Updated: Nov 22, 2022
Do not be so surprised when you learn the secret to living a successful happy life. It is quite simple! You are born a biological solution/idea machine and you will die a biological solution/idea machine. Everything in between is created twice, once in your brain and again in a reality shared with other biological idea machines in a free market, your life's story. Before you read any further, skip to the end and click on the short educational bios , under One More Thing, the 115 successful people who dropped out of high1 school or college. They took the longer and harder 10,000 Hour path to a less educated but anyway a successful life.
Ways Individuals Write Their Life's Story
We educate ourselves so that we can be self-reliant, not having to depend on others. Some people choose to depend on other's charity or the limited minimal socialism of their government. Some turn to criminal unlawful means to survive. Some use capitalism to manipulate and take advantage of others struggling to survive. Most are just employees trading their work and time for pay. The most successful and happiest use capitalism to lift up their employees, their customers, their investors and their community/country. They treat everyone they have a relationship with with a win-win attitude. Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.
Life Itself Is A Job, Isn't It !
No matter how you choose to live a good education is a valuable asset. For example, you have to eat. To prepare a week of delicious enjoyable meals, for you your family and friends, you need skills an education can provide. First you use your solution/idea skills to generate a list of optional meals to choose from for the week ahead. The longer the list the the higher the probability you will have a successful and happy meals. Then you balance/juggle several things in a decision process:
Your budget? (with inflation)
The cost of going out to eat or take out?
Your ability to prepare, recipe - time and effort to prepare?
What is in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry?
When, where and time to shop?
How many people will there be at the table?
What will everyone have to drink?
How Many Ideas Do You Need to Get Noticed in a Free Market ?
Education helps to develop a strong solution/idea generation capability and the analytical skills to select the best. How many ideas do we need to generate to derive one very good commercial outcome, a successful market fit? Stanford experts Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn, book Idea Flow - the only business metric that matters, show where 2000 ideas are required to derive one success. How long does it take to master a life supporting successful skill? Malcolm Gladwell's popular book, Outliers - The Story of Success, supports the fact that it takes 10,000 hours. A good efficient effective education can give you the skills to reduce these metrics.
Education - the More the Better !
Your ability to be creative and come up with valuable solutions and ideas will determine your success and this happiness throughout your lifetime. Every life benefits from an education, period. Our brain never creates solutions and ideas from scratch. Our brain is always making new connections between the knowledge, facts and mental models we have learned during our education and real life. The more raw materials and tools you can give your brain the greater your success and happiness in life. The fact is education can be a faster and more efficient/reliable teacher than real life. You can get a big jump on building your successful life.
No matter what you major in towards the end of your preparatory education there are core capabilities that you need to master to prepare for success in the real world. These core essential skills are:
Training on the effective Tools to assist your brain researching, remembering, evaluating, communicating, persuading in the free market where you are competing equally with others doing the same thing. This starts with the 3Rs in grade school - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Followed by the computer tools in existence when you finish your education. Followed by the new application and technologies you learn on your own throughout your life; i.e., Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Knowledge-Base Workspaces.
A HUGE amount of diverse knowledge and facts that your brain can draw on to derive solutions and ideas. Did you know that you only use 5% of your brain is used for conscious thought. That leaves 95% of your brain for subconscious thinking. This is why we can load our brain and relax or sleep and our minds come up with a treasure trove of solutions and ideas. The quantity and value of this power depends on the quantity and value of the raw material/education our brains have experienced. Fill your brain with knowledge and facts and Never waste a nights sleep again.
Using our Tools we learn Mental Models, structure and process, of the real world. We learn the role that mathematics, biology and physics play in how the real world works. Great thinkers from Einstein to Elon Musk have unleashed valuable solutions and ideas using Mental Models.
Education and the process/practice of coming up with solutions and ideas is hard work and stressful. It is scary because it means venturing out into the unknown, like jumping off the diving board blindfolded hoping there is water in the pool. If we know it we would have no need to learn it or derive it. Our natural tendency is to stop before we are educated enough and go with the first good solution or idea we think of. We have to practice self discipline to keep diving into the unknown. For example, as a 4th grader I heard this ridiculous phrase, "step on a crack and break your mother's back". Today, at 78 years old, as I walk 2 miles, some not all days, I avoid stepping on cracks. In order to maintain my perfect performance I have developed a rigorous set of sensible rules. Only natural cracks, unplanned not created on purpose like those between pavers and only cracks more than 1 foot long. Why you ask? Because by practicing this simple self discipline I work my self discipline muscles for education, solutions and ideas, like writing this article.
