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3 Reasons Why I Think Making it Public is a Bad Idea

micOne thing I keep reading over and over again about goal-setting is that it is important to make your goals known to other people – that way they can hold you accountable to them. One way it has been recommended to do this is making it public: telling every person you meet, posting about it on social media (and posting about your progress), and/or writing on your blog or website about the goal.

I think all of these are terrible ideas.

Here’s 3 reasons why:

1. It’s all talk, no action

Sure, it’s really great to get excited about a project or goal and then run around telling everyone you know so that they can be excited with you. And ideally, this means that when you run into one of these people three months later at Earthfare and they ask you how your beekeeping extravaganza is going, you’ll be able to say “I have a whole acre of beehives!” and not “Oh…that old thing…uh, that was just a couple of days I wanted to do that, it kinda fizzled out once I remembered I am terrified of bees.”

I’ve done this often enough, and honestly I am tired of telling people about an idea I have, only to have later moved on while they still think I’ve really got my shit together this time. Talking about something I’m pumped about, just to get myself pumped more and, you know, hopefully eventually propel myself to action? It hardly ever works.

When I’ve got something going on, when I’m in the thick of it, perhaps that’s when I can start talking about it. Because now it’s real, it’s tangible, it’s not just another idea I’ve had this week.

2. Involving others to that extent makes it about how people view me, not how I view myself

Suddenly, I start relying upon the feedback I get for the idea, for the progression of the project, and for the finished product, as the only reason I am doing what I am doing. “Ooh, how many ‘likes’ did I get for my new mailbox garden or the eighth-inch I’ve gained in my biceps??” and “Oh man, SO many people have shared my video on what I’ve learned about soldering, it feels good.”

These are NOT bad thoughts to have. Almost all of us crave positive public opinion to some degree or another (and, obviously, making a video about soldering techniques is a great way to create a deliverable). But if this feedback is the only driving force behind something we’re working on, we seriously need to reexamine our priorities.

In my own case, I know if I let people’s opinions take over as my sole driving force, I really lose any motivation at all and start wishing nobody knew about a project, because it’s become all about them and not about me and what I want to accomplish for myself.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting feedback; likewise there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make people happy: writing a book is helpful and/or entertaining for people; planting a garden makes people smile when they come over to your house; working out gains a community of like-minded individuals with similar interests with whom you can swap interesting tips and strategies with. Just don’t forget to find the drive for what you do primarily within yourself, or you and your project will most likely fade.

3. If accountability is needed, it works way better on a small scale

The entire world does not need to be your accountability system. However, that doesn’t mean accountability is bad. Instead, try having one friend, maybe two.  An accountability buddy will be much better help than everybody you’ve ever known.

Accountability is a symbiotic relationship. Not only will an accountability buddy help you stay on task, but you likewise help them. They hold you to the goal or goals you have chosen, which means you want to make sure that you are very intentional with the ideas you pick to become goals. They can help you map out how exactly to accomplish these goals so you have steps to follow and mile markers to, as you reach them, report back to your accountability buddy. Because accountability is usually one-on-one, your partnership will push you to accomplish your goals not for shallow displays of public recognition, but for true praise (or true critique, especially if your follow-through was lacking that week) from one person who is as invested in your projects and goals as you are. And you do the same for them.

Still think making it public is a good or even better idea?  Had a good experience with making it public, one-on-one accountability, or another way of keeping yourself on task?  Need help starting an accountability partnership?  Leave a comment!

college_vs_not_college

“College vs. Not College?” – It’s not the only question!!

college_vs_not_college

It is really annoying when I propose that somebody not go to college and they think I mean NEVER go to college.

Considering I don’t know what the future holds for me or anybody else, I don’t propose ever simply ruling something out like that.

See, the question is not:

Should I skip college and instead do nothing with my life forever?

Nor is it:

Should I skip college and instead do this one thing that everybody does when they do not go to college?

Because that is the whole point of not going to college: there are a LOT of things to do instead. And… it just shouldn’t be a question of, “should I go to college or not?”

Here is how the question ought to be asked; you should see it all as looking at OPTIONS and then making a PLAN.

Say you want to study English, or Agriculture, or car repair. Here is how you would consider your options and make a plan:

English:

“I really like reading books, writing about them, and writing books. I am not sure this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I think universities provide excellent outlets for things like this. SO, instead of making college either/or, I am going to look into taking some English classes, because I think that would help me both learn and make my decision about majoring in this in the first place. I will also take the extra time I will not be spending in school and perhaps join a book club or two, form a writing group, and start a story on a blog that I will eventually compile into a novel that I will self-publish. That sounds good for now. Good thing I didn’t rule out college altogether, and good thing I have a plan that involves a number of different and interesting outlets.”

Agriculture:

“Sure, you can major in agriculture at a university, and that sounds romantic and grand and everything, but since my ultimate goal is to start a community edible forest, I think that is probably going to be the longest route to learning what I need to know in order to accomplish this. So, I have decided that I am going to accomplish my education in two years, like so: travel around for the first year, gain hands-on skills and knowledge on a variety of different food farms in the climate I want to start my edible forest in, meanwhile supplementing with tons of gardening and horticulture books; in the second year, I will apprentice under two different professional gardeners in two different seasons, meanwhile continuing my education in horticulture, permaculture, and starting to learn the laws of the community that I plan to build my forest in. After these two years, I will stop and see where I have gotten and reevaluate a new plan from there.”

Car repair:

“I’ve been fixing cars with my dad and older brother since I was 8; I know there’s still so much I don’t know, and while my dad always liked Chevys, I personally just can’t get enough of the Subaru. But I’m not ready for college just yet, and I think there is a lot that I could learn on my own before that. For the next year, I am going to scout around, find other Subaru owners, join the Subaru club in the next town over, and get as much experience as I can just toying around with people and their cars, plus becoming one with my own beautiful hatchback. Then after that, I will enroll in the 2-year vocational track at the technical college, which is really in-depth and I think I can really get a good, hands-on formal education as a mechanic – all the while still doing the Subaru thing in my spare time. After that… well, I could either become a specialist, or just be a normal mechanic that has a secret Subaru streak – let’s see where all this takes me!”

 

The reason I wanted to point out these differences is because sometimes I see trepidation in people who are trying to make an either-or decision about college. And there doesn’t need to be this fear or this feeling of taking a huge leap into a great void. You’ve just got to take some time, figure out what you want to do or at least want to try out, and start doing it. That might mean taking some classes, or getting involved in the community, or talking to somebody, reading a book, or taking a weekend trip to a different city… or all of the above!

Don’t know where to get started? Need help figuring out what you might be interested?

Check out my new book, Life Without College: The Method. There are several exercises in it that work you through your current interests so you can find the ones that really matter; and once you’ve done that, the rest of the book is set up to guide you through making a plan, executing it, and keeping track of what you’ve accomplished, just like my hypothetical English, Agriculture, and car repair people.

Check it out! And don’t forget to sign up for my e-mail list for further updates and resources. :)

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Announcement – The Method is Here!

cover crHey College Rebels!

My new book Life Without College: The Method is now live, available in ebook and print!

From the back cover:

“You are considering rebelling against college to pursue your own path your way. You have very personal reasons for doing so, probably a lot of anger and frustration reasons. Do any of the following predicaments sound familiar?

– You know what you like doing, but you could never pick one thing to passionately focus on – You are intensely passionate about 10,000 different things and doubt if you could ever settle on one

– You know exactly what you want to do and are ready to get started

– You at least have a basic idea of what you want to do.

Whether it is concrete and defined like, ‘Play cello with the London Philharmonic,’ or more vague like, ‘put college off indefinitely so I can figure out what I really want,’ you have your own opinion of what sort of direction or goal you should be working towards right now. But how do you get from here to there? How do you even begin to begin? Let me show you how.”

Interested? You can purchase your own copy here on Amazon! And make sure to sign up for my mailing list for further updates on both the book and CollegeRebellion.com.

Happy reading, y’all!

stick it to the man

Boycotting College vs. Changing College

stick it to the man

We can talk all we want to about how college should stop doing this and start doing that, or how it just should not be a requirement, etc. etc. We have been talking all we want to for years now.

Are we changing anything yet?

In some ways, we are. Though we are still in the minority, the rise against higher education is happening. Some of us have started our own businesses, some of us are traveling the world. Some of us have sought life’s answers outside the doors of a university only to find, years later, they are led back to those doors, with tons more purpose and determination.

