Manifesto for My Heroic Path

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

There is real power in seeing yourself as a hero. Because then you believe that you can do anything. — Jenny Han

Does Everyone’s Path Include College?

Each year more than twenty million Americans are enrolled in college. About 59% of all bachelor’s degree seekers will actually get one. Over 35 million Americans have tried college and then dropped out short of a degree. That’s a lot of time, effort, and money (much in the form of student loan debt) to be in that 41% who do not complete.

If your life goals require college, you should be able to affordably start and finish college. If you don’t want or need college, you should be able to meet your life goals without the setback of starting, but not finishing higher education. 

And wouldn’t it be great to know what you want and how to get it?

Origins Story

My Heroic Path was born out a conversation that my co-founder David and I had about how we could help more people graduate from college. David and I have both spent most of our professional lives in higher education…almost 60 years of experience across more than 6 universities. We have been professors, chief academic officers, and presidents. In late 2018, we both found ourselves looking for what to do next. I was in the process of closing-down the university where I was president, and David was doing consulting for several universities. We started out with a monthly call to share ideas and discuss what we were working on to get feedback from each other.

Then one day David brought me an idea from a program that had built free courses that a student could use to convert to college credit. In our brainstorming, we talked about the challenges that students have is not in ability but in having a strong enough vision for why they are in school to motivate them to overcome every obstacle in their path to graduation.

Most of out experience is in serving non-traditional students – working adults often with families who are pursuing higher education to improve their career opportunities. While these students have a good reason to be in college, often they struggle to see how the classes they are taking align with their goals. Study time must compete with work, family, and other commitments. Often students feel like while they want a degree, others don’t provide the support that they need.

Most of the discussion around the value of a college degree focuses on the cost of tuition. This discussion, though, misses the time and energy costs of earning a degree. A full-time undergraduate student takes 7-10 classes a year for four years. Each class requires about 10 hours a week of class and homework. Most working adults do not have a free 700-1000 hours per year. Instead of going full-time, they attend part-time. This reduces the workload, but it extends the time to degree from 4 years to 8 years. Eight years is the same time a child spends in elementary and middle school combined.

Our original conversation was about how we could help people work a plan to be successful, while reducing the time and cost to get a college degree. Out of that conversation, though, came our realization that sometimes, college is not the right answer. Maybe other kinds of education would be more effective for someone to achieve their goals.

Out of this conversation we committed that our purpose is to help others discover and complete their heroic path. Be it to a college degree or another valued, personal purpose.

What is a Heroic Path?

We started with the idea that everyone is the hero/heroine of their own life story, whether they realize it or not. The actions we choose to take or not take cause things to happen in the world and those effects come back to us in the form of feedback.

When you are stuck in a career that does not meet your needs, or find yourself like David and I did, looking for the next opportunity, the world is giving you feedback that you may need to change what you are doing to achieve a different result.

In our experience, we have known many students start college with the goal of change and progress, only to not make it to graduation. We believe that your heroic path begins with your purpose…what you hope to achieve in the world including career, community, and family. If you don’t have a clear and strong purpose, it is hard to do what needs to be done. Achieving your purpose requires change, and change requires learning.

The heroic path is learning that is Personalized, Active, Transformational, and Holistic.

Personalized – Most formal education is mass education. Courses and degree programs are offered off-the-shelf in one size. Personalized learning is learning that aligns to your goals and leverages what you already know and can do.

Active – Most formal education is passive. The learner reads a book, watches videos, and attends lectures then must pass an exam showing how much they remember. Unfortunately, the real world wants people who can solve problems and make decisions. Your value to the world is defined not by what you know but what you can do. Active learning engages students in doing projects and solving problems first and using learning to support those activities.

Transformational – Most formal education is transactional. A student pays tuition and receives access to content. Transformational learning helps you see a vision of your future self and to have what you need to change. Becoming a teacher or a nurse or any other professional is not simply about acquiring knowledge. It is also about developing a new identity.

Holistic – Most formal education limits itself to things that can be learned from books. While this type of knowledge is important, it is only one of four domains of learning. In addition to cognitive learning, learning has emotional, physical, and social components. For example, being a leader is more than just knowing leadership theories. It is also how you interact with others and how you manage your own emotions during stress and conflict. Being an accountant is more than knowing what debits and credits are. It is also about how to act like an accountant and to do the things accountants do, such as enter data accurately, use Excel and other applications to generate reports, and then how to present those reports to others.

A heroic path requires learning in all these areas to move you in the right direction to achieve your purpose. When we make learning our superpower, we can accomplish and achieve anything.

How Can You Find and Follow Your Path?

David and I have set out on our own heroic paths. Our purpose is to help others identify their purpose, map the path to achieve their purpose, and take the journey they have mapped. We have a website, take coaching appointments, write books, are building classes, and most of all, we are here to help others. 

You don’t have to risk your time and money, not to mention your hopes and dreams, not knowing your path and how to take it. One way to get started is to read our article, Life’s Too Short to Hate Your Job at our website, myHeroicPath.com, and to download the free report on good jobs, listing both those that do and don’t require a college degree.