Successful Dropouts !
So how did some millionaire/billionaire entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and the Beatles produce such fantastic solutions and ideas and at the same time drop out of school? Malcolm Gladwell tells the story that they put in the 10,000 hours. ( Please read at least Chapter 2 - "10,000 Hours" for the 2 stories that will stick with you for life. See the story of the Beatles and Bill Gates) However, there is also more at play here. In addition to spending the 10,000 hours they learned and practiced enough of the 4 basic core essential skills on a limited narrow educational path to success.
Paul McCartney finished one year of college and was the most talented musician, he could read music and played more than 40 musical instruments competently. He truly changed the creation of rock music by changing the way rock bands looked at the bass; he was a natural born musician. John failed his O Levels/GCSEs, Ordinary Level - General Certificate of Education but talked his way into the Liverpool College Of Art & Design. He faked being a serious student for 3 years making life altering friends before he was asked to leave. George and Ringo did not finish high school.
Fake It Till You Make It !
The Beatles' John Lennon was second to Paul McCartney in talent as a musician in my opinion. His remarkable achievement of posing as a valid college student for 3 years shows his hunger, passion and desire, to educate himself. Furthermore, the life long friendships he developed in college that contributed to his educational development and success shows how "fake it till you make it" can be education.
Bill Gates - Microsoft
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University after his sophomore year to start Microsoft. He and Paul Allen had 7 years of software development experience on state of the art software and hardware. They had far exceeded Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule. Bill went on to be the richest man in the world for a time.
Life Success is Like The Game of Golf.
A famous golf coach, Dr. Bob Rotella, said, "Golf is not a game of perfect; just of getting close". I never encountered the Beetles but I think I understand the 10,000 hour rule and I think the Netflix documentary, "Get Back" shows you the truth about the bands creative problem solving/idea style. That plus chapter 2 of Malcolm Gladwell's book is all you need to know The Beatles's creative style. The song is never really perfect, but after a significant amount of effort it has enough value to release it to your followers. This is the real life creative process.
You Can Always Do More - Never Be A Quitter !!!
When you are at the end of your rope. You have given more time and effort than you ever thought you were capable of giving and still you are not at goal, you are still capable of an enormous amount of effort. In fact you many be just a few hours away from success. Take a break. Maybe sleep on it and let your 95% subconscious mind redirect your thoughts and efforts. Never give up. Remember, you got to the end of your rope because you have confidence and passion that you are capable of producing a good enough solution/idea.
Do Not Let Problems Stop You !!!
I did, however, have a brief business relationship with Bill Gates. He was my vendor and I was his customer. The timeframe was the early 1980s. Bill had just dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft which had about 25 employees. Dave Schmidt, my business partner, had spent 2 years researching technology and vendors before asking me to be his partner in a startup, Schmidt Associates, developing it's first product for it's first customer. Our platform was a the Commodore Computer running the CP/M operating system. Our customer's application was written with a Microsoft compiler, Fortran. Near the completion of the project, just before delivery, a no-work-around-possible bug surfaced. I gathered the evidence to support the bug and called Microsoft for support/fix. Just so happens I talked with Bill Gates. After hearing my problem Bill says "Microsoft is too busy working on a much more important project (IBM PC ?) and no longer supports the Fortran Compiler for the Commodore CP/M system". I expressed my dire need and desperation for a fix to the problem. The conversation ended with Bill saying "so sue me; my father is a lawyer", not the win-win lift up your customer attitude I was expecting from Bill Gates. I hung up the phone and started my creative solution/idea process to save our business. After sleeping on it, I presented to Dave a solution/idea to move our project to a new UNIX microcomputer, Onyx. Dave came up with a RatFor preprocessor that would translate Fortran code to C code, the native language used on the UNIX platform. Success, we delivered to our customer. Like the game of golf, a win-win.
Balance Your School Education and Your 10,000 Hours to Master Rule
To make it simple, when you drop out or graduate, your are finished with school, your 10,000 hours to master period starts. Depending on how far your education has gotten you and the target value/income you are setting as the goal for yourself it may take much more or much less than 10,000 hours to be successful.
Success is More Than Money - Multiple Life Successes !?!