This morning I read two interestingly similar articles sent to me by my friend Todd and my mom, respectively: “My Fellow Americans, It’s Time to Boycott College” by Matt Walsh, and “4 Radical Ideas for Reinventing College” by Margaret Rhodes.

In the first article, Matt Walsh (a man whose ideals and ideologies I usually detest but we seem to be on the same side on this subject I’ve done my best to get over myself) details a story about his friend who couldn’t get into a field he had years of hands-on experience in because he lost every job prospect to a recent college graduate.

The entire post is very stand-up-and-rise-against inspirational/motivational stuff, but what he is proposing is, unfortunately, worlds away from happening, if ever – let’s literally boycott college. Let’s just not go, not advocate for our children to go unless they want to be a neuroscientist, and I guess by default all those lazy employers will realize, “oh man, all of my applicants only have real-life hands-on experience, so which one am I supposed to pick??”

This would be a fine and dandy notion to entertain if we could actually just convert the majority of would-be college-goers to not going to college and then go around explaining to businesses the drop in degreed applicants – it might take a few hundred years, but it could happen!

The second article explains how Design Students from Stanford University put together a video interview project with subjects from the school and from other backgrounds such as leaders of rehabilitation programs and people from varieties of different careers. (The second half of the headline of the article, “Drawn from Stanford Research”, is highly misleading, sounding as if this was an official academic study; and though it is absolutely not, the Design Students came up with good points regardless.)

The Design Students took into consideration the thoughts and feelings they were hearing again and again in these interviews and came up with the “four smart proposals for reinventing college.”

Mostly, these proposals boiled down to all the stuff we’ve been saying for a long time. “Liberal arts” degrees don’t apply to everyone or ever major. Classes need to be less lecture, more hands-on. Picking a Life Path right out of high school is stupid (but high schoolers are the only ones who see this, and not the grownups?). Et Cetera.

Like I said, we’ve been saying things need to change. But are we going to change it? Yes? Then how? What are you going to do right this second to change the entire college-centered system of the western world?

*blink* *blink*

Now, I will grant you that those students at Stanford are indeed taking their findings and starting a true campaign for universal life-long learning.  The official website is set in the future ‘looking back’ on how the higher education system was transformed around the year 2025.  It’s really, really cute.

But.  Perhaps the whole notion shouldn’t be how we are going to change the world by reinventing college, or how we are going to change college by reinventing the world.

That is not going to work, and we cannot just go around in life expecting anything that doesn’t work for us to change around us so that we can have a better chance at success. The antelope doesn’t just loaf around thinking, “Well if things would just get better in the food chain I wouldn’t HAVE to be on the alert, I wouldn’t have to drop dinner at a moment’s notice an run for my life, I could eat in bloody PEACE for once in my life, why doesn’t somebody DO something???” No. That antelope fucking pays attention and RUNS LIKE HELL. So – life lesson from the antelope today: pay attention and run like hell. You aren’t going to succeed without a degree if you’re just waiting for the system to change – you’ve just got to go succeed anyway. It’s a hard, hard life in the safari – but don’t give up. You’ll make it.

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Debt and the College Debate

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The Rethinking College movement really took off in late 2010 / early 2011.  We were asking ourselves, why get bogged down with college as being the only path to success?  What if there was greater success to be found by taking nontraditional paths to achieve our dreams, maybe dreams we’d had since we were kids, dreams that the “American Dream” route of good grades = college = good grades = 40-year job = wealth = comfy retirement seemed to bypass?

We put our heads together to figure it out.  Many of us have written books, started websites and blogs, been in the media, explored the nations, acquired volunteerships, internships, and jobs we are truly passionate about; many of us have taken the time to figure out what we really love and decided to study it in college on our own; we’ve found love, happiness, gainful employment, functional living spaces in the places we want to live surrounded by communities of family and friends fully of love and support.

Wherever we are, we’re on the ever-evolving path to defining what success is for ourselves at this moment, and all because we decided to take a moment to wonder whether the Way You’re Supposed to do Things is really The Only Way.

Now the Rethinking College movement has made its way into the mainstream – hooray!  However, like most spirited ideas that become mainstream, the message has devolved into a watered-down version of the original message: it’s become all about the money.

