02/07/2014 12:24 EST | Updated 04/09/2014 05:59 EDT

Why You Don't Need a University Degree To Be Successful in Business

As I delve more and more into this "I'm not good enough" syndrome for our book Enough, I have come to realize that where outwardly I may appear confident, I also have my share of hang ups.

Take the other night, I was at an event where around the dinner table it turned out we had three engineers -- two women and one man -- and as a result the conversation turned to where you went to school, what you took and what, despite your original degree, you ended up doing.

It was an interesting conversation, and quite fascinating to hear about the different career paths - like going from engineering to architecture to senior management in a bank. But as we worked our way around the table, I was starting to get nervous.

You see, I don't have a degree. I never went to university and in a country where higher education is THE currency, I've always ducked such conversations. Because of the senior positions I have held in my career, there has always been an assumption that I have a degree, but I don't and it has always created a sense of inadequacy for me.

So as we worked away around the table, I started to reflect internally about what I was going to say. My thought was that I could make a joke of it -- I often use humour to deflect difficult situations. Yes, I would say that I had a degree in b.s.

Strange as it would be, when it came to my turn, the conversation took another turn and I was off the hook. However, with my focus on our book Enough, my radar is picking up that this may well be an area of concern for many people, and that their lack of formal education could be holding them back.

In fact, to take that thought one step further, maybe that is one reason why I have gravitated to entrepreneurial pursuits. You don't have to have a degree to be successful in this arena, in fact, many super-successful players have graduated from the school of hard-knocks and it is that very resiliency that has stood them in good stead.

Several months ago I participated in a roundtable discussion about women and entrepreneurship and one of the ideas bounced around was that entrepreneurship should be taught at the university and college level, as a way to foster the entrepreneurial spirit. While I think that is a great idea, in fact, I am speaking at the entrepreneurship program at Georgian College later this year, as I pointed out at the time, many entrepreneurs don't go to university, and so would miss out on this learning opportunity.

More, I think the whole concept of entrepreneurialism should be part of the curriculum in elementary and high school, so that those who are not university or college bound, and not everyone is, can look at developing an entrepreneurial mindset and actually give consideration to starting their own business as a career option. With unemployment for youth at an all time high, this is worth considering, particularly when small business is the backbone of our economy.

As Steve Mariotti, founder of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship observed when he was teaching entrepreneurial skills to inner city students in New York, many had a natural aptitude for entrepreneurship. Their challenging lives encouraged independence of spirit, toughness, and a natural ability in salesmanship. They were, he found, comfortable with risk and ambiguity -- key ingredients for successful entrepreneurship.

So I have decided to practice what I am going to preach, and to let go my feelings of inadequacy because from where I sit not having a degree has not held me back, except maybe in my mind, and if I really wanted to, I could go back and get one. But you know what, I don't.


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