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs or freelancers, and not depending on any system to hand these opportunities to them.

In this episode, Mike and I talk about the future of learning and why it’s something everyone should be doing without the help of formal education institutions. We also discuss the importance of finding your core values and how knowing these can help you make a career out of the things you are passionate about. We also talk about how you can create your own curriculum and get the motivation to accomplish your goals.

In this episode of The Future Thinkers Podcast

  • Why the school system does not match today’s job market
  • Mike and Euvie’s formal education stories
  • Why self-education is the solution to the fear of uncertainty in a career
  • How to figure out what you’re passionate about and the values behind that
  • Creating your own curriculum and career path
  • The 3 pillars of education
  • How to get motivated to achieve your goals

Mentions & Resources

Recommended Books:

More From Future Thinkers:



Comments are closed.

  1. Jon 10 years ago

    Thank you for making this podcast. All of the content was very insightful. It was the kick in the pants that I needed to start actively seeking what it is in life that I truly want to do I will give you a little bit of background about myself. I am a 22 year old who is lost in the sea of life and is desperate to carve out my own existence. I just want to make a difference. The problem is that I have no idea as to what I want to do. . I feel as if I am nothing but a robot that was left empty and unimaginitive from years of trying to follow a script. I want to change the world, I just do not know how, or what I want to do. I dont know what my passions are anymore. What kind of advice could you share with someone that wants to break the mold, but has no direction in life? Maybe It isn’t that I have no passion. I just feel like I want the world. I want to write, create art, develope technology, ANYTHING but to be the robot that I have been so far in life. All of it just seems so far out of reach. I am not asking for a script, or a hand out. Honestly I do not expect this to even be read. If there are any books that you could think of, or anything that I could use to kindle this dying ember, it would be greatly appreciated. You both are truly inspirational, and I wish you the best of luck on your endeavors.

  2. Euvie Ivanova 10 years ago

    Hi, and thank you for coming out and being open about this. I can relate to what you’re saying, I felt very lost when I was in my early 20s too.

    I can’t really say if you can find your passion through a book, because that’s not how I found mine. The books in the resources section of this post are more about building a business around your passion once you’ve found it.

    But here are a couple of articles that can help you:

    1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-hassler/life-passion_b_4414037.html (TL;DR – take your biggest suffering/challenge, turn it around, and you’ve got your passion)

    2. http://idealistcareers.org/a-simple-equation-that-can-help-you-discover-your-passion/ (TL;DR – your passion isn’t something for you to discover, it has to be cultivated and exercised like a muscle by following this equation: (curiosity + engagement) x time = passion)

    I strongly resonate with both of these articles. Check them out!

  3. Bruce Weaver 7 years ago

    Heres a new school for you. https://www.1440.org pretty cool!

  4. Matthew Bracke 7 years ago

    Hey Mike and Euvie! Thank you so much for bringing up this topic! I’ve been listening to you guys for a while and gain so much from all of your discussions!

    I would like to share how I found my way to my values and how I am applying them in the present to follow my bliss: My schooling experience was as traumatizing and mind numbing as yours and after my degree I realised the real learning had only begun. I stumbled upon Joe Rogan’s podcast where the book the war of art was mentioned by Steven Presfield. I was blown away by the message behind this book: ” Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” I immediately asked myself what i was most afraid of and did it:) fastforward 6 months and I’m now living in Nairobi, Kenya working on awesome socially driven projects with emerging technologies such as 3d printing!

    One project I want to start soon is teaching children in poor rural communities around Nairobi. I have long questioned what the future of education would look like and always believed it should be approached much more practically where the relevance of information becomes clear and information is adopted through experience. After reading Neale Donald Walsh I got real interested in the Steiner education system that values individualality amoungst students and encourages creativity.

    The project I would like to conduct is building a school together with these students from the community and through this process teach them about all the fundamental skills such as math, English, communication skills etc. These subjects wouldn’t go in much depth but I believe that after the students see the result of their work they will have discovered an untouched creative potential within themselves and have ignited their curiosity. I also would want to combine each teaching session with a meditation practice and some kind of physical activity.

    Once again thanks so much for uploading all the awesome content and I would love to hear from you guys. You are always welcome here in the heart of Africa!:) Much love Matt


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