A huge part of rethinking college is about money, don’t get me wrong!  College is no cheap potatoes – and even if everyone who went to college were able to fully fund it through Pell money and scholarships, that money is still coming from somewhere – TANSTAAFL, doncha know (apparently, most of that tuition is going towards football and basketball coaches, by the way).  

Since hardly anybody our age can realistically afford to pay for college, unless we have well-off parents who offer to pay our way, we must take out loans at an exorbitant and fluctuating interest rate.  To make matters worse, unlike back when our parents graduated college, there is now absolutely no guarantee of higher-paying work – or often any work at all – if you have a degree under your belt, even though for some reason Colleges and The World both keep saying there is.  So, that leaves today’s college graduates utterly penniless, too far into the hole to ever hope to climb back out.  A great education was gained in the process, yes, and there’s a lot to be said for that accomplishment.  But with no hope of ever being able to get out of the debt it put them in, making the college choice has merited itself as a mistake.

This is all very valid information that definitely needs to be made known.  However, the main reason it frustrates me is that it is presented just as that paragraph above – many statistics, anecdotes; college being labeled as a “scam” or a “Ponzi scheme”; and the whole situation being laid out as hopeless, with no light at the end of the tunnel.  The overall message now?  “Don’t go.  You’ll just get yourself into debt and it’s a waste of time anyway.”

Aw thanks, oh wise sage!

What I want to get out into the mainstream is that rethinking college is NOT necessarily all about avoiding debt, about whether you’re going to be making minimum wage anyway, or about guaranteed career paths.  If the motivation to reconsider the traditional path begins there, that is fine; but it is not supposed to end there.

We are young and we have time, energy, and resources on our side.  Let’s work like hell, save money if we can, read books, magazines, blogs, use the internet to find open education resources, find mentors, take ourselves on field trips, research ways to acquire hands-on experience, and store up and record everything we’ve learned.

Now is the time to search.  Search for ourselves, search in our hearts for what we most long to do.  Find new experiences that affirm what path we’re on or help us discover new and unexpected paths.

We can take action to make dreams a reality, step by step.

With the empowerment we now have, we can consciously make choices – is college the right choice for me?  Or is an alternative path?  And which one?

Now is the time.  The Rethinking College movement is about taking what time, energy, and resources you have, learning what you like and don’t like, and figuring out what you want and how to make it happen.  It isn’t all about money, and it isn’t all fun and games either.  It’s not about who is further ahead, who gets what they want more, who makes the most money, why that person gets everything they want because their parents help or why I don’t because all I have the money to do is pay rent because I value shelter over a career.  It’s about rethinking and redefining.  And we’re all here to help each other figure out how to do it.  

Announcement

Announcements: Books, side projects, and more!

While on the topic of moving forward, I have some general Announcements of Interest to bring to your attention:

Announcement

  • Dreaming Your Dream: How to figure out what you want to bring to the world is a little e-book I wrote a couple of years ago and have been offering in beta (i.e., very functional but still significantly lacking in quality) for free since something like May of 2012.  But now I want to take some time to refine it into a Real Book!  It will be longer, with tons more information and inspiration.  To embark on this project I will be taking its baby version away forever after this Saturday, April 12th at 11:59pm.  So, email me now if you want a FREE beta copy (which comes with an optional Book Feedback offer), or forever hold your peace!  All you have to do is e-mail me via this contact page and let me know you want it.
  • On and off since 2011 I have been writing for a website called The Unschooler Experiment, which is a site by and for older/grown unschoolers, second generation unschooling parents, and new-to-unschooling parents as well.  After an extended hiatus where everybody associated with unschooler.com was far beyond too busy to work on the site, we are proud to announce that we will be producing new and upcoming content again in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, check out my (guess what?) college-related articles and posts here: http://www.unschooler.com/author/jessicabarker
  • I have recently started my own personal website, which for now I’ve named “College Sellout” since I’ve been ruminating quite hard on going back to at least take some classes if not eventually aim for a degree.  My About page touches more on that subject and my further motivation behind these choices.  I also recommend checking out my post on finding meaning, Does Life Have to be Meaningful? which I almost posted as a College Rebellion essay instead.
  • College Rebellion is now accepting PayPal donations!  Like most people, I don’t like blatantly asking for money – I would like to keep this website free, but I also want to continue having the time to expand and improve upon it on a regular basis. By no means do I think nor intend that I should be surviving solely on donations from this website, but even if everyone that College Rebellion has truly helped donated a penny, that is one minute more that I’m home plugging away on CR and not having to be away making ends meet otherwise.  Whether you choose to give or not, I just want to say thank you for all of your moral support these past years, you guys are the best!!

