Is grit worth more than your degree?

As college graduates enter the workforce for the first time, expectations and reality can be a bitter pill to swallow. In a world driven by instant gratification, a degree can leave graduates feeling entitled to a certain level of compensation. Employers seek out applicants that have at least some college education, but it certainly doesn’t end with a degree. Faced with a competitive job market, high rents, and student debt, job seekers must find alternative ways to create value. We have a lot to learn from industry leaders who found a unique way to add value, refusing to jump ship at the first sign of failure.

These entrepreneurs struck gold despite dropping out of college,

1) Bill Gatesbill gates

Bill Gates developed an extraordinary perspective on technology, which led him to leave Harvard and start Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975. Gates was underestimated in the early years of Microsoft because of his age. Established professionals in the industry often refused to take him seriously and resources for his business were hard to acquire. While his peers would consider this a huge setback, Gates attributes this fact to much of his success. He found a way to execute on his vision and according to Gates, “when people are first skeptical and they think, ‘oh this kid doesn’t know anything’, then when you show them that you really have a good product and know something, they actually tend to go overboard.”

mark zukerburg.png2) Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg left school to pursue, which now carries a valuation of over $500 billion. From the very beginning of Facebook, Zuckerberg faced several legal controversies that could have easily disrupted the company. Overcoming these trials allowed Zuckerberg to understand what was truly important to him, saying, “the thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open.” The ability to share our ideas openly and with full transparency will benefit society for generations. Zuckerberg connects this idea with the importance of having a mentor and reiterates his own mentor, Steve Jobs, who said, “focus on building as high quality and good things as you are.”

john mackey 3) John Mackey

John Mackey dropped out of college to start SaferWay, a health food store that didn’t sell products containing sugar, alcohol, or white flour. Losing half of his original investment within the first year of the company, Mackey realized that he needed to reevaluate the execution of his company’s objective. In order to provide our generation with foods that they wanted to buy, Mackey focused on healthier living, “just not in a full of judgment way.” Even though Mackey’s original business model failed to generate a profit, he reminds us that, “the right actions undertaken for the right reasons generally lead to good outcomes over time.”


These highly successful entrepreneurs embody the definition of grit, proving their courage and strength of character. Whether you’re aspiring to be an entrepreneur or working your way up in an established company, the ability to manage and conquer the fear of failure will always determine your success. People who have grit aren’t afraid to tank, but actually see it as part of the process. It doesn’t take a degree to change the trajectory of your life, it begins with starting and never looking back.


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