Jun 22, 2023

NGPF Podcast: Ken Rusk on Exploring Blue-Collar Opportunities

College isn’t for everybody. Ken Rusk, a renowned entrepreneur, and author of the book "Blue-Collar Cash," shares his insights on achieving success in blue-collar industries.


Ren Makino: Hi, this is Ren from Next Gen Personal Finance. And you're listening to the NGPF podcast today on the show, you know, you speak to Ken Rusk, a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and blue collar advocate, who believes that there's no degree required for comfort, peace, and freedom. Ken talks to us about the importance of emphasizing that college isn't for everyone, the wealth of opportunities for students who decide not to go to college, as well as his own experience building wealth through blue collar work. He also talks about his Wall Street Journal best-selling book blue Collar Cash Start Earning What You're Worth and his motivations is spreading his knowledge to everyone i think this episode couples great with NGPF's Alternative to Four Years College mini unit and I hope you enjoy.

Yanely Espinal: All right. We're gonna go ahead and jump right in. So great to have you, Ken. How are you? 

Ken Rusk: I'm great. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. 

[00:00:48] Ken's Bakcground

Yanely Espinal: All right, Ken, so let's jump in and learn a little bit more about you. Tell us a little bit about your professional pathway and a little bit about your, upbringing and what led you to entrepreneurship too.

Ken Rusk: Well, when I was in high school, I remember I was 15 years old and it was time to get your first part-time job. I wanted to get my first car, take my girlfriend out for pizza, go bowling with my buddies, whatever it was. And my high school was kind of unique because it shared a fence with an industrial park. We used to go after school. We'd cut through this hole in the fence that had been there for years, and we'd walk through this industrial park to go hang out like kids did way back then, before they had all these screens in their hands all day long. And so I remember doing that and seeing these different businesses that were hustling and bustling with lots of things that that young kids liked. There was equipment, there was bulldozers and dump trucks and all that kinda stuff. 

And so one day I walked in and I said, look, I need to make some money. What can I do? And so they said, well, we're basically ditch diggers here. And I said, well, I think I'm qualified. I can do that. And I needed money like anybody else. So it was interesting because I used to do that in the summer times when I wasn't in school and in the winter times when I wasn't in high school. I'd cut through that fence to work in the office after school. And so I got a kind of a well-rounded feeling for both the front and the back of the house, as they say. When I was 18, they said we're gonna send you around the country to open businesses from scratch. We wanted set up franchises. And so I was at a crossroads. I mean, I remember going to my father. He didn't attend college and he was a pretty successful guy. And I said, what should I do? I have this opportunity to do this or I can go to school. And he said, well, I'm not gonna tell you what to do, but it sounds like this opportunity is a pretty good one for you to learn business, which is what you're interested in anyway. So I did that for three or four years, lived out of a suitcase. And, long story short, moved to Toledo, Ohio opened my own company, started with six people, and now we have about 200 and three or four different companies. So it's been a heck of a ride, that's for sure. 

[00:02:44] Becoming a Entrereneur

Yanely Espinal: Wow. So it sounds like you were sort of an accidental entrepreneur. It wasn't something that you maybe knew you wanted to do from a young age. How do you know, if entrepreneurship is right for you? Because I feel like right now it's such a trendy thing with social media, the hustle culture and be your own boss and all of this stuff that students are seeing on TikTok and Instagram and YouTube. 

Ken Rusk: I'm a big visualist. I like to teach people how to see things before they get them and you can't really draw the word entrepreneur, but what you can do is you can break it down into all the different characteristics that an entrepreneur has. Things like courage and initiative, and faith, and hope and persistence and resilience, and all those kinds of things. Vision. These are all the kinda characteristics that entrepreneurs have. But it all starts with the main one. And that for me it was always a risk reward. If I saw something, I wanted it and I found a way to pay for it. I think that's kind of the early stages of entrepreneurship. 

[00:03:38] Thoughts on the Pressure to Go To College

Yanely Espinal: Absolutely. And developing some of the skills that you need as an entrepreneur, like resilience. It's a great point. Now, in terms of your personal pathway, you went from digging ditches to kind of like just getting into entrepreneurship. You mentioned in your book talking about discovering success and happiness for yourself without necessarily a college degree. So do you feel like a lot of that, college prep sort of culture in schools is harmful and or what's your take on that? 

Ken Rusk: Well, no question. Let, let me start by saying that I am not antcollege at all if you're going to a specific school for a specific degree like architecture or if you wanna be a surgeon so you can operate on my shoulder, so I can get back out on the golf course. I want you to know everything there is to know about a knife before you pick it up and come at me with it, right? And there's no question that that's true. But if you're just going to school because you're being told to do that, like I'm not even sure that I know I what a college prep high school is. I know that I went to a high school and then years later it became a college prep school. But nobody can tell me what the change was within the school. So other than the fact that now if you're walking the hallway as a young man or a young woman and you'd rather open a bakery, or you'd rather be a carpenter or a plumber or an electrician, you're now feeling stigmatized walking down that hallway because everyone says college prep, and I'm supposed to go college prep. What does this mean? Okay. So I think it's dangerous because right now when you wake up and get out of bed, when you put your feet on the floor, by the time you get to your office, school, home, church, wherever you're going, you've crossed thousands of blue collar jobs that are still very viable today and that are now paying 80, 90, a 100, 120, $150,000 a year.