Remember, though I might not be the most timely correspondent, I love getting e-mails from you all, whether they are a simple ‘hello’ to a complete and utter desperate cry for help out of the school or life hole you find yourself in, the point of this site is and always has been to find others like me and let you know you aren’t alone.  So please, feel free to e-mail me through the contact page and strike up a correspondence, ask questions, apply for a personalized list of Awesome Resources, and/or offer your own suggestions for resources and posts.  As you may have noticed, I am open to post ideas coming from people other than myself, Q&A posts, and guest posts.

Keep up the good work, everyone… don’t forget to network with other College Rebels in the Facebook Group – College Rebels | Beyond College | Life Without College | Lifelong Learners, and have a great weekend!

~Jessica

New Direction

A New Direction – Redefining Success

Okay folks – it’s time for the truth to come out.

New Direction

Disclaimer – these opinions are the opinions of the writer and even though she names certain names, she means nothing against these certain people and in fact is friends with some of them, she just wants to point out some stuff that these people don’t cover in their literature that is similar to College Rebellion.

So far the posts on College Rebellion have been focusing on inspiration and encouragement to pursue one’s own education insofar as one is able to in order to decide whether one’s path includes a college degree of some sort or not, and how to go about being autodidactic about one’s life regardless of college’s current involvement. We’ve also been making it a personal goal to find and report on resources for at-home and travel-related ways to get knowledge and experience in your chosen area(s) of study.

However, we’ve barely taken the tip off the ice berg here. Really, this is a confession – I have felt like something has been missing from College Rebellion for a long time and haven’t been able to put my finger on it up until recently. Actually, it’s something I feel very deeply that the entire “Uncollege Movement” is missing.

I was finally able to put my finger on what College Rebellion was missing when I ran across this article, “When ‘Life Hacking’ is Really White Privilege.” Just replace “Life Hacking” with “Hacking Your Education”, and you’ve got the theme of the rest of this article. By the way, read the original article too – it’s some good stuff.

Then everything clicked when an essay I wrote three years ago got recently published in Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko and Dr. Carlos Ricci’s book, Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education.  While the content of the essay is definitely more reflective of the Jessica of three years ago, the spirit of my message and the title of the essay are really what College Rebellion was ever all about: Redefining Success.

I want to get back to that as being the #1 intention here.

First of all I don’t want we, the “normal” people in this world, to feel victimized by our circumstances to the point where we can’t get out of the negative headspace to at least start seeing some aspect of our dreams come to life; however, I also feel like so far College Rebellion has been shallow and insensitive to those of us who are not and will not ever be able to live the epic, parentally subsidized travel, adventure, and entrepreneurship that so many of our peers effortlessly pursue.

I’ve been really upset for quite a while because try as I might, I can’t live up to all the “aim for your dreams!” mantra I preach on this website, because I feel like I have to as part of the Uncollege Movement. I say “those of us” because the person I’ve been trying to fit into the Epic Box the most is myself – I haven’t allowed myself to accept the fact that I want to live a normal life, that I feel my success depends neither on going to college nor not going to college, nor even what I do in or out specifically. I have dreams, yes: but I also have finally reached the point where I am confident that following certain Big Dreams is actually not the most important thing to me in life. Can you believe that?

My boyfriend suggested that I start a new website called “College Rebellion Rebellion.”

However, from here on out I’m going to refocus more, with emphasis still on helping everyone who comes to this website decide whether college is a wise choice for some point in the next stages of their life.

With College Rebellion and its predecessor Life Without College I’ve been trying to encompass the two other main lifestyles that not going to college often lends itself to: extensive travel (brought to you primarily by Blake Boles), and entrepreneurship (brought to you primarily by Dale Stephens). The thing is, those are only two facets of a very wide range of people who have decided to not go a completely traditional route.

