I graduated with a degree in Finance from the University of Pittsburgh in ’05. I’ve always been more math sided than verbal, and more business oriented than the arts, so I was drawn to business. The business majors were Accounting, Marketing, Finance, and Business Management. I received a C in managerial accounting and a B- in financial accounting, so my attention to detail wasn’t great. I got fine marks in Marketing classes but I’m far from creative. You can see from my transcript that my C+ in Human Resources is mind boggling so my general business / people acumen may be in question. As such, I chose Finance.
I took Calculus in high school and then had an almost identical course in college which I was able to get an A in. This sent me on a path that had me trying to figure out the intrinsic value of stocks using the Black Scholes Model and understanding how interest rates affect bonds. I’d go to the Hillman library for hours using my financial calculator to come up with numbers that I honestly had no idea what they meant. At 20 years old, I didn’t understand how the numbers I was computing had any relation to the world we live in. The major disconnect here was that I had no money to invest which is why I had no real life experience to what I was learning. If I took the courses today, they’d benefit me much more.
Senior year, there was a course called Advanced Corporate Finance and my teacher was Jay Sukits. My class was at 8am and everyday before the students arrived, he’d have some classic rock song blaring. I specifically remember The Pretender by Jackson Browne as a song that still sticks with me every time I hear it and relate it to that class. 33% of the grade was on projects, 33% on tests, and 33% on participation. I was a fish out of water in this class and Sukits terrified me. I participated a total of 0 times. I knew that I couldn’t fail or I’d have to go 18 credits in the Spring. A 0 in participation which would have given me a max grade of a 67%. I wrote a long winded email to him for why I shouldn’t fail his class and he gave me a C. Whew.
That anecdote aside, I’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars in the stock market and don’t have much of a knack for it anymore. I view the financial markets as a giant gambling mess for adults that I want very little to do with. I know people get wealthy beyond their wildest dreams from the market but for every dollar someone gains, someone else loses it. The public tends to lose it. 11 years after college I have come to this conclusion and maybe would have not gone into a major that is so corrupted.
Either way, I didn’t use any of the knowledge from that finance degree. I developed valuable skills like working hard and socializing from college but as I sit here today, I learned far more from one book by Napoleon Hill called the Laws of Success, than my entire collegiate career. As luck had it, I was given the opportunity to put these principals to work with my family business which I know is a huge advantage compared to starting from the ground up. I sit here today and look at all of the hard work I’ve put into this business and know that its prospering not because of what I learned in college, but the dedication to seeing it succeed.