But it's not just actors who have achieved success despite bailing on their formal education. Here's a group, sure to be a corkscrew to the gut of any CPA with an MBA, that includes some of the more impressive dropout billionaires: Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Music and Virgin Atlantic Airways); Andrew Carnegie (industrialist); Henry Ford (founder of the Ford Motor Company); John D. Rockefeller (oilman); Philip Emeagwali (supercomputer scientist and one of the pioneers of the Internet); Kirk Kerkorian (investor and casino operator); and Jack Kent Cooke (media mogul and owner of the Washington Redskins). And my favorite list: geniuses without diplomas, in-cluding Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin.
To be fair, there isn't enough paper in the world to print a Who's Who of Famous Persons Who Actually Finished High School. And an argument can be made, I'm sure, that successful dropouts are even rarer in an increasingly competitive modern job market where degrees, diplomas, and technical knowledge carry more weight than ever. There are plenty of old-timers on these lists, for sure, but it more than makes the case that one can be smart without necessarily being "book smart." Just as the reverse is true. As Dan Quayle once held, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." Dan went to DePauw University and received his law degree from the University of Indiana. Oh, and he put in four years as the second most powerful man on the planet.
Still, there really is no substitute for a solid education to inform a maturing mind. The men and women on these lists may have prospered, not through avoidance of a classic education, but by finding a way, if not to replicate it, then to approximate it. Whether you go to school or set out on your own, certain lessons are unavoidable. Speaking from personal experience, it might be less painful to learn them
As for my own truncated secondary education, my head was in the clouds as my mom would say, or if you asked my father, up my a**.
In the outright creative subjects (drama, music, cre-ative writing, other art electives, drawing, painting, and printmaking) I'd bring home A's. But any subject based on fixed rules, like math or chemistry or physics, sent my grades into free fall; the gold stars and smiley faces from grade school were long gone.
At report card time, I'd try to explain to my exasperated mother: "These are absolutes, Mom. They're boring. Take math, two plus two equals four. I mean, that's already on the books, right? Somebody's already nailed that down. What do they need me for? If someone's got a handle on how to get it to add up to five, count me in." Mom would sigh and hurry to sign the report card before Dad got home.