I have traveled a bit, yes. I also have this little website. But what dropping out of college in 2008 has really sealed for me is that my true dream, the most important thing to me in life, is the simple stuff. Being able to have a job that pays enough so that I have the time and means to spend time with my boyfriend, my dog and cats, my friends, and my family back home. Time and money to garden, to take walks, to work on my little stories, to read books and learn new things.

And I know I’m not alone in valuing these far above being “epic.” It’s just not for everybody and you know what? Thinking that it was was causing me to sell myself short, which is the exact opposite from what I want College Rebellion to ultimately promote. I mentioned to a cohort of mine, Peter Kowalke of Unschooler.com about Russell’s idea of “College Rebellion Rebellion” as I was detailing to him my also recent decision to soon begin pursuing a college education again. He made the suggestion of “College Sellout.” And while I didn’t want to run two opposing websites, I have decided to adopt that title for my personal blog. Please feel free to check it out – my “About” page details specifically why I have made this personal choice.

Anyway, I am just writing to include you all in my decision to turn College Rebellion in a slightly different, more real-life focused blog and website. I am currently on the lookout for more contributors of both information, opportunities, and personal anecdotes of the life and times of College Rebels and their Allies. We’re all on the same boat here, and I’m sure all of you would love to hear perspectives from other writers than just me all the time!

Stay tuned folks, and don’t forget I am always open to any sort of feedback you have in the comments below, and/or feel free to email me via the contact page with suggestions and proposals for guest articles. I am also taking submissions for a new “Your Story” forthcoming section of the website, so let me know if you’d like to see your story on College Rebellion! Thank you for all your support!! ~Jessica

James and Angela the Alpaca

House Sitting: Long-Term Travel Made Possible

James-and-Ralph-on-ground“Couple in Melbourne looking for someone (or a couple/family) who can come and look after their dog and cat while they go away for three weeks. We have wifi, all the modern amenities and are just minutes from the tram stop which will take you into central Melbourne. All we ask is that you walk and look after our dog and care for our cat.”

It might sound too good to be true, but the above advert is real and just one of several thousand different adverts on TrustedHousesitters.com. A free place to stay, in Melbourne, and all you have to do is look after the cat and the dog.

I’ve been house sitting for several years now. Last year I took on four house sits in various locations in Scotland and one in the South of Portugal. In total I managed to house sit for around eleven months, making long-term travel suddenly a very realistic option.

What is ‘house sitting’ and why would someone allow you to stay for free?

james pool

Many people need someone to keep an eye on their place while they’re away. This could mean just living in the property – and in doing so acting as a deterrent to burglars – but it could also mean carrying out a few tasks such as watering the plants, collecting the mail and keeping the cat company. (Taking Melbourne as an example, you can get an idea of what the ‘average’ house sit involves by looking at some of the latest house sits there).

Now in the pre-internet days, house sitting was typically the remit of professional house sitting agencies who charged a flat rate for literally sitting in the house and anything extra (such as walking the dog or mowing the lawn) was, well, extra.

These days most house sitting is done as an exchange as it works out as a win-win for both parties: the homeowner gets their property (and pets) cared for and the sitter gets to stay somewhere, usually in a different city or country to their own, for free. Oh and the pets don’t have to go to kennels either!

A lot of the house sits I’ve taken on have several pets which makes sense. While it might be possible to find someone who will look after one pet, the more pets you have, the more responsibility you’re asking the other person to take on.

alpaca sitting 2

To date the largest menagerie of animals I’ve taken on has to be a farm of 18 alpacas and 7 cats. All of the alpacas had names and even responded to their names. I got so used to working with them I was even able to tell them apart, which if you look at the picture is quite a feat! 18 alpacas and 7 cats is unusual, but from experience, do expect a lot of the house sits that come up to involve looking after more than one animal.

How do I get started as a house sitter?

The first thing you should do is create a profile on a site like TrustedHousesitters.com. Fill out the profile thoroughly and upload a few good pictures of yourself. Top tip: pictures with you and pets work best. Another top tip: use the code ‘collegerebellion’ to get 25% off your membership.

Next, get some references. If you haven’t house sat before, it’s possible to add character references, employment references and references from previous landlords.

While getting a character reference is a start, having a house/pet sitting reference is obviously worth a lot more. When I first started out house sitting I contacted friends and family, particularly those who had pets, to let them know I was able to house sit. I soon had my first reference.

