We live in an interesting time when it is possible to be successful even without higher education, but that’s not how it works for most people. Grant Aldrich, the founder of OnlineDegree.com, recognizes that for the average individual, finding a good career still requires having a college degree. Grant’s passion for affordable college education comes from a specific paint point in his life, having graduated out of college himself with a massive amount of debt. The offerings at OnlineDegree are perfect for those who are looking for affordable college education that they can acquire at their own pace, especially for working adults – a specific niche that Grant is passionately works with. Join Grant in this conversation with Rodney Flowers to learn more about his story, his passion and the valuable lessons he learned about life, career and fulfillment.
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OnlineDegree: Affordable College Education For Working Adults With Grant Aldrich
As always, I am excited about this show. I have a special guest. You are going to want to read all the way through. We’re going to be talking about some interesting topics. I love what this gentleman is doing in the world. A unique individual and he has something going on that I’m excited about. It’s necessary in the world and you would be too. Maybe you or someone you love has been thinking about college or maybe thinking about changing the level of education that they have maybe for higher education. This guy has created and founded OnlineDegree.com.
The purpose and mission of this is to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating from college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their college education. He spent his entire career working in startups with years of experience and two prior exits to a publicly-traded company. He has been a board member and a donor to a number of nonprofits and advisor to many publicly traded companies and a guest speaker at seminars and graduate school courses. He graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine in Economics. Welcome to the show, Mr. Grant Aldrich.
Rodney, thank you for having me. I’ve been excited to be here with you.
I’m excited for all of my guests that show up. One of the reasons why I’m excited is because I realized coming to the show is a choice. You don’t have to do it. I’m grateful for people that decide to come on and share what they have going on and their contribution to the world with my audience. We’re all about changing the game. If you, someone you know, or people that come on my show and they are given the best selves to my audience, that’s to me, something to be excited about and grateful for. You are the Founder of OnlineDegree. Tell us about OnlineDegree, what caused or moved you to create OnlineDegree.com?
It was a story of need. You hear those stories of people that the necessity is the mother of all invention. That was the case here. It intertwined a lot with my personal story. I’ll tell your audience what it is and we can then back out why that it’s important. In 60 seconds, a working adult can go online and without applications or entrance exams get started towards their degree. Taking college-level courses that could get them credit towards their degree, with all the support they need and discounts on tuition at the school that they’re going to. We do it all for free. We think that it’s a modern alternative to the junior college system to make college more affordable and accessible for everybody. The genesis of why this is important is that I had seen that there were about 35 or 40 million working adults, depending on the estimate that we’re not taking that first step back to college. That’s a tragic thing because that group is wanting to go upscale. You’ve got all of these macro trends that are going against the American worker. You’ve got globalization, robot automation, all these things that are requiring us upskill and they’re not able to do it. That’s something that I can relate with because for the majority there are all these fears, costs, and things that infer the working adults. I was determined to change that.
A lot of questions come up from me. You mentioned how automation and the way the world is going with the advancements of technology. How important is college education these days, from your perspective? You want to make it easier for people to have accessibility to college education, why is that important to you?
I would be the first to say that we do live in an amazing time where you can be successful without a degree. You could pick a career or you can be an entrepreneur and you can decide on a pathway that would not require necessarily getting a college degree. That’s awesome. For most people out there, it’s still a necessity. If you look at the data on how important it is to your marketability, your overall success, and being able to get that coveted job, as opposed to someone else, it still is the number one ranked factor. When you even remove all the jobs that require a college degree, like a doctor, accountant, and teacher, things like that necessitate you having it. Many other careers give you that edge when it’s a tough battle between you and another person for you to get that top spot.
A lot of it is not only the degree itself but a lot of the intangibles that are associated with that degree. If you’ve gone out and you’ve gotten a degree, it shows a lot about your character. It shows that you have the determination to go through what is not an easy process, although it has gotten easier. It shows that you are diligent and you manage your time well. There are all these intangibles, not to say that someone who hasn’t done that doesn’t have those, but it shows you do if you have. It is a valuable thing for people to get, but what’s happened is that the cost-benefit analysis has become out of whack because we all know the soaring cost of education and student debt.
