What American Students Do and Indian Students Don't

Economically, America is the most successful country in the world. It's no surprise that the biggest and most successful companies and technologies are from America - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google - the famous FANG and others like SpaceX, Tesla, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, AT&T, Intel, IBM, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs - the list is unending. Where does this culture of innovation and entrepreneurship come from?


Reading a few biographies like those of Phil Knight - the founder of Nike or Steve Jobs - the founder of Apple and similar other successful people, you can clearly see a pattern. Let's look at some of the short summaries of their life before they made it big. Let's see if you can pick the common thread -

  1. Phil Knight (Nike) Graduated from high school - summer job as a local sport's journalist - went to college and studied Journalism - joined the army - came back and studied business at Stanford - worked as an accountant for C&L and PwC - went on a world trip to see cultures - became a trader of Japanese Onitsuka Tiger shoes in US - started designing shoes - Started Nike

  2. Steve Jobs (Apple) Struggled in school - started building electronic products at home - at 13 took a job at HP (Hewlett & Packard) - Joined Reed College - Dropped out after 1st semester - started taking Calligraphy classes because he liked it - Looked for a job and joined Atari Computers as a low level technician - Traveled to India, stayed in Ashrams of Neem Karoli Baba & Haidakhan Baba in Nainital - Again took a job with Atari Computers - Became passionate about computers and started attending Computer clubs - Started Apple with Steve Wozniak building computers in his garage

  3. Bill Gates Started programming in school at age of 13 and loved it - At 14 took a part time job with a computer company (CCC) to debug their computers - At 15 designed a class scheduling program for his school teachers - At 17 started a small company (Traf-O-Data) to make traffic counters - Joined Harvard to study law - Dropped out of Harvard after 2 years - Started Microsoft with Paul Allen in his garage

  4. Elon Musk Started liking computer programming at age 10 living in South Africa - Bullied in school and became a loner - At age 12 made a computer game and sold it for $500 - At 18 went to Canada and got lost and stayed in youth hostels - Worked in a Farm - Worked in a lumber mill (wood) and saved money - At 20 went to University of Pennsylvania and graduated with BA in Physics and BSc in Economics - Started internship at Pinnacle Research Institute and Rocket Science Games simultaneously - Got admission at PhD in Material Science at Stanford - Dropped out in 2 days - Started looking for internet jobs - Founded Zip2 with friends and sold it, getting $22 million - Used his money to start X.com, Paypal and sold them - Used his money to start SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, Boring Company, Neuralink, OpenAI and Hyperloop.

  5. Jeff Bezos Top student in school - took a part time job at McDonalds as a cook - Attended Princeton University for Electrical Engineering - Worked at a Finance company Fitel - Joined as Product manager at Banker's Trust - Worked at DE shaw & Co on mathemetical modeling and became a VP at age 30 - Resigned his job - 1993 opened an online book store Cadabra in his garage - Started Amazon ecommerce and web services and Blue Origin space company

These are the most successful entrepreneurs the world has seen. And their life was not a simple - good marks in school to good college to high paying job story. The common theme is that all of them worked summer jobs and tried different things hands-on in school by working part time jobs, making things in their home, trying to solve some problem or the other.


This is the biggest thing to learn from American students. You may thing this is only a story of 5 successful people. No it's not. Most students in America follow the same trajectory. They try small odd jobs and learn professionalism and importance of money early in life. They do not take those jobs to just earn money but to understand how the real world works. They get a taste of reality early in life, they try new things, build with their own hands and most importantly they are always looking to solve problems and find what they would love to do.


In India, even today, very few students have hands-on experience of building something themselves even up to the age of 30 when they are trapped in a job and have family responsibilities in their hands. While age may not be a constraint if you have a dream but school time is a time in our lives without responsibilities and a carefree life - this is a time which students can use to find what they love to do.


The advice to students today is very simple - Build.


In today's bonus video, we learn about a DIY (do-it-yourself) small, cheap computer - Raspberry PI or Arduino. Students can buy it on Amazon and use this small computer which comes with cameras and sensors with which you can build your own products for school project or home automation. If you want, you and 4-5 friends can collaborate to buy a set and make your own interesting products. You might find a great idea and build the next great product for the world. That's what the stories tell us. Now go Build.


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