So we have to be really careful with the supply and demand balance. We all learn supply and demand in 10th grade, right? In economics and where supply is low and demand is high. That's where the money goes. So I think it's dangerous to kind of, you know, corral every kid into a college mindset when in fact, we know that 50% of the jobs in the United States today, 78 out of 160 million are jobs that you work with your hands. As that supply of influx gets lower and lower and lower, like for example, getting rid of shop classes in high school where millions of kids accidentally discovered how cool it was to be a carpenter or plumber, a hairdresser, electrician a nail tech, whatever, we eliminated that choice. So that is a dangerous thing for me, I think. And I think for the teachers out there that, that maybe know that some of those kids, Could really do something great with their hands. You know, I think it's a good idea to kinda support that because that that supply is so low that those kids are gonna have a really lucrative career, no doubt.

Yanely Espinal: Absolutely. I think that that's the issue too. What do you think your message would be now? If there's a student right now who maybe is hesitant about pursuing a blue collar career because of the stigma, because of the college culture in their school, what might your message be to students like that?

Ken Rusk: Well, first off, I would say that there's honor in working with your hands in creating, building, maintaining, fixing, all those types of things that need to be done out there. I think there's honor in creating beauty. I think there's honor in all those kinds of things. So that's the first thing I would say.

The second thing I would say is this. Ditch digging was number 99 out of a list of a hundred things that I wanted to do. But it afforded me the control. The control to control my input, my output, the quality of that output, my day, my time, my schedule, and my financial gain. And eventually it afforded me the ability to build out that life plan that I so clearly saw. Sometimes it's not so important what you do for a living as it is what you do with what you do for a living. Because I wanted to be a race car driver. That was my number one thing. Yeah, sure, it was a romantic thing to do. But you know what? I was able to satisfy that later in life. I own a collection of cars now and I race them around the track. And so I satisfied that thing. But it took me to expand into some businesses and to create some opportunities for me to be able to do those kinds of things.

And the other reason I say that is, we all wanna be passionate about what we do every day, and I get that, but are we living to work or are we working so that we can live? I want to explore what the live looks like, because once you know what that is, there's a lot of paths to get there. One of them being college, one of them being an apprenticeship, one of them being working right outta school, going to a trade or tech school, working in a military career, which is amazing, and you can have another second career by the time you're 50. There's so many great things that you can do out there to gain that picture. I think you need to start with the picture first, and then figure out one of the ways that you wanna get there. 

[00:08:40] Blue Collar Work

Yanely Espinal: I love that. Yeah. You gotta start with the end in mind. I've read that in many books and have heard that even through my teacher training program. I think my dad, who worked many unforgiving jobs, a lot of physical labor would tell us that, you know, this is not easy. These blue colored jobs are physically demanding and require extensive work hours. Now, do you feel like that is a generalization? Do you feel like that's fair? I do recognize, like a lot of young people are afraid that, these types of jobs, the ones that pay really well, may involve physical labor or riskier physical conditions or longer hours. Do you feel like that maybe has impacted this push towards college for so many communities and schools specifically?

Ken Rusk: Yeah. First off, there's three things to impact there. First off, one of the things that you said was, we need to go to college so that we can get out of poverty. Well, if the goal is to get out of poverty, become an electrician, okay. Become a pipe fitter, become a welder, you know, run a crew of three or four dump trucks. There's so many ways to make an absolute killing in the blue collar field if your goal is to get out of poverty. So that's the first thing. If your goal is to be educated, then go to school, then do that if that's what your goal is. And that's an honorable goal as well, you know? But I can tell you, nobody ever rolled up into my driveway and saw everything that I've accomplished and said, wow, what degree do you have? I mean, that's just never happened. They may have asked me, well, how did you grind this life out? And I'm happy to share that with 'em. But again, it is hard work. And to your point about the actual physicality of things, if you're born today, you are almost certainly gonna live to a hundred. That's a fact with the medicines and the vitamins and the way we have things that keep us healthy. I have a lot of friends that are in, in the contracting business. They are taking care of themselves like Superman. I mean, they're, they're doing these things that you never had 20, 30, 40 years ago. That's number one.

Number two, with the advent of technology, you're not lifting like you used to lift. You're not grabbing like you used to grab, you're not doing a lot of the hauling that you used to do. To see some of these guys, there's a huge difference between swinging a five pound hammer all day long and using a nail gun, which shoots nails out at 200 miles an hour. There's a whole lot of difference between the technologies back then and the technologies now. I think a lot of that stuff is kind of like some old school thinking that probably needs to be updated, but it's to college's benefit not to allow that to happen. Because they're the draw there. You just let supply and demand work for you and be willing to do what other people aren't willing to do, and you're gonna have an amazing, lucrative life. That's for sure. 