That has made it where people are less likely to go back to school. If you took everyone off the street and said, “In a perfect world, would you like that degree?” They would say, “Yes,” but as a working adult, you have to take real things and life is a consideration. “Can I afford it? I can’t go into debt in my 30s or 40s. I could have back in my twenties. I can’t step away from my responsibilities, my kids, and my job.” All of those things, the problems that I wanted to solve.
It takes time to get a degree. Further in this question a little bit more let’s say you have a person who doesn’t have any education at all. They started out and it takes about four years to get a degree. Do you see this being a necessity in the near future? There are many changes. The reason why I’m asking there are many changes and advancements in technology, it seems to be changing daily, if not about a minute. In the next 4 to 5 years because not only is the cost-benefit analysis, you look in at the time that it takes to get a degree and the advancement of technology I feel that sometimes people feel like, “Is it worth it to get that degree?” What are your thoughts about that?
The way that you described it would call into question if it is. If you’re looking at the cost of getting it the time, the money, those have stayed the same substantially gone up. We can look at that side of the equation and we all look at the benefits side. On the cost side, parts of what people don’t know, and that I’ve become a bit of an advocate for, is that it doesn’t have to take four years. You can do a lot faster. There are a lot of cool ways to go faster. What I love talking to the working adult because that’s the person who I feel who’s at the most disadvantaged and most ill-informed who needs it and wants to do it. A kid coming out of high school, not that I don’t want to help that person as well but they’ve got a lot more opportunity and time on their hands.
For that working adult, you can take down the time and you can bring down the cost, but they don’t realize there are many cool pathways out there where you can substantial. Even utilizing us, you can lower the cost by 40%. That’s a substantial sum because that means that I may have a reasonable amount of debt to get this. The new job I get as a result will benefit from that. On the benefits side, what I was talking about before is that there are many jobs and it’s still the number one determining factor, whether you’re going to get over someone else. When you go into a world where robots and overseas and all these job environments are going to be more competitive. You need that advantage.
Can you bring a little bit more clarity on why if there’s a working adult out there who is perhaps seeking to obtain a degree, how can you help them make that decision?
Let me start by answering that question by debunking two commonly held myths that people typically rely on to save on college because it’s also cool. For someone who might have a misconception, let’s put that down and then talk about what is a real way to do it. The two that I would say are scholarships and community college. I’ll start with scholarships. I wrote an awesome post. I hired a bunch of mathematicians to figure out, are scholarships worth it? My thesis was for working adults, it’s not worth it and it’s not even worth it for a young student. That ended up being the case because, for scholarships, you can’t talk about college affordability without someone saying scholarships. “That’s all you need to do. Get a pen, start applying. There’s all that money out there for you,” but it’s a total lie, unfortunately.
When you go through and you start looking at all of the requirements and the ways that they limit you and I’ll give you a couple of examples. Let’s say you look at all the scholarships out there. It’s true. They are billions of dollars and you start whittling it down. There are a lot of scholarships for NCAA athletes. Most of us are not NCAA athletes because there’s no way we’re going to be able to get that, especially as a working adult. It’s not even feasible. You’re not going to go back to your 30s and start playing at that level. Those are off the table.
Many are state-specific. By process of deduction, if I live in California, only 1 out of 50 is going to be eligible for hypothetically. You go through that exercise and it gets whittled down a lot. Finally, the big thing, is it worth your time? You’re busy, you’re a working adult. Am I going to sit there for weeks writing all of these applications with no guarantee I’m going to make money? I had these mathematicians doing the math and even if we assumed that it was only that your time is only worth a minimum wage. It’s still never made sense on when you do the equations, on the benefit analysis that it would work for you. It never did. People have to get that out of their heads. It’s not going to be a good option. Not to say there isn’t maybe some low hanging fruit, but for most of us, it’s not.
The second thing is a community college, but it still is expensive and it’s inaccessible. It’s a government institution. They don’t move as fast as technology and everything else. You’ve got courses that are in the middle of the day. You can’t leave work in the middle of the day if you’re an adult. You’ve got a job. It’s hard to do that. They haven’t gone completely online. They’ve got rigid schedules. Sometimes I have to pick up my kids at a different time than what they need to go and then there’s the cost. It’s still costly. It usually would work out to be a few $1,000 over the course of a year. The way I looked at this was that “Here’s how we can lower the cost of the degree.”
