Over the weekend, the “Occupy” movement organized a protest in my city, Corpus Christi, Texas. I stumbled upon it from the stream of messages on Facebook and Twitter. After spending Saturday morning at the 3E office (ironically planning the next few positions we’re going to add) alongside other entrepreneurs, I was irritated. To be honest, I’m not sure I even understand what exactly they want – or if they’re just expressing general frustration.

I think I’m most affected by the signs they display. Here were a few from the protesters in Corpus Christi:

– Due to the National Debt, we had to cancel the light at the end of the tunnel.

– Over-educated. Under-employed. Ready for change.

– Capitalism is cannibalism.

Now, these are obviously creative folks. Young, able-bodied, and in the prime of their life. And if you believe the signs, they’re hopeless, waiting on something else to change their future. It’s sad.

I support their right to protest. It’s quite the American thing to do, as Tom Peters reminded us. And other folks made lots of great points in Facebook debates. I agree that there are flaws in our financial system, and that American capitalism isn’t perfect. But I don’t think that’s the real problem.

The world has changed dramatically in the last few years. Young people are realizing that their education isn’t an express ticket to success, and it hurts. The introduction to Michael Ellsberg’s The Education of Millionaires summarizes the feeling well.

“You have been fed a lie. The lie is that if you study hard in school, get good grades, get into a good college, and get a degree, then your success in life is guaranteed. This might have been true fifty years ago. But it is no longer true today.

If you want to succeed now, then you must also educate yourself in the real-world skills, capabilities, and mind-sets that will get you ahead outside of the classroom.”

Ouch. I’ll grant you that the pain is real. But now what?

We want the world to go back “to the way it was” when things were different, more predictable. I think that train has already left the station. And I’m not sure any amount of protesting will bring it back, mostly because there’s no single point of control. If our economies could magically be “fixed” by the powers that be (however you define that), wouldn’t it have happened by now?

You can still “occupy” Wall Street and City Hall if you’d like. But I think you’ll get more results if you “occupy” your own life.

We have a choice. We can throw a temper tantrum about how unfair it is that the game has changed, or we can figure out how to play by the new rules. I choose option number two, and I hope everyone else does too. I believe it’s the only way we’ll turn things around.

It gets even better. There are already lots of roadmaps to learning how to succeed at today’s game. Instead of (or in addition to) protesting, study them. Apply them. Figure out another route, and share it with the rest of us. Deal?

Here are some I’ve found:

– Start with Ellsberg. He defines the problem better than anyone I’ve seen.

– Next up, Chris Guillebeau. Start with reading about his qualifications. Then understand his short list of unconventional ideas. Now, check out this list of $100 business ideas.

Got the wheels turning? Good, here’s some more.

No More Harvard Debt: This Harvard MBA is determined to pay off his student loans by next July. Pedi-cabbing, SAT Tutor, he’s trying it all. His best idea so far: a landscaping business he started with his buddy for $25.

– The working world travelers: Jodi Ettenberg and the family Gilbert.

– World class freelancers and experts: Norcross, Brett Kelly, and Danielle LaPorte.

Once all the excuses are extinct, dig into the tactics.

– Escape your cubicle and join the free agent nation with help from Pamela Slim, Daniel Pink, and Jonathan Fields.

– Study the profiles of successful muses using the principles outlined by Tim Ferris.

– Learn how to use the resources of the rest of the world from Tropical MBA.

– Join the Impossible League to have a community of support.

– Apply the principles in The Lean Startup to radically reduce your uncertainty and risk.

– Automate your finances and make yourself recession proof with help from Ramit Sethi.

– Learn how to write code for free at Codecademy, or buy a course for very cheap at AppSumo.

There’s more than 100 hours of study outlined above, and the path to your success is in there.

As Ellsberg says, “a new breed of American is arising, and they are creating a new breed of opportunity.” Will you seize it?


If you’ve got a resource I need to study, please let me know. I’m always on the lookout for great ideas and inspiration. Let’s do this.

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