UCWG 041: Can You Forge a Unique Path While Trapped in the Confines of a Conventional University? Exploring Purpose and Opportunity Beyond the Four-Year College Path with Sabah Ali.


The conventional four-year college path is one of the most outdated social structures of the modern world. This is not to say that it is completely without value for some people, only that its present application as a required entryway from childhood illusion to the cold, hard, ugly “real world” of adulthood. The typical college student in most part of the United States is defined by a lack of ambition and direction, filling their idle time with self-destructive substances and parties, not the passion for a specific pursuit that college will create a path to.

Our guest today is a college entrepreneur. Sabah Ali exists somewhere in the middle ground between the conventional college student who entered the path because it was what she was “supposed to” do, and a genuine, personal drive to succeed in business and life. As she prepares for her final year as a senior at Iowa State University, she reflects upon the choices that brought her to the college path and where things are going for her afterward. She ponders how different her life may already have turned out had she chosen something more unconventional, such as traveling the world, starting a business, or just a variety of types of professional experience.

College was once the only path to certain kinds of knowledge and professional options. In the age of the internet, this is rarely still the case. The world will urge you to conform to the actions that shaped their upbringing, the “common knowledge” that now dictates what is to be considered ordinary human behavior for your generation. Their arguments are bland and generic, never coming from a place of grounded personal experience or connecting to your specific desires. Real reasons to go to college or university cannot be extracted from a person who never discovered their values. Real reasons cannot be accepted by a young person who has never had the social opportunities to think about their actions. He cannot make a rational choice about how to best pursue his goals, least of all how to spend the crucial developmental years that kick off his acceptance into the social domain of adulthood. Colleges and universities today, more than anything else, give unprepared teenagers four additional years to avoid the responsibility of real choices, of learning to live their lives as their own masters.

The standard college experience gives young adults who have never had to make any meaningful decisions about their own lives an artificial structure through which to form their relationships, education, and overall lifestyle. If taken too seriously, it can permanently damage an exceptional individual’s ability to think on their terms. Modern schooling institutions rob individuals of their individual by cutting them off from the practical consequences of critical thinking, encompassing them in a womb of security where no chances are taken and no mistakes are ever felt. In the end, they emerge as a mostly homogenized blend of their social values, destroying their capacity to create new things for themselves or the remainder of the human world.

If you find yourself on a path of dissatisfaction with the conventional paths presented to you, do not give in to the pressure to give in to the easy options readily available. Instead, go off purposefully to find something strange, challenging, and unpredictable. Take time away from the motion of your ordinary world to gain clarity and perspective over what the ideal choice for you may be. You cannot choose what is right until you have a decent idea about the possible options the world holds for someone such as you. Yet, the educational model of the modern world demands that you set yourself on a life course that will affect your major economic and lifestyle possibilities until the time you die. Do not rush into social comfort and prepared molds for living. Allow yourself to burn in the fires of uncertainty for as long as you are able. Soon, you will have the strength of character to make the right decisions for the principle of what you seek.

Sabah Ali, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory

Sabah Ali, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory

Things mentioned:

Sabah Ali:



Sabah Ali’s podcast, From the Dorm Room to the Boardroom:



Sabah Ali’s book, Enrolling in Confidence: