When we were kids, the adults towering above us always said, “Stay in school.” They said school is essential for little kids to grow into successful adults. They reminded us over and over again that all those savagely boring hours we spent in the classroom or doing homework would eventually pay off. And whenever we would question this system, they would question us back, asking “How do you expect to become somebody if you don’t go to school?”
It may be true that a lot of kids who drop out of school early end up steering their adult lives right into the gutter. A lack of discipline and motivation can leave someone wading in the middle of an ocean with no land in sight, doing their best not to drown. But when someone has a passion for a singular thing, and their passion is combined with an unshakable will, formal education becomes an obstacle best skipped entirely.
The following are 10 cultural titans who broke free of their educational shackles and learned their craft through tangible experience in the real world. Their great drive and instinct allowed them to climb up the economic ladder and become some of the richest people on the planet. And they did it all without a fancy degree.
10. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was the co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc. His tragic passing in 2011 has shaken the world, but his legacy stands: Apple’s worth was estimated to be $1.4 trillion in May 2015. At one point, the company’s cash reserves exceeded that of the U.S. government. Such a feat surely requires a degree at a damn good college, right?
Wrong. Steve Jobs had no college degree. He dropped out of Reed College because he did not want to spend his adoptive parents’ (who could barely afford the payments) money on college. He did, however, audit a calligraphy course, and he attributes the Mac’s multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts to what he learned there.
9. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is a philanthropist, fashion designer, and founder of the Ralph Lauren Corporation clothing company. Lauren is world-renowned for his rare automobile collection, and was declared Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. Oh, and he’s worth about $6.3 billion.
Lauren had a two year stint in New York City’s Baruch College, but dropped out to join the army before earning his degree. Upon completing his military service, Lauren began designing neckties in 1976. The rest is history.
8. Richard Branson
Richard Branson is an England-born investor and business tycoon known for founding the Virgin Group, an umbrella conglomerate with over 400 companies under it. His current net worth is estimated to be around $5 billion, which includes a lovely island in Australia called Makepeace Island.
While most of the billionaires on this list called their formal education quits in college, Branson didn’t even make it out of high school, dropping out when he was just 16. On his last day of school, his headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. He was off by one letter.