Ultra-successful people prove that financial success is very possible even though you drop out of school. However, financial success is only half of a successful life. Life is more than technology and music. A broad education can give you multiple life successes. The question for me is will I be happy with all the solutions, ideas, actions and achievements I have experienced in my life ?
What About After Your Successful Career ?
Do not forget life after a successful career. So you buy yourself time to pursue more goals you are passionate about later in life. Has your education and experiences prepared you for a successful retirement. You never really stop creating and becoming a better person, a better version of yourself.
There is one more basic skill that a basic education should include. That is to know who you are and who you are not. Each individual one of us is unique with a unique experiences. We need to know when to trust our brain and when to get the help/support from more qualified/expert individual(s). Every successful entrepreneur has learned this lesson or if NOT are not as successful as they could have been.
For Example - Who AM I ?
As my life played itself out I realized my skills had roots in my childhood. For example, as a child I was extremely near sighted, i did not get corrective glasses until i was in 4th grade. My view of the world was limited to things close up, no leaves on trees nor wires between telephone poles. Focusing on things up close I took everything apart to see how it worked - clocks, toys, radios, telephones, appliances, electric motors, Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine and many other things. One Christmas I got a erector set and spent long hours creating and building things. Fixated on parts, I started building things from all the parts of things I had disassembled. In the 9th grade I took an IQ test. My overall IQ was 135, but I was near perfect on pattern match, you are given a series of images and must select what comes next. The summer between the 3rd grade and 4th grade I very low scores in math so my aunt Jean who was a professor at Northeastern University, who earned her PHD at Rutgers tutored me to improve my math. Her tutoring plus a pair of glasses to correct my nearsightedness did the trick; I scored A+ in Math and went on to major in math at the University.
Math and building things - sounds like an engineer right ? Well in my junior year at the University I dropped engineering math; I just lost the interest/motivation to continue. Luckily, the University was offering a theoretical math curriculum, a new line of study for which there was no textbook yet. I took the first class offered, Point Set Theory, being taught by a professor, who was a total nerd, who was also writing the first Theoretical Math textbook. I loved the class. I discovered something about myself. I do not like recreating a version of something that already exists. I want to take mental models and parts and combine them in a never been done before way to achieve a breakthrough. I am just a Breakthrough Solution/Idea kind of guy, I have to be in control of the success of the creative process. In 1966 I realized the lessons that Peter Thiel and Blake Masters expressed in their book "Zero to One". It is short and well worth the read/listen. My greatest life startup business, OSI, is explained in this great book.
The rest of my junior and senior year was spent practicing the breakthrough theoretical mathematics creative process, earning a Bachelor of Science in Theoretical Mathematics with a minor in Technology Business Management in 1967. Donna and I married in 1965, so I spent 3 years taking 15 semester hours of night classes at the University of Houston while working 40-60 hours per week software development job. More than 10,000 hours over 23 years of learning and creating new technology I started Objective Systems Integrators (OSI) with 2 partners. We used new software components and technologies to build NetExpert, my final money generating career project solution/idea. My goal for the rest of my life is apply my abilities to research and write to help others to succeed.
As you can see, I am a "belt and suspenders" kind of guy. I stubbornly stayed in school as well as spending the 10,000++ hours to guarantee success and the possibility for happiness.
Family and Home Environment Multiplies Your Education's Value
Your ability to succeed in life depends as much on your body's and mind's ability, your family and home environment as it does on what you learn in school. Your desire and passion to learn and be in control of your life is developed outside the classroom. For an example of this, look at the failure of affirmative action where we have tried for 60 years, 3 generations, to lift up racially disadvantaged individuals with disappointing results. We have only damaged the American citizen's faith in free market merit and equal access to education. Instead of continuing affirmative action we must look elsewhere for a solution. There is no genetical difference between the body and mind of a person no matter their race. The fate of a persons education is at least 50% affected by their family and home environment determining the merit/quality of any school education. Let us return absolute merit to an individual 's education and address the real problems that will make a real difference. Treat everyone equally is best.
The United States is a Free Market Economy
In the US we sell our solutions/ideas in a free market. As long as the US maintains a strong thriving Capitalistic free market each biological solution/idea machine is free to compete based on the merit of it's new solution/idea introduced equally accessible to all. Capitalism rewards solutions/ideas of superior merit and efficiency at a just price. This is why the US is such a great country and why so many want to become a citizen. FREE to be the best we can be.