One on OnlineDegree, we have 44 units of credit that are free. You can take them. What those will do, regardless of what your major is, they can chip away at your electives, the general ed that you need to take for any degree and they’re all online. You take them at your own pace as many as you want. What you do is usually you’ll look at a school and say, “Which courses will map there? I’ll take a bunch of these.” The beauty of that too is you can take them as fast as you want. When you have a platform like this and you can apply through if you want to spend a few weeks and crush it and go through. Go for it, as opposed to the traditional system, no matter what you have to go through a full semester. It doesn’t give you that option if you want it to go any faster.OnlineDegree allows you to take as many courses as you like at your own pace. It’s definitely worth looking into if you’re a working adult. Click To Tweet
In addition to that what most people don’t realize, there are universities that are willing to give students discounts if they prove themselves a little bit, which is also what’s inherent in our platform. I’ll give you an example. If someone comes on our platform and take some courses, the school loves the fact that a person’s taking the initiative. They give our students 10%, 15%, sometimes a 20% discount immediately because for them it’s a big win as well. The universities want students who are motivated, who are going to succeed. You start throwing in free courses, discounts, get there faster, and then a couple of other resources that we’ve identified. There are things called CLEP Exams, where you can think of it as, “I can take a test to knock out one of my college requirements.” If I’m pretty confident that I’ll do well in a history course, I can take a test and I don’t have to take that when I get to college. You start building all of these things around and you can hack your way to have a way more affordable degree and far faster.
I love the flexibility that you’ve described testing out as what you’re talking about. To bring some clarity for my own understanding, you provide the opportunity to take a look at a curriculum for a certain degree. If there are areas within that curriculum that the individual feels they already have expertise and knowledge as an opportunity to test out. You remove the requirement to take that particular course in that area, away from the curriculum or they give them credit if they test out. When they’re done, they receive credits for testing out of that particular course.
That’s available. When we do it, this is an all through us. A lot of this is that we hack, we bring together all these cool resources and give that guidance. You’re right. You can look at it and it’s far smarter to do it. Let’s say, if I’m going to start on a program towards a degree, I look at that and say, “How can I lower that? Where can I test out? Where can I take some classes here to satisfy some of these requirements? I’ve got a discount and that brings the cost a little down further. You have to be in the driver’s seat a little bit. That said, there’s a lot of help in research. We provide a lot of help and support to plan that path. We also help you work with a different school to do it. You don’t have to do this on your own, but you should go into it with that mentality.
I liked that because what’s daunting about starting college for the working adult could not only be the price tag but the large curriculum that is required in order to obtain the degree. It sounds like you have the ability to go in and take a look at that curriculum and navigate which courses you can eliminate by way of testing out. There are also other resources that you could use to create a package that’s unique to me, in my circumstances, in order to get to that goal, to get to that degree. You personalize the journey towards a degree based on my finances, on my expertise, and knowledge. I’ve not seen that done before. It’s been a while since I’ve been in college. I’ve been away from how this process is run and what it takes to get a degree for a while. This is the first time I’ve heard the flexibility to do this. That’s game-changing. That’s awesome that you provide this type of service.
Thank you. What we’re doing is dramatically new because when I first came up with the concept of this, I said, “We have to remove all those impediments.” I have a funny story to share with you. One of those impediments I knew in addition to some of these impediments was the psychological ones. As a working adult, we’re scared. “I’ve never been in an online classroom. I don’t know if I want to go back to the classroom. Am I going to be successful? Can I do it? Can I work on my schedule?” All these questions and those are the questions that keep that idea in the back of our mind and we never take that first step. Can we cater to those? Sure. We made it easy as possible to get started.
The financial impediment was a big one because I said it has to be free. This is going to be a free platform. People thought that was crazy when I was talking with people initially. Education has become synonymous with tuition that it was difficult to try to figure out a way around that. I said, “No, we have to do it this way. We’re going to figure it out.” People know they’re going to have to pay something for college but if we can get a free platform where people can get a lot of value, come in, and then help lower the cost, we make it available to everybody. That was also another big battle that I thought was a game-changer because no one else has done something like that.
What is your personal story behind that to want to provide this platform for people as a service for free? What’s driving you to do that?
I can give you the long and the short of it, but I’ll tell you a story. The year 2015 was the greatest year of my life, arguably. That year, I married my wife. I finally exited the startup company that had taken me years of building. It gave me a lot of closure and some gratification for all that work. My wife became pregnant with our first son. Talk about a banner year, unbeatable year in 2015. In February 2016, I almost died out in the water during a surf advisory in Northern California. I was out in the water. I shouldn’t have been out of the water. It was a storm, the waves were super rough and I got caught. I’m a decent swimmer, but not a pro or by any means and I almost died. I was sucked in and I thought I was gone. I looked down and it was a horrific incident for my wife and my mother-in-law who were on the beach seeing it happen as I got sucked out.
The water was freezing. It was 50-degree water and I’m out there struggling and no wetsuit. By sheer luck, I got my foot finally out on a sandbar. It didn’t hit me right away but I went through an introspective period after that. I said to myself, “I was on this pathway that I thought I would want to be on and then I didn’t want anymore and I want to be happy. I want to be with my family.” The crushing thought that I would never have seen my son or my two other children thereafter. That would have been all over. That was it. When I was there in the water, I said to myself, “I can’t believe it’s all over.”
To have that chance I’m not going to let that go to waste. Part of that was that I wanted to do something big. I want to do an idea that was big and I wanted to do it my way. I wanted to engineer it with my own lifestyle. It was this culmination of a lot of things. It was stubborn in a way that it had to be done. When I was trying to choose the idea, I kept coming to education because I had a lot of debt coming out of college. It affected me and I feel like I was lucky to be able to pay it off. The fact that I grew up in a household of educators. It all started to coalesce and that was the idea of like, “This is a big problem.” If we can solve this and if we can make a big impact, you check all the boxes of life on how awesome that would be.
I’m sure that’s been rewarding for you to put together something like this, offer it to people, have it bring such value to them, and create opportunities for them to get degrees. It’s not just getting the degree, it is what the degree does for you and the difference that it makes and the impact that it has on others. We can go on and on about how one person getting a degree and the ripple effect that it has on all of us. I don’t believe it’s within that one person’s economy or one person’s world. It affects all of us. This is big and I can see that and congratulations to you for doing something like this. What were some of the challenges that you had to face in order to bring this forward?
There was a lot. The first one was the model because one of the problems in trying to make something free in education is that everything’s expensive because you have all these big systems that take a lot of work to get off the ground and to build. That’s why you do see a big price tag on a lot of education. Not that it’s justified. Higher education has gotten way out of control, but you appreciate why things are expensive. Trying to come in and bring a new model was challenging. I’ll give you one example. All the vendors out there who provide services for education companies, all of their models are based on a percentage of the tuition, which probably wouldn’t shock you.
Let’s say if you’re getting, I would make this up to $1,000 a month from the student, they take a small piece of that. Imagine I’m in conversations with people and they’re telling me their pricing and I’m telling them, “I’m not charging tuition.” They’re going, “We would take a percentage of the tuition thing.” “No, you don’t get it. I’m not charging tuition.” “Can we work on a flat rate? Come on.” It’s like, “How many students are we going to have?” I thought, “Maybe millions.” They’re like, “How can we price it like that?” “I don’t know.”
Imagine having that conversation all the time. That was challenging and what ended up happening? We had to build everything ourselves as a result, which was a grind. You never want to have to do that. In addition to that, you’re always fighting with something new that people are going to like, especially something in higher education where you have to get so much buy-in on the university and student’s side. There was a lot of anxiety. It was a big leap of faith coming out of the gate and see people if this is going to work.
What were some of the things that you did to overcome that anxiety and those challenges?
I blindly marched forward. One thing I did personally because of that mind over matter thing. That’s the most important. That was my own psyche in that. I wrote myself a letter that I have up on my wall in my office. That was a letter to myself before the site went live. It was a letter that I designed to write to myself to give me solace in what I knew is going to be a crazy time ahead. I’ve done this enough times where I know what it’s like and how the ups and downs and the roller coaster of doing something like this. I wrote to myself to comfort me. I look up at it a lot because I touched on the things that I knew would be there.
