Short Circuiting the System: 5 Human Examples

In a non arrogant way, short circuiting the system says:

“We don’t really give a sh*t what the ‘rule book’ says.”

This is the path of many what we see as successful leaders and business people today.

The way I view it, is a culmination of self-education, seeing the flaws in formality, looking at them not in arrogance, but compassionately. We can call it reverse engineered education.

Hearing the title of this post on a Tim Ferriss podcast with Glenn Beck, the destination was kicked off. I have to say this is one of the most profound interviews I have listened to. It is my personal opinion, yes, however, I highly, highly recommend it.

Tim widely known for his best seller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated). You can hear him throughout the interview, (I am sure I wasn’t ‘hearing things’).. pausing, taking a measured gasp in astonishment with the responses he was hearing. If he wasn’t doing it, there were times when I was. Great interview. Enough said.

What we can learn from ‘short circuiting’. I took it upon myself to dive into five human examples, commonly known where this has occurred. There are many others we could use, some widely published, others not so. Some with lessor net worth, some with more. Many fit into this category. All in all the learning experiences can be paralleled.

We’ll start with where I stole the title of this post from..

Glenn Beck

Forbes slots this gentleman well into its top 100 at #39 of the worlds most powerful celebrities, with a modest net worth of $90 million.

He could barely afford one class at Yale when he decided at the age of thirty to head there and have a crack. This didn’t last too long.

Glenn carries a fascinating story. A man whom bucks the trend and has certainly lived with one foot on either side of the line. By listening to his story and diving a little deeper, it is clear there was a genuine non deliberateness in regards to monetary success.

‘Something weird inside of us tells us that we are not good enough’. Glenn’s self reflection and honesty as the founder of The Blaze, a breaking news platform initiated from his roots boasts millions and millions of unique views. It’s hard to believe this precluding statement with this under your belt. 

Tim completed the interview with reversing the processes. Giving Glenn the mic to ask one question. The question was..

“What role have you played in the dialogue of humanity?”

Quite powerful and Glenn leads on to ask, is it positive or negative?

A sticking point for me from listening to Glenn was:

“Agree on Principle”

Steve Jobs  Bill Gates

Thought it prudent to put these two opposites, or not so opposites together. Bill Gates a college drop out. Steve Jobs the same with his well documented issues with schooling.

Opposites or not what both these guys did was short-circuit the system and started things that nobody else could match. Gates slightly different to Jobs, one wanted to run the world the other more artisan. Leave that for you to decipher. 

Most of Steve Job’s opinion on this topic can be summed up in these 15 quotes published.

There are so many to go with here. I randomly chose these to publish in the body. You can click the link to read them all.

“[In school] I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.” – Steve Jobs

“I’m a very big believer in equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcome. Equal opportunity to me, more than anything, means a great education. Maybe even more important than a great family life. We could make sure that every young child in this country got a great education. We fall far short of that.” – Steve Jobs

“I’d like the people teaching my kids to be good enough that they could get a job at the company I work for, making a hundred thousand dollars a year. Why should they work at a school for thirty-five to forty thousand dollars if they could get a job here at a hundred thousand dollars a year?” – Steve Jobs

“If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”[54]

Gates, possibly the most famous billionaire dropout. He was relieved from Maths class in high school to concentrate on computer programming. After enrolling at Harvard with no definitive study plan that fit with curriculum the mould he spent most of his time in computer rooms.

Gates made the decision to leave Harvard behind and found his own company, being Microsoft, with long-time friend Paul Allen. The company’s value is irrelevant but is common knowledge it is in the hundreds of billions.


“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”


“Don’t compare yourself to anyone in this world. If you do so, you are insulting yourself”

James Altuchur

James is possibly one of the most vocal candidates in today’s society in regards to this topic. Somewhat with more of an aggressive approach. Not literally but lets revert back to the beginning here and call it compassion or passion. Here is a link that over arches many articles James has submitted on this.

James biography is extensive. Most famously known for stockpkr and now his self branded podcast, books, newsletters and blogging. He is on record to say that he gives permission for his children to leave school. Easier said than done, however that is how strongly he feels about this and his view on ways to educate and live the life you want. Making a difference along the way.

James’s details experiences and gives tools in these two best sellers, Choose Yourself! and The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth. Powerful reads.

Sticking point for me from James:

“Let people see who you are”

 Peter Thiel

In 1998 Thiel co-founded PayPal, an online payments system, with Max Levchin. The company later merged with, then headed by Elon Musk.

It is far better to have 50% of something than 100% of nothing as they say. Never truer words said in this case. One of the most, if not the most prolific joining of forces in the modern-day. 

Author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter’s book is a must read. Written pointedly in a relative way for all to understand. Watch this space for more on Peter’s book.

As far as formal education goes, Thiel studied 20th-century philosophy as an undergraduate at Stanford University. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Stanford in 1989 and acquired a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1992.[13]

 Peter’s answers here in an interview in line with our topic:

I think what’s very dangerous about college is the enormous amount of debts people are taking on [to finance their education]. What you’re learning and what it’s good for become much more common questions… It’s important that we answer these questions before we [get into debt].

Whilst Peter has formal education as you will find with most of these guys, to a certain extent anyway. They have strong opinions of the risk reward especially in the entrepreneurial space.

I think a lot of Millennials have been pushed to compete all their lives for these educational prizes and I think it’s important to somehow break from that and to think about what’s valuable, what’s important and to not always be defined against your peers, which I think has been set as a standard for the Millennial generation.

 Peter started the ‘Thiel Fellowship’. Something that sparked a national debate by encouraging young people to put learning before schooling.

One of many sticking points:

“Give members of your team one unique thing to do”

What do these people have in common?

They all short circuited the system. Some by extreme consciousness, others by default or following their own informal path.

They have or are all leaders and founders of multimillion/billion dollar companies. Most if it being out of curiosity and starting somewhat lean from the outset following their interests and beliefs.

The way I see it, is the eye was not always on the prize. Extreme sacrifices, simply concentrating on the present not knowing really what the outcome was going to be.

Most of the time was spent on exploring, pushing the limits in various ways. Not following or looking to be what the majority looked at positively in a social sense or succumbing to expectations and validation.

Resources that we have today, it would be extremely ignorant and doing an injustice to oneself not to explore this. An immense amount of tangible literature, learning tools and shall I say mentors whether physical or virtual can be drawn on. Priceless information and learning to enhance our lives.

On a personal note I feel it would be naive not to be aware of what we have available to us from an ‘informal’ nature. Perhaps as we are starting to see some of these so-called ‘informal’ teaching methods are infiltrating some of our most well know campuses as we speak.

Yes this is resonant for me from an early age however short circuiting the system for me is not about deliberately becoming a college drop out. That would be naive in itself, right? Everyone has different motivations and views. The answer well may lay in a hybrid version of both. Point being is to explore our options and open up to unleash our most productive learning and creativity.

A philosophical quote:

Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library)

For a bit of fun we’ll finish this post with an exercise from Claudia’s Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century and have idea sex, why not?!

I get this concept and other than being fun, there is a practical side to it. With each sticking point quote from our examples, we’ll come up with a closing one combining them all. Here is mine:

“Build uniqueness, don’t compare. Lead with who you are and agree in humanity”

Read. Write. Learn. Look beyond.


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