I caught up with a few friends recently.
One is a copywriter working maybe 2 hours a day — on a busy day — and making 6 figures.
One has helped develop the sales department of multiple SaaS companies, and is on track to be a millionaire by the end of the year. He’s 25.
Another one started her own marketing agency at 19, and is running a newsletter with an 84% open rate.
None of us have college degrees.
Actually, none of us have any type of formal credentialing in our fields at all. We’re not “qualified” on paper to be crushing it in business. Two of us are college dropouts, and two of us never went.
We all took flak when we made the decision not to go to school — “you’re not going to be successful if you don’t get a degree!”
And yet, most of us have now surpassed the people who told us that.
I landed my dream job at 21 and left it at 24 to go build my own thing, and I’m the least successful person on this list.
The moral of this story?
You don’t need anybody’s qualification in order to be successful
It’s a common fallacy that you have to be “qualified” in order to do things.
Our more bureaucratic and regulated industries — like the medical field and the public school system — operate on a system of qualifications. It’s hierarchical and logical, and it’s what we learn about growing up, so we just assume that’s how the rest of the world works too.
But it actually doesn’t. In most things we’ll pursue in life, whether or not you’re qualified doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whether or not you can do what you’ve promised, and do it effectively.
My friend didn’t need to have a business degree to go help people make their sales organizations better. He just needed to understand sales better than the person who was hiring him, and deliver results. Which he did. Which is why he’s been so successful.
If he’d let himself fall into the trap of thinking “I’m not qualified for this,” he never would’ve started.
Many of us fall into that trap. And that’s why many of us never accomplish the things we’d love to do — but think we aren’t ready to tackle.
- Landed a sales role after dropping out of college
- Learned about sales on the job (and put in the time and effort to crush it)
- Started talking about what he was doing — a lot — to build credibility
- Pitched himself to startups as a sales consultant, pointing to his previous accomplishments as a source of credibility
- Crushed those consulting gigs, and used them as leverage to land even bigger clients
His clients only cared about the results he was able to create — so his track record was his qualification.
Thinking you need qualifications is the leading cause of never getting started
Seriously — it’s where dreams go to die.
We think focusing on qualifications is helping us be successful, but really thinking you need qualifications is holding you back.
See again: most of my friends have surpassed the people who told us we wouldn’t be successful if we didn’t go to college — and we’re still only in our 20s.
There’s a very specific reason why. Those people who said “you can’t do that” are stuck looking at the world through the lens of a long list of “can’t”s. You can’t be successful without a degree, you can’t make money in X until you’re an expert, you can’t be an expert unless you’re qualified, etc. etc.
When you see the world through a list of “can’t”s, every idea ends in a roadblock.
“It would be nice to start a blog on writing, but I need more success as a writer first before I teach other people how to write.”
See how that’s a nice little vicious cycle? For multiple reasons:
- You aren’t going to learn about writing unless you write. So as long as you tell yourself you’re not ready, you’ll continue to be … not ready.
- If you aren’t writing, you’ll never gain credibility. The doing must come first, and the credibility will follow.
- If you’ve ever written anything in your life (even just a school paper), you already know enough about writing to get started
Fill in the blank for me: “I want to create content talking about _____.”
Okay. That’s good. Now:
What do you know about _____?
Go talk about that stuff.
Seriously. That’s all you need to do to get started.
If you know even a little bit more than the next person, you have something valuable to share. So go share it!
The danger of hiding behind our lack of “qualifications”
Every conversation about qualifications should come with a warning label. Danger: may lead to injury or even death (of your dreams). Engage at your own risk.
Because — not only is it a fallacy to think you need qualifications, but it also becomes an excuse.
Like Steven Pressfield talks about in his book The War of Art, doing important work is scary and hard. We love to find excuses to not do it. And “I’m not ready to start” is a really good one. It’s so good we don’t even recognize it as an excuse. It feels . . . real.
People who think they need qualifications write off their dreams as unrealistic and never start.
When you rid yourself of this belief that you need qualifications to be successful, the whole world is yours to engage with.
You just have to replace the concept of “qualifications” with something else — “what do I know that I can use to be valuable to other people?”
You don’t need qualifications, you just need to know a thing or two
Literally. Sometimes just one or two is enough.
Jed Mahrle is a great example of this. When he started his first sales job at age 19, he also started a weekly newsletter where he shared what he was learning.
He didn’t need to be a sales expert in order to be useful to other people. He just needed to be smarter than he’d been the week before.
For somebody starting their first sales role, Jed’s insights from his first month on the job could help smooth their own onboarding process.
Jed was no expert. But he was still valuable to people.
The proof was in the results: within six months of starting his newsletter, he’d landed multiple job offers, sponsorship opportunities, other writing gigs, and hundreds of followers.
The world took him seriously— because he shared the things he was learning about, and those things were valuable to people, even if he wasn’t an “expert” yet, or even “qualified” to share.
Whatever dreams you’re sitting on, whatever thing you want to go build but just don’t feel “ready” yet — stop telling yourself you’re not qualified. If you know more than somebody just getting started in your field, then you’re more than ready to talk about it.
So go do the thing.