It’s nice when you’re going through periods of self-doubt or difficulty, you look up there when you were in a calm and optimistic position and your self is telling you what you’re feeling at that moment. It is surreal. Not only that, I always put things into perspective. To me, I want to be with my family. I want to provide a life where I can be there for them and be happy with that. That’s a big thing there and that’s a lot in there too. When you’re having a tough moment, you look at that and for me, it’s cathartic.
One of the things that I used starting out as a young entrepreneur was a life script. One of my mentors, Peggy McColl, as a matter of fact, she was a mentor of mine at one point in time. She has a Life Script. She teaches on the power of having a life script, not only the letter but a Life Script that dictates your future life and what that looks like. You read that to yourself daily, not only as an entrepreneur. That was helpful for me, but it causes you to visualize. Even when I was overcoming my accident, I was visualizing what my future self would look like walking. What was my current state? Something that I intensely desired. I would look at that life script and I would have words in there that reflect me walking and the way my life would be once I got to this point.The benefits of college education always outweigh the time and money you need to spend on it. OnlineDegree helps you bring both costs down. Click To Tweet
It enforced the power of having it, which is a powerful tool to use. Most people are starting out on a degree. They’re trying to get to a place. They have a vision in mind, which is a beautiful thing. You may have heard the saying, “If you don’t have a vision, the people perish.” People perish because of a lack of vision. I admire when you’re setting out on that journey and you have an idea on the path to take. It could be a degree, a startup, and a number of things to get to a destination. When we have that picture of that vision in mind, it is powerful you can look at that every day.
For me, it was posted up on my bathroom mirror because you go to the bathroom every day. I don’t know too many people that don’t go to the bathroom and look in a mirror. It was a perfect place for me to see it every single day. To start your day out, taking a look at your destination and realizing you’re on a journey to get there. When you can see what it’s like to be there and you can feel what that feels like, that life script is powerful. Another trick was writing a letter of your future self. It sounds like that’s what you did to your future self. If you were to write a letter to yourself, what would your future self say to you, the person that you’re designed to be ten years from now? Let’s say fast forward, 10, 20 years, you’re that person.
You’re looking back at this guy or girl 10, 20 years younger, what would you say to that person? Write yourself a letter to that person. Have you accomplished everything that you want to accomplish 10, 20, 30 years from now? It’s interesting what’s in that letter. You can put that in a place where you see it every day. It’s powerful. I know you also have a passion for mission-driven entrepreneurship, and you’re the epitome of that. You live that as an example, by what you have created here with OnlineDegree.com. What is your message about creating or having a mission-driven entrepreneur mindset? What is that all about?
By the way, you try to describe the life script and that was awesome. I love that you put it in the bathroom. Every moment or every day you wake up and multiple times a day when you’re using it, you’re reminded, “Am I on track? Am I doing what I need to be doing?” It’s easy to get off track mentally and physically all those things. This is a cautionary tale. In the first fifteen years of my career, I was working on things that weren’t that satisfying because there are a lot of ways to go out there and make money and have a job or a career, even a start-up. It’s never going to be as fulfilling if you don’t love what you do. I’ll give you an example.
Before I was working in pharmaceuticals, the startup was not a pharmaceutical company, but I work for pharmaceuticals and there’s nothing wrong with that. It wasn’t like I was skipping to work every day, trying to make them more money. It’s dumb. That intangible happiness doesn’t come from that. There’s got to be something else. I was determined to remedy that this time, especially after that introspective period. It’s not just about making money. It can’t be. You have to be happy. It’s the journey. You’ve got to enjoy. One thing people forget is that any path they take in life, it’s way longer that they think it’s going to be. You have to be able to enjoy it or it’s going to make you miserable.
One thing about mission-driven entrepreneurship that I would suggest for everyone is that this gives you a chance to come up with something you care about. It makes it part and parcel with whatever that idea is. It doesn’t have to be your end-all-be-all passion. I remember I talked to someone who said, “I like to be on the slopes all day. I want to be able to ski all day.” I said, “I get it. It would be tough to come up with an idea where you get to ski all day.” That doesn’t mean you can’t have some that you care about. There are a lot of things you can care about. That’s a key component because it’s a long haul. This would be something for someone if they’re going to be either working in their own business or if they’re going to be working for a company. Why do people love working for nonprofits? It’s not for the money usually, it’s because they get job satisfaction that has value if you can marry those two concepts.