If you do not know what you want to do with your life you need to seek to improve your skills and load your brain with more raw materials for the creative process. Furthermore, you need to be out among a large number of stimulating diverse individual people. School is a highly efficient way to allow these things to happen and is historically successful; think of it as an insurance policy to live a successful and happy life. However, if you are one of the special people who "sees the light at the end of the tunnel separating you from success", then go for it. Just realize it may take extraordinary effort, sacrifice and time, at least 10,000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell.
One More Thing !!!
Remember there are many more stories of ultra successful biological solution/idea machines that lead by example. Creating more solutions/ideas than their employees. Leading by example by starting before everyone else and working harder than everyone else. It would be valuable to see at what point they dropped out and started their 10,000 hours. People like:
Abraham Lincoln, lawyer, U.S. president. Finished one year of formal schooling, self-taught himself, and read Blackstone on his own to become a lawyer.
Amadeo Peter Giannini, multimillionaire founder of Bank of America. Dropped out of high school.
Amancio Ortega dropped out of school at 14 to begin running errands for local shopkeepers. He founded the retail chain Zara in Spain and expanded it globally. He has a net worth in excess of $70 billion.
Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and philanthropist, and one of the first mega-billionaires in the US. Elementary school dropout.
Andrew Jackson, U.S. president, general, attorney, judge, congressman. Home-schooled. Became a practicing attorney by the age of 35 – without a formal education.
Andrew Perlman, co-founder of GreatPoint. Dropped out of Washington University to start Cignal Global Communications, an Internet communications company, when he was only 19.
Anne Beiler, multimillionaire co-founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Dropped out of high school.
Ansel Adams, a world-famous photographer. Dropped out of high school.
Aretha Franklin – Singer and entertainer. She was a child prodigy and recorded her first tracks at the age of fourteen years old. She dropped out of high school when she was fifteen years old to care for her first child.
Ashley Qualls, the founder of Whateverlife.com (now defunct), left high school at the age of 15 to devote herself to building her website business. She had more than a million dollars by the time she was seventeen years old. Learn more about Ashley on Wikipedia.
Barbara Lynch, chef, owner of a group of restaurants, worth over $10 million, in Boston. Another successful high school dropout.
Barry Diller, billionaire, Hollywood mogul, Internet maven, founder of Fox Broadcasting Company, chairman of IAC/InterActive Corp (owner of Ask.com) which includes Home Shopping Network and Ticketmaster. He also started Fox Broadcasting Company.
Benjamin Franklin, inventor, scientist, author, entrepreneur. Primarily home-schooled.
Ben Kaufman, a 21-year-old serial entrepreneur, founder of Kluster. Dropped out of college in his freshman year.
Bill Gates. Ranked as the world’s richest person from 1995-2006, Bill Gates was a college drop out. He started the largest computer software company, Microsoft Corporation. Gates and his wife are philanthropists, starting The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a focus on global health and learning.
Billy Joe (Red) McCombs, billionaire, founder of Clear Channel media, real estate investor. Dropped out of law school to sell cars in 1950.
Bob Proctor, motivational speaker, bestselling author, and co-founder of Life Success Publishing. He attended two months of high school.
Bram Cohen, BitTorrent developer. Attended State University of New York at Buffalo for a year.
Carl Lindner, billionaire investor, founder of United Dairy Farmers. Dropped out of high school at the age of 14.
Charles Culpeper, owner, and CEO of Coca Cola is another example of a successful high school dropout.
Christopher Columbus, an explorer, and discoverer of new lands. Primarily home-schooled.
Coco Chanel, founder of fashion brand Chanel. A perfume bearing her name, Chanel No. 5 kept her name famous. An orphan for many years, Gabrielle Coco Chanel trained as a seamstress. Determined to invent herself, she threw out the ideas that the fashion world deemed feminine, boldly using fabric and styles normally reserved for men
Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He dropped out of elementary school, later earned a law degree by correspondence.
Craig McCaw, the billionaire founder of McCaw Cellular. He did not complete college.
Dave Thomas, the billionaire founder of Wendy’s. Dropped out of high school at 15.
David Geffen, the billionaire founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks. Dropped out of college after completing one year.
David Green, the billionaire founder of Hobby Lobby. Started the Hobby Lobby chain with only $600. High school graduate.