At the same time I was keeping an eye on the house sits that were appearing popping up in my area. The reason for this is that while someone in the Caribbean might be reluctant to take you on if you’re new to house sitting, someone local – especially if they can meet you first – might be more willing. It wasn’t long before I saw a house sit pop up in Edinburgh, where I was living. The house sit was to look after two Bengal cats, one of which required daily medical treatment, as well as to keep an eye on the apartment.

Although I’d started this house sit thinking it would be great to get a reference, this ended up being one of my favourite house sits of all time. I got to live in a very nice part of Edinburgh (Stockbridge) that was otherwise a little out of my price range and the cats were great company as well.

Once you have one or two references, whether it’s for house sitting or character references or both, you’re now in a good position to start applying for house sits wherever you might want to go. I keep an eye on the listings daily, both through the feed on the website and through email alerts, and as soon as I see one, I apply straight away.

After that, it’s a matter of waiting for the homeowner to get back to you. Usually they’ll ask a few questions and if they want to take things further ask to arrange a Skype call.

If you need some inspiration for where house sitting can take you, here are a few interesting blog posts from sitters of a mixture of ages:

http://wanderlusters.co.uk/wanderlust-guide-house-sitting-abroad/

http://www.landingstanding.com/housesitting/

http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/332583/want-to-see-the-world-on-a-budget-become-a-
global-house-sitter/

http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2011/08/12/see-the-world-by-house-sitting/

——

James and Angela the Alpaca

James travels the world and house sits with his partner Jemma. To date they’ve looked after more than fifty pets, although that does include the farm of alpacas!

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A Year of Goals

how-to-set-goalsIn order for something to get accomplished, you must know exactly what the goal is.  Yes, if you don’t have specific goals, some things in life will happen on their own.  However, setting concrete goals are important for two main reasons.

First of all, when you write down your goals and have them in viewing distance constantly, it is easier to remember on a daily basis to work on them.  Put them on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the steering wheel, set them as your desktop background, wherever you know you find yourself looking at often.  They will be a constant reminder to go about your day with intention.

Secondly, having written down your goals for any amount of time allows you to go back later and see how you’ve been growing and accomplishing things.  Once you see yourself making progress, accomplishing specific goals that you can check off or cross through, empowerment will seep into your body – you’ll be motivated to keep on, and to set even more goals for yourself, perhaps bigger ones you were scared to set before.

My challenge for you is to make a list of goals for the next fiscal year.   …you know, the next 12 months.  Don’t forget to avoid making ambiguous goals:

Ambiguous goal: learn blues guitar.

Concrete goal: learn 5 songs by Jimi Hendrix and 5 by John Lee Hooker on the electric guitar by January 1st.

If your goal is simply to learn blues guitar, you will waffle around for months, switching between messing around on your guitar and pacing your house wondering who in the world would ever want to teach an unmotivated person such as yourself blues guitar.  Yes, often you do need to brainstorm a list of more ambiguous items before narrowing them down to a final, concrete list.  So, the progression being, if you want to learn 10 blues guitar songs on the guitar by certain artists on a certain guitar by a certain time say, two months from today, then that allows you to set stepping stones along the way.  Two months, that’s about 8 weeks.  That means a little more than a song a week.  How about a new song every five days?

My friends Blake and Matt have been making their own goals lists: Matt’s is for this next year, Blake’s is an ongoing life list.  And now, here’s mine as of a couple of days ago – it still needs some narrowing down as far as concreteness goes, but it’s definitely workable from here:

Projects, General

– Work at least 20 hours a week on College Rebellion from now through July
– Dig 2-3 more terrace beds in the yard and ready for early spring planting
– Grow all vegetables needed with spring, summer, and fall plantings

Writing, General

– Write one letter a week
– Finish NaNoWriMo (write a 50,000+-word novel in 30 days) in November
– Write the second draft of my 2009 NaNoWriMo project

Reading

– Read 8-16 fiction books
– Read 3-10 nonfiction books
– Start a casual book-review blog in January

Academics, General

– Complete online college courses in: Animal Behavior, Kitchen Science, Neuro Science
– Re-work through All the Math You’ll Ever Need by the end of 2013
– Work through Maths from Scratch for Biologists by the end of April
– Apply to Mayland College / ace their entrance exams
– Begin pursuing the rest of my transfer diploma in science