One of the things that I teach and live by is everything is a process. We talked about the life scripts and outlining the destination letters as part of the destination as well. The journey to get there is even more important than the destination. That’s a process. If you look at everything in nature, which is the most powerful energy that there is. It goes through a process and it’s creativity. Everything that exists, it went through a process. It takes ten years for a type of tree to reach this maximum size. It takes nine months for human beings to be born. Everything has an incubation period, a development period, a process. When you have an idea, the idea is like a seed. You have a goal or an objective. It’s like a seed in its infant stages. It requires the process in order for it to cultivate and develop into its maximum state or in this case, to get to your destination. You don’t say, “I want to go to New York,” and then snap your fingers and you’re in New York. Technology hasn’t advanced that fast yet. You have to get packed. You have to get on a plane and get there. You have to do all the things that it takes in order to get from here to New York or here to wherever.
Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, you’re trying to bring forward and when you can love the process, it says something. It’s not so much of the feeling of not having it now. You’re enjoying everything that you’re doing along the way. When you have a mission behind it, for me, it’s my contribution. I talked about nature. It goes through this process of creating certain things and everything that it creates that has the purpose. I’ve associated its purpose and existence is for me to enjoy to some degree. I feel like the ocean, the sun, and the moon and the birds, there are things that we receive in the form of value because those things exist.
To know things didn’t appear they went through a process. It had to go through that process in order to exist in because it did go through the process and that’s what it’s contributing, I get to enjoy it. When we’re going through a process within our lives, whatever it is, how uncomfortable it is at times, we have to remember that. When we get to the other side of whatever it is or through the process, there’s going to be a contribution. Not so much the arrival to a destination, but a contribution that’s given and others are going to be able to benefit from that. That could be the driving force. You know that for you with OnlineDegree, but to lay down at night and know that people are going to be able to obtain degrees that are going to change their lives.
We talked about you have a ripple effect on the world. That makes going through the process that much sweeter and necessary. You become more determined to do that. It’s not so much because you get something, it’s because of the contribution that we get to give as a result of that. It’s not so much that but it’s what happens if we don’t do that. That makes it even more powerful. Having a mission can drive you to do things that may be seemingly impossible. For me, I’m passionate about this topic because if it wasn’t for having the opportunity to be an inspiration to others, to bridge, to show others how to overcome adversity.
To be an example of what it looks like to overcome adversity and trauma. To have a process that I can share with people to overcome challenges, difficulty, and complex situations that may show up in life. To be honest with you, Grant, I would still be lying in the bed because that was my driving force to get up and go on with life in the face of challenge and adversity. When you have that foundation that’s driving you forward and especially when it’s something that can contribute to someone else’s success in life and their contribution, that’s a powerful thing.
That’s something people miss the way you put that. People, a lot of times think of life as what they are going to get out of it. When you think of it as, “What am I going to contribute?” It’s both. It’s what am I going to get out of it and what I’m going to provide as well, which is awesome. I love that because you’re right. I remember for a period of time, I was interested in hearing what people’s thoughts were when they reflected at the end of life to provide insight on how to lead a better life. Much of it always came down to the effect that they have on their family and friends and those around them. What’s a bigger endorsement of contribution than that I was able to contribute to their happiness, to their wellbeing? It’s a powerful way that you put that.
I’ve had the opportunity and the privilege to interview a lot of people that have validated that thought process. They even talk about how they’ve been around. I’ve interviewed a lot of high-level people. They find that many people who get to the destination, they get the money, fame and all of those things and they’re still unfulfilled. You have to question like, “How can you have it all and still be unfulfilled?” To me, that’s seemingly impossible. It was that way before I knew better before I became even wiser. Those things are temporary. They’re like drugs.
A better analogy is sugar. Sugar doesn’t have a long-lasting effect but when it hits you, it’s like, “This is great.” You get that hit of sugar in your life but then it wears off and it goes away. What do you need? You need more sugar. You want to go make more money, get more cars, more houses and more. It’s how it makes you feel. It doesn’t last. They found that when you live your life, you are a personal contribution and you find that thing about you that brings value to other people, it becomes a purpose in your life. It’s like you found your purpose and you get fulfillment out of providing that, being that. When your life is driven by what you can give to others and the impact that it has on them, especially when it’s positive and there’s so much fulfillment.
You cannot have all the money. Maybe that doesn’t grant you all the money in the world. Maybe it doesn’t grant you the G5 and the G6, or billions of dollars. Maybe not even a whole lot of recognition, but when you lay your head down at night you’re fulfilled. You feel good about who you are, what you do, and your life. I don’t think happiness is what we’re looking for. Fulfillment is what we’re looking for. We are confused about the emotions of happiness and fulfillment. When we can get that right and find what brings us fulfillment when you find fulfillment it makes you happy. We’re looking for money and all of those things to make us happy but once we get it, we find that it doesn’t. Social media is to blame for that, but that’s another show.
When we can find fulfillment and that’s the aim because when you know what brings you fulfillment, whatever it takes, the journey, the challenges, the obstacles that all goes away because you’re fulfilled even in the pursuit of it because of what it brings to you. If you follow what I’m saying, it’s not a challenge. Even though it’s challenging, but the process of cultivating and improving your purpose in life becomes more enjoyable than going through a process or challenge of things that aren’t aligned with your purpose. You’re more subject to quit and give up.
Fulfillment in my mind is the key to ultimate happiness, pleasure, and joy in life. That’s one of the things that’s missing whenever we set out to go to college, get a degree, or set out on any endeavor. To take this even further, most of us go to college because, “I want to make a certain type of salary. I want to be this or that because they make an amount of money a year.” How many people that you know that say, “I want to be this because of a salary.” It’s not because they enjoy it. It’s because, “If I’m this, I can make this much, and then I can do this and I can do that.” They completely neglected whether or not that’s going to be fulfillment. What you find is along the way, “I don’t know if I want to do this.” There’s a lack of fulfillment. Fulfillment is a driver.
By the way, you and I see completely eye to eye on this about that. Also, our view of what you alluded to is social media. I’m sure we fall well in line on that and I agree that is everything because you get out of this trap of materialistic things. The fickle things and that sugar rush to make us happy. You have to know what is going to make you fulfilled. One of the things that dovetail well with the one thing that has worked the best for me that everybody has to answer is a 3,000-year-old maxim from ancient Greece, which is to know thyself. I love that one. I’m a big ancient history buff. The background of that for your audience is that there was the Temple of Wisdom and Apollo was the God of Wisdom. In ancient Greece on the temple was inscribed, “Know thyself.” As you walked in ancient Greece, the logic behind that was, how could you know anything if you don’t know yourself? To me, what’s sad is people go their entire lives never asking themselves that question and getting an honest answer.Any path you take in life is way longer than you think it’s going to be. You better enjoy it or it's going to make you miserable. Click To Tweet
If you do, to your point, how can you be fulfilled if you don’t know what will fulfill you? You don’t know yourself and what’s going to fulfill you because that’s everything, you nailed it. That’s the Northern Star. That’s the guiding light. If you can figure that out earlier than later, you’re going to be happy throughout, and then everything lines up, then money doesn’t become the end-all-be-all. It becomes a piece of that plan that you’d like to have because it achieves something else like, “I want a more fulfilling career. If I can afford this, I can do X with that.” It doesn’t become the goal in itself.
It’s on point and to bring even more clarity, I feel identity. Out of all of the successful people that I’ve interviewed, everything has always come back to identity. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and I’ve had a traumatizing accident that I’ve overcome on my own. What I’ve learned is that it all comes back to identity. If you want to know the secret, the secret is identity and your identity is your compass. Before you decide what type of degree, profession, the business you want to start, investments you want to get into, you have to understand your own DNA makeup. The way you think, the things that you love and the things you don’t like. You mash all that together into this beautiful human being that you are, how do you contribute to the world?