David H. Murdock – Dole Foods retired CEO. The self-made billionaire businessman dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and worked at a gas station before being drafted into the Army in 1943. In 2013 he took Dole Foods private in a deal that valued the company at $1.6 billion.
David Karp, founder of Tumblr. Dropped out of school at 15, then homeschooled. He did not attend college.
David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue airlines. Dropped out of college after three years.
David Ogilvy, advertising executive, and copywriter. Was expelled from Oxford University at the age of 20.
David Oreck, multimillionaire founder of The Oreck Corporation. Quit college to enlist in the Army Air Corps.
Dean Kamen a prolific and ingenious inventor, dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute before graduating. Although best known for the Segway PT, Kamen holds more than 80 US patents and has created many products such as the AutoSyringe and iBOT robotic wheelchair. When Kamen travels to work, he has to decide which of his two helicopters to take. For longer trips, he pilots his own private jet. He also owns a small island near Connecticut that generates its own electricity from the wind.
Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery. As a young, 20-year-old housewife with no business experience, Debbi Fields started Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery. With a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, this young woman became the most successful cookie company owner. She later renamed, franchised, then sold Mrs. Field’s Cookies.
DeWitt Wallace, founder, and publisher of Reader’s Digest. Dropped out of college after one year. He went back, then dropped out again after the second year.
Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel. He started the company in high school, and never attended college.
Dustin Moskovitz, multi-millionaire co-founder of Facebook. Harvard dropout.
Francois Pinault, the founder of the luxury group Kering, dropped out of school when he was 11 years old to work in his father’s lumber mill. Today, he has a net worth of $33.2 billion.
Frank Lloyd Wright, the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Never attended high school. He surpassed all odds when he became the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Wright designed more than 1,100 projects with about half actually being built. His designs have inspired numerous architects to look at the beauty around them and add to it.
Frederick Henry Royce, auto designer, multimillionaire co-founder of Rolls-Royce. Dropped out of elementary school.
Frederick “Freddy” Laker, billionaire airline entrepreneur. Joins the ranks of successful high school dropouts.
George Eastman, multimillionaire inventor, Kodak founder. Dropped out of high school.
George Foreman – Two-time heavy-weight boxing champ and businessman. Foreman dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He was involved with street gangs until he joined the Job Corps in 1965. That’s when he first started to train as a boxer.
George Naddaff – founder of UFood Grill and Boston Chicken. Did not attend college.
Gurbaksh Chahal, multimillionaire founder of BlueLithium and Click Again. Dropped out at 16, when he founded Click Again.
H. Wayne Huizenga, the founder of WMX garbage company, helped build the Blockbuster video chain. Joined the Army out of high school, and later went to college only to drop out during his first year.
Henry Ford, the billionaire founder of Ford Motor Company. He did not attend college. At age 16, Henry Ford left home to apprentice as a machinist. Ford’s first major success, the Model T, allowed Ford to open a large factory and later start the assembly line production, revolutionalizing the auto-making industry.
Henry J. Kaiser, multimillionaire & founder of Kaiser Aluminum. Dropped out of high school.
Hilary Swank -The Oscar-winning actress and star of Buffy the VAmpier Slayer dropped out of high school around the age of sixteen. She said, “I’m not proud to say I’m a high school dropout.” She left high school to pursue an acting career.
Hyman Golden, co-founder of Snapple. Dropped out of high school.
Ingvar Kamprad, He founder of IKEA, one of the richest people in the world, suffers from dyslexia.
Isaac Merrit Singer, sewing machine inventor, founder of Singer. Elementary school dropout.
Jack Crawford Taylor, founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Dropped out of college to become a WWII fighter pilot in the Navy.
Jake Nickell, co-founder, and CEO of Threadless.com. He did not graduate from college.
James Cameron, Oscar-winning director, screenwriter, and producer. Dropped out of college.
Jay Van Andel, the billionaire co-founder of Amway. He never attended college.
Rapper Jay-Z, who has a net worth of $1 billion, never finished high school.
Jeffrey Kalmikoff, co-founder and chief creative officer of Threadless.com. He did not graduate from college.
Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Dropped out of Ph.D. program.
Jimmy Dean, multimillionaire founder of Jimmy Dean Foods. Dropped out of high school at 16.
John D. Rockefeller Sr., the billionaire founder of Standard Oil. Dropped out of high school just two months before graduating, though later took some courses at a local business school.
