Posted by: tommybrennan | January 12, 2012

It’s Never Too Late!

(First of all let me stop the false rumors.  The picture at left is not me.  Though he is certainly a stately gentleman, I am only 50 and he is 99.)

I recently accomplished something that I should have done 28 years ago.  I finally completed my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.  Now, in some ways, this is a moot point.  I co-founded a company with a friend back in 1999, and I have been the sole owner for the last seven years.  The business has survived several recessions and the meltdown of 2008.  This survival in the midst of a very challenging environment is significant.  I have had to do everything in this business; financial projections, hiring and firing, establish benefits and insurance, update CAFM databases to Microsoft SQL Server, teach AutoCAD, measure massive (over one million square feet) buildings in dangerous neighborhoods (Bedford Stuyvesant), take out lines of credit, conform to all of New York’s labyrinth of regulations, remove ice from the gutters with a hammer and screwdriver and take out the garbage.  This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.

Since I already know so much about running a small business, why would I seek a degree in what I already know?  A legitimate question.  There are several reasons:

First, I love to learn.  Going back to school has been a joy for me.   I love the interaction, the accountability of  a class schedule, and a set time frame for finishing a book or an essay.  I learn more this way.  I believe that I am a much more informed person by finishing this degree.

Second, many opportunities open up with the acquisition of a Bachelor’s degree.  I love to teach, and yet I have found many doors closed to me because of  my lack of  that elusive Little Bo Peep diploma (sheepskin, get it? Never mind).  It is great to say that a degree doesn’t matter, but when you know that you are completely qualified to do something, and yet people tell you that you can’t do it due to the lack of a degree, it is a bit  hollow to say that it doesn’t matter.  I will now have greater opportunities for consulting, teaching and employment due to my new degree.  That is a fact.

Third, it validates and legitimizes my experiences.  I can say that I know X, Y and Z, and I may be far more competent than my colleagues that have a degree, but without it, there is a sense that I am coming in through the back door.  That I am second best. The degree eliminates doubts in my own mind and others about my capabilities. Indeed, when I sought to teach AutoCAD at BOCES here in New York state, I had to get special permission to teach, and even that was conditional at best.  I wound up losing that position due to my lack of a degree in spite of  outstanding success with my students and fellow teachers.  I had three students finish first in the State Automated Manufacturing Technology competition, and they went to the national VICA/Skills USA conference in Kansas City.  Yet, I was not qualified to teach without a degree according to Albany.  As frustrating as that was to me, the rules are what they are.  If I had finished my degree when I was younger, I would have had my card punched and I would have been able to control my future better.

Fourth, a person with a Bachelor’s degree makes on average about 75% more than their non-lettered counterparts.  I like those numbers, and I like those odds.  This is a no-brainer.

Fifth, I felt that I had a responsibility from God to improve my situation in whatever way that I could.  This was an unfinished goal from years before, and I needed to complete it.  Those who are given much are expected to accomplish much.  I have been given much.

So, what is the takeaway?  Kids, stay in school if you are inclined to get a college education.  Find a way to complete your degree with no debt (or very little debt) and do it while you have fewer responsibilities.  I can guarantee you that it will get much harder once you are married and have kids and a house payment.  The other takeaway is never give up.  Never Give Up!  It is always easier to quit.  To say that I am too old, to say that it doesn’t matter, to say that there is no reason to push myself academically.   Those are all lies. When you stop learning and dreaming, you start to age.  I don’t mean physically, I mean in your spirit and soul.  Don’t embrace the naysayers’ doubts.  Push yourself to the next level of your career, relationships, or self discipline.  It is a new year, and you can do it!   You should do it!  There is grace for this kind of step, but there isn’t grace to do nothing.

In this case I can say emphatically:  Do as I say, and do as I do!



  1. Tom your an inspiration and great example of what it means to be Godly man. Congrats on the bachelors degree.

  2. Congrats, Tom! Job well done! So glad you were able to put “paid” to that particular life goal. I like your reasoning for going back to school for a degree even though you obviously already had the expertise. I almost left college in my senior year; I am so glad some people talked me out of it. Great words of advice: Never Give Up!

  3. It’s wonderful to see that you earned a Bachelor’s degree, and I like the never give up slogan. It is way to easy in life to give up on a goal like a degree because of the challenges and changes it requires in your life style. Great to see that you succeeded : )

  4. Congrats on attaining that Lil bo Peep! I love you and am so proud of you that you DIDn’T give up! You hit this goal with a bullseye and a stupendous GPA to boot!

    Love you!

  5. TOM, HERE IS MY UPCOMING BLOG … inspired by yours …

    If you get up some Friday night about half way between your goodnight prayers and rooster’s first crow, think of me. I will have been up all night and I have been slugging it out to complete my masters’ degree. My class meets at 8:30 am on Saturday mornings, and I find that time the best to complete my assignments.

    I was inspired to reflect upon this upon reading an excellent blog by dear friend Thom Brennan:

    I know I have many talents, but being a grounded manager wasn’t one of them. So, I signed up for the MBA program through University of Phoenix. I got past the lies such as I wanted to go to a place with a large national football team or I wanted to be one of the cool kids. I chose to find more knowledge and lace the malt-o-meal between my ears with something more than then things that make me look smart watching Jeopardy. I admire those who like knowledge. For me, classroom learning has been a struggle. But I faced the bucket of fears and did it anyways … Fire, ready, aim!

    I can say I use it, which has been the biggest argument which keener minds have used against me. I wanted something third party, as opposed to the business coaches that kept telling they could straighten me and my company out.

    I have to laugh, at age 50, I am one of the three oldest students. I expected many more. Over two-thirds of my class are women. I just am concerned that the good ol’ boys are going to be lost in the tsunami of managers and leaders who want it more, and are willing to validate it to get more. They say that the number of guys going to school is dropping.

    The light at the end of the tunnel, Graduation, is now approaching. I finish my last class in May and walk commencement in June. I always feel like Curly of the Three Stooges in a gown and mortarboard, and that I should break in to a little chorus of Swingin’ The Alphabet (You know the tune, B …a … Bay … B …e .. Bee .. )

    My goal is simple and practical. Use the degree and put the knowledge to work. Of course, I want to be celebrated and respected for it. But the willingness to engage in a process of self mastery and achievement is where its at.

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