You have a start and end date and in between, you have to ask yourself, “What am I most equipped to contribute to the world?” When you start looking at who you are, your likes and dislikes, the things that you love, you’re good at and you are not so good at, you are getting a sneak peek at how you are supposed to. You are designed to contribute to this world, into the people around you, the economy, and the community. This is how you fit in. Purpose and identity are closely related. When you are taking a look at this and you can get clarity around how you are built. You won’t build a house with grass. You build a house with a tree because the design of that material is more suitable to build a house.
If you want a stronger house, you build that with a brick because that material is even stronger than wood. When you think about, in the building of a community, the building of a world, how do you fit in? You’ve got to get to know your own material. That’s your character, desires, wants, needs, likes and dislikes. You can get to know yourself. You can understand how you fit in to make the world what it’s supposed to be, which is a beautiful, loving, life-giving place. That’s how you start and you use these tools like your degrees, education, networks of individuals, collaborations, business people, and mastermind. We can go on with all the tools that are out there to bring your contribution forward. You can’t do everything, but you’ve got to understand what that unique thing is that you can do. That’s what you do. You hire or leverage everyone else through your network. You do you and then you support everybody else. Everybody supports you to do you.
That’s how this thing works but it all comes back to identity. If you don’t get this right. This is your compass. If you don’t get the compass right, stay home. Your compass must be working before you set out. You don’t leave the shore without a good navigation system. Once your navigation system is set and you know how to navigate because you know who you are. You know you’re not going to go left because there’s nothing over there for you. It doesn’t support the goal and the mission, which is based on your identity, how you’re going to show up, and how you can contribute.
You see this, I’m sure we’re far even more than I do. It almost seems reckless, although it’s the life that people do that move forward without that compass and that navigation. We have to plow forward, but no one ever thinks, “Maybe I should look down and know which direction I’m going in.”
You base it on superficial materialistic types of things. Don’t let that be your compass. Don’t move out with that being your compass. The funny thing about it is I have enough confidence in you that in whatever you set out to do or go, you’re going to get there. I don’t want you to get there and realize that’s not the mark.
This wasn’t worth the journey.
Grant, how can people connect with you if they wanted to learn more about you, work with you, maybe invite you to come to speak?
I’d love it when you check out the project, which is OnlineDegree.com. Keep up with what we’re doing and seeing everything. We’re getting tons of universities coming onboard, media, students. It’s been a neat ride. Other than that, I’m active on LinkedIn, which is a good medium. If you search me, you type in Grant Aldrich or OnlineDegree. You’ll most likely find me. I’d love to hear from people and connect there. It would be great.
I want to say thank you for coming on the show. It’s been a wonderful and insightful conversation. Thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for your uniqueness and how you are contributing to make this world a better place into the support of life itself is game-changing. I appreciate it. As we bring the show to a close, we always like to end with a game-changing mentality message. I always ask every guest, what is the game-changer mentality message you would like to leave with us?
Thank you for having me. I enjoyed this. I was been looking forward to this for a long time. I’m flattered to even be in your presence. After everything we talked about, the way that I would distill that is to know thyself. For me, that was the game-changer mentality because once I had the time to ask myself, then I feel lucky that I did at that point and I’ve got that new compass as opposed to 5, 10 years from now, maybe never. I feel like every day I have a good chance to be fulfilled and happy. I would encourage everybody to do that.
Thank you, Grant, for coming on the show.
Rodney, thank you for having me.
It’s another successful episode. Know thyself is wonderful advice. Sometimes we look for profound or sophisticated information that’s going to change the game or cause some drastic change in the right direction or positively in our lives. Sometimes that can be to our detriment in and of itself because I found that the most powerful and impactful information is simplistic, simple, and practical. When you look at sports, a lot of times, we get excited about the slam dunks or the long passes or the home runs, the sexy play in events that occur. We have to take a step back and realize that the reason why those athletes are able to do those spectacular things is that they’ve mastered the basics, which are simple, practical, and fundamental steps towards success. Knowing thyself is a practical, simple, and fundamental step to success. Until next time, peace and love.
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About Grant Aldrich
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college more accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their college education. Grant has spent his entire career working in startups with nearly 15 years of experience and 2 prior exits to a publicly traded company. He has been a board member and donor to a number of non-profits, an advisor to many publicly traded companies and a guest speaker at seminars and graduate school courses. He graduated with honors from University of California Irvine in Economics.
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