John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods. Enrolled and dropped out of college six times.
John Paul DeJoria, the billionaire co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems, founder of Patron Spirits tequila. Joined the Navy after high school.
Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark. Started selling greeting cards at the age of 18. Did not attend college.
Kemmons Wilson, a multimillionaire, founder of Holiday Inn. High school dropout.
Kenneth Hendricks, the billionaire founder of ABC Supply. High school dropout.
Kenny Johnson, founder of Dial-A-Waiter restaurant delivery. College dropout.
Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com. Dropped out of college during his second year.
Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire investor, owner of Mandalay Bay and Mirage Resorts, and MGM movie studio. Dropped out of eighth grade.
Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company. Dropped out of two different colleges. In 1977, Larry Ellison put up $2,000 to start what would become Oracle Corporation, the world’s second-largest software company. Ellison briefly attended the University of Illinois as well as the University of Chicago but received a degree from neither. Today he is known for his extravagant lifestyle. He owns a 450 ft, $200 million yacht, exotic cars including a McLaren F1, over a dozen multi-million dollar estates in California, and several jets, which he is licensed to pilot himself.
Leandro Rizzuto, the billionaire founder of Conair. Dropped out of college. Started Conair with $100 and a hot-air hair roller invention.
Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of a Limited Brands. Dropped out of law school. Started the Limited with $5,000.
Marc Rich, commodities investor, billionaire. Founder of Marc Rich & Co. Did not finish college.
Marcus Loew, multimillionaire founder of Loew’s theaters, co-founder of MGM movie studio. Elementary school dropout.
Mark Ecko, founder of Mark Ecko Enterprises. Dropped out of college.
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Inc. Did not attend college. While she didn’t have a college education or any training, she successfully created a brand known throughout the world. To date, nearly half a million women have started Mary Kay businesses, selling cosmetics. Their appreciation for Mary Kay Ash is unwavering.
Michael Dell, the billionaire founder of Dell Computers, started out of his college dorm room. Dropped out of college. With $1,000, dedication and desire, Michael Dell dropped out of college at age 19 to start PC’s Limited, later named Dell, Inc. Dell became the most profitable PC manufacturer in the world with revenues of $57.4 billion in 2007. In 1996, The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation offered a $50 million grant to The University of Texas at Austin to be used for children’s health and education in the city.
Michael Rubin, founder of Global Sports. Dropped out of college in his first year.
Micky Jagtiani, billionaire retailer, Landmark International. Dropped out of accounting school.
Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. With only a fourth grade education, Milton Hershey started his own chocolate company. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate became the first nationally marketed chocolate. Hershey also focused on building a wonderful community for his workers, known as Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Nicole Kidman – Actress attended North Sydney Girls’ High School when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She dropped out of school when she was seventeen years old to help support the family as a massage therapist. Later, when her mother had recovered she attended the Victorian College of the Arts and the Australian Theatre for Young People. She joins the ranks of successful high school dropouts also.
Paul Allen befriended Bill Gates while they were both attending a private school in Seattle. Allen went on to attend Washington State University but dropped out after two years. He was also the one who convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard in order to start Microsoft. The two co-founded the company in 1975, but Allen has distanced himself from the company since then. In addition to more than 100 million shares of Microsoft, Allen owns 12 professional sports teams, plenty of real estate, and has stakes in dozens of technology and media companies such as Dreamworks Studios.
Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable.com at the age of 19.
Philip Green, Topshop billionaire retail mogul. Dropped out of high school.
Quentin Tarantino – The Oscar-winning Actor dropped out at 15 from Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California. He started working as an usher at an adult film theater while taking acting classes.
Rachael Ray, Food Network cooking show star, food industry entrepreneur, with no formal culinary arts training. Never attended college. She has also appeared in magazines as well having her own magazine debut in 2006. She knew she was a success when a website dedicated to bashing her was created.
Ralph Lauren: In high school, Ralph Lauren was known to sell neckties to his fellow students. In his yearbook, he stated that he wanted to be a millionaire. He studied business for two years at Baruch College but never graduated. Nonetheless, he has far surpassed his goal of becoming a millionaire. In 2006, Polo Ralph Lauren had a net income of $300 million. He’s a surprising member of successful high school dropouts also.
Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s. Dropped out of high school.
Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and more. Dropped out of high school at 16. He is best known for his thrill-seeking spirit and outrageous business tactics. At the age of 16, he started his first successful business venture, Student Magazine. He is the owner of the Virgin brand and its 360 companies.
Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway. Served in the Army and did not attend college.
Richard Schulze, Best Buy founder. Did not attend college.
Rob Kalin, founder of Etsy. Flunked out of high school, enrolled in art school for a time, faked a student ID at MIT so he could take classes. His professors subsequently helped him get into NYU, they were so impressed.
Ron Popeil, multimillionaire founder of Ronco, inventor, producer, infomercial star. Did not finish college.
Rush Limbaugh, multi-millionaire media mogul, radio talk show host. Dropped out of college.
Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam records, founder of Russell Simmons Music Group, Phat Farm fashions, bestselling author. Did not finish college.
S. Daniel Abraham, founder of Slim-Fast, billionaire. Did not attend college.
Sean John Combs, entertainer, producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur. Never finished college.
Shawn Fanning, developer of Napster. Dropped out of college at the age of 19.
Simon Cowell, TV producer, music judge, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent. High school dropout. His first job was in a mailroom for a music publishing company. He has since become an Artist and Repertoire (A&R) executive for Sony BMG in the UK, and a television producer.
Steve Jobs. After attending one semester of college, SteveJobs took a job with Atari. After that, we founded Apple Computers with friend Steve Wozniak. Today, without the word “Computers” in their name, Apple is seen as one of the most innovative companies in the world that have created successful products like the iPod, iTunes, iPads and of course the perennially popular iPhone.
Steve Jobs was also the CEO and co-founder of Pixar before it merged with Walt Disney. In addition to being the CEO of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs became the largest individual shareholder of the Walt Disney Company after selling Pixar Animation Studios in 2006. In 2007, he was chosen as Fortune Magazine’s most powerful businessman. That’s quite an honor for someone who dropped out of college after just one semester. Although his yearly salary was officially just $1, Jobs has received “executive gifts” including a $46 million jet and nearly 30 million shares of restricted stock. Because capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than salary income, this is also a tax minimization strategy. Sadly the great innovator, Steve Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October of 2011.
Steve Madden, shoe designer. Dropped out of college.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, billionaire. Did not complete college.
Ted Murphy, founder of social media company Izea Entertainment. Dropped out of college.
Theodore Waitt, the billionaire founder of Gateway Computers. Dropped out of college to start Gateway – one semester before graduating.
Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph, and more. Primarily home-schooled, then joined the railroad when he was only 12.
Tom Anderson, the co-founder and “friend” of MySpace. Dropped out of high school.
Ty Warner, billionaire developer of Beanie Babies, real estate investor, and hotel owner. Dropped out of college. Ty, Inc., made $700 million in a single year with the Beanie Babies craze without spending money on advertising! He has since expanded to include Ty Girlz dolls, directly competing with Bratz dolls.
Vidal Sassoon, founder of Vidal Sassoon, multimillionaire. Dropped out of high school.
W. Clement Stone, the multimillionaire insurance man, author, and founder of Success magazine. Dropped out of elementary school. Later attended high school, and graduated. Attended but did not finish college.
W.T. Grant, founder of W.T. Grant department stores, multimillionaire. Dropped out of high school.
Wally “Famous” Amos, the multimillionaire entrepreneur, author, talent agent, founder of Famous Amos cookies. Left high school at 17 to join the Air Force.
Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company. Dropped out of high school at 16, but Walt Disney’s career and accomplishments are astounding. The most influential animator, Disney holds the record for the most awards and nominations. Disney’s imagination included cartoons and theme parks. The Walt Disney Company now has annual revenue exceeding $30 billion.
Wolfgang Puck, chef, owner of 16 restaurants, and 80 bistros, quit school at the age of 14.
Y.C. Wang, the billionaire founder of Formosa Plastics. Did not attend high school.
Zhou Qunfei, owner of Lens Technology. She dropped out of a Hong Kong high school at 16 to work at a watch lens factory. Later she attended accounting classes at night after work. Eventually, Zhou saved nearly $20,000 (Hong Kong dollars, about $2500 USD). Using that money, she started her own watch lens company and ran it with her family. She is now the CEO of Lens Technology a publicly traded company that makes glass for brands like Apple, Samsung, and Tesla. Her net worth exceeds $6 billion.