Work and Money

– Continue to study and practice new ways of getting better at being a chef
– Continue picking up more supplementary house-sitting and gardening gigs
– Re-listen to the Dave Ramsey lectures on saving money
– Save every little extra bit of money a month and DON’T spend it all on books

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The Internship is the Key

Firstly, in case you missed it, I was recently interviewed on The Sociable Homeschooler by the amazing Vivienne McNeny.  We talked about my new little book, “Dreaming YOUR Dream“, about my education growing up homeschoooled, and about my thoughts on college lately.  Check it out!

intern1-1024x645Some people think that internships are only for people in college. Those people are wrong. Internships are for whoever wants them badly enough. Sometimes internship-giving companies and organizations say they only want people who have or are pursuing a college degree. If this is the case, and you do not want to jump through such timely, expensive, and potentially boring hoops, then I have two other suggestions for you, which may spark other ideas.

But first, the general steps to acquiring The Internship:

  1. Find a company or organization – online, through word of mouth, etc.
  2. Research them, their purpose, and their mission thoroughly
  3. Arrange a tour and meeting with the company or organization (if this is somehow not feasible, perhaps you could find a Reliable Cohort to go in your place: though, if you are really serious about this internship, it’s best to find it within your own means)
  4. Take everything into consideration and apply with the company/organization’s best interests in mind, not yours. (i.e., what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.  See, “How NOT to Get Hired.”)
  5. They may want a resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation: unsure of how to get these together? E-mail me – I am working on a tutorial!

This is often enough for getting into the “entry-level” internships – the less picky ones.  Now we will cover what to do if the internship narrow-mindedly requires you to have sat in some relevant classes at some institution of higher education:

First of all, this is probably an “advanced internship”: prior experience required. A degree or degree-in-progress is the most recognizably concrete evidence of knowledge today.  However, it is not the only evidence.  What your future internship-givers really want is concrete evidence that you have a good amount of hands-on experience, relevant knowledge, and the drive and determination to be a great intern.

How do you get this?

  • “Entry-level” internships: 1-3 internships, ideally each building on one another in terms of duties, responsibility, learning experience, and skills developed.  Do not complete these internships without securing a letter of recommendation from at least one person overseeing your work – certificates of completion don’t hurt either.  Document your experience.
  • Volunteering – often volunteers have intern-like responsibilities. Always look for opportunities to volunteer, especially at relevant organizations.  Same goes for volunteering as does internships – try to leave with a voucher of how wonderful you are.  And don’t forget to document!
  • College students spend a lot of time in the books: it can’t hurt to do the same!  When you read a book (or article, or watch a movie, etc.) on your subject, write or film an essay or review on the book, and upload it to your blog or website. When you apply, you can send an e-mail with links to these reviews/essays.
  • Present your non-college case as earnestly and confidently as you possibly can when you apply. (If you are unsure of your speaking abilities, attend a local Toastmasters club for a bit; if your writing needs improving, a good word-wise friend can help).
  • In case I didn’t emphasize it enough before: document everything you do!  Pictures, blog posts, video, art, whatever!  Prove that you are learning and growing in these experiences – it is VITAL to showing you can be just as good as any old college student retaining what they learned in class just long enough to regurgitate it on the test the next day before moving on.

If you are dead gone on this particular Super Awesome Internship and want to go on and apply to them ASAP instead of in another year after building up your resume, keep in mind you may be aiming a bit to high just now. But if you’re going to do it anyway, please take heed to follow these steps:

  • Apply with the same amount of zeal and earnestness in both writing and speaking as I mentioned before, and present your less-experienced case as smartly as possible.  Perhaps spend a couple of nights studying salesmanship before filling out the application.
  • Emphasize and highlight any and all even moderately applicable experience, and please keep in mind what I said in the general guidelines: focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Beseech them in the application to, if they cannot accept you as-is, at least oblige you with suggestions/leads for ways that you could gain the experience that they are looking for in an intern at their company.

As a reminder, do not put all your eggs in one basket: apply to more than just one or two internships, just as you would apply to more than just one or two colleges.  And don’t sit on your rump all day waiting for a response – pursue more experience and knowledge in the field(s) of your choice every day.  Your dream is out there just waiting for you to live it!