Yanely Espinal: You said so many amazing things there. You dropped so many gems. So one of the things that you brought up was automation, you know, technology and so many of those more difficult parts being automated. And it's interesting because when we think about our automation, the instinct is not that it is gonna have a positive effect on blue color jobs. The instinct is to think that it's gonna have a negative impact of, on these jobs because it is going to create job displacement. As automation advances a demand for certain types of skills, there's gonna shift, that automation is gonna contribute to income inequality because, it's gonna disproportionately affect lower skilled workers who are more likely to be employed in these blue collar jobs and that kind of thing. That's usually the type of message that we're getting about technology and automation in blue collar work. But you, it seems like you framed it as like automation's gonna have also some positive effects, you know, can bring increased efficiency, productivity, even impacts on safety. It's interesting. I would love to hear more from you about your opinion about this influence of automation, if you do indeed feel like it's more positive or if it's more negative or if it really truly is a mix of both. 

Ken Rusk: It's actually, it's actually mostly more positive and I'll tell you why. So you used to have a guy push 20 wheelbarrows. Now he uses one Bobcat and does that same work in 15 minutes, but the work still gets done and he gets to charge, or she gets to charge the same amount of money. Okay. So those are the types of efficiencies that are, that are really important and that you have to keep your eye on, like I said before, a nail gun versus a hammer. The way they have saws now and the way they have welders and the way they have all this equipment that lifts and loads things. It's a whole different world out there when you're doing it. Now, I'm not saying it's as easy as sitting behind a desk all day. I'm not saying that. But I have to tell you, there's a certain honor in something that I coined the term, this step back moment. And what that means is when I'm done at the end of the day and I've just planted 10 beautiful pine trees and I've loaded up a bunch of stone in some mulch and built maybe a pond or a dry river bed or whatever, and I beautified someone's front yard, I get to stand back and lean on my shovel while I'm listening to. I don't know, Zeppelin in my new pickup truck. And I get to lean on that shovel and say, you know what? I did that, that's gonna stand the test of time. That outdoor kitchen that I built will be there for a hundred years, and I just don't think that you get that on the 15th floor in some cubicle. Okay?

Now again, there are people that feel very secure in a huge corporate environment. I get that. Then if you wanna play in that arena, go for it. I'm a hundred percent behind you. But let's not forget about the beauty of being outside, doing what you love, controlling your own day, controlling your own business, controlling your own life, and the financial gain that you get from that. Let's not discount that because that's still alive and well and probably more alive and well than it's been in a very long time. So, I'm all about getting the balance back in life. Let's not let the pendulum swing one far too far one way or another because as the pendulum swings more towards everyone has to go to school, that creates amazing opportunities for the people who are gonna think about the other side of the equation and go do something with their hands.

[00:14:39] Having Students Explore New Pathways

Yanely Espinal: I love that. So, let's shift our thinking a little bit to being in the shoes of these educators who are part of the NGPF community. And who are teaching students day in and day out. Now obviously many of them are teaching financial education, but classes about financial literacy often include careers and entrepreneurship and life after high school. We actually agree with a lot of the sentiments that you've shared in terms of our curriculum philosophy. So we do have a unit called Paying for College, but it's paired with another unit that's taught simultaneously, which is called Alternatives to Four Year College. And we really truly do think that the only way to teach students about college is teaching it as one of many pathways that anyone can choose from when they're deciding what to do after high school graduation. But if you could specifically change the way that students are learning about pathways after high school, what would you do? 

Ken Rusk: Well, first off, I'd make them aware of all the different pathways that are possible. That's, that's the first thing. Secondly, I would make absolutely certain that we don't stigmatize honor of building a house , or owning a bakery or owning a hairdressing shop or whatever it might be. We need to get away from the stigmatizing of that and let's get back to the honor of that.

The other thing is this, you know, this is a story that actually was one of the impetuses for my book, Blue Collar Cash. I actually went to a car rental place. The car that I had needed a huge repair. It needed the whole dashboard ripped out. It was gonna take two weeks. So they sent me to this place to rent a car. I go to this place, the kid comes out from behind the booth there. He's got a three piece suit on. And he was trying to work it. I think each piece was from a different suit, but I mean, that's okay. He was really trying to do the thing and we were talking about his whole scenario and one of the things that he told me was, you know, I went to school. I went because I was supposed to, you know, I didn't really apply myself, but I stumbled through it. I got really good at beer pong and now I have $80,000 in debt. And here I am working at this car rental place, knocking down 28 grand a year. I never wanted to go to begin with, when do I get to begin my life? Because now I got this mountain I have to pay off and then I can start living my life. Right? So I think we could probably do a much better job. I'm gonna make some enemies here by, by at least saying if you're gonna go to college, can you at least know what the job is gonna be waiting for you when you get out? Can you at least get a little more specific about what you plan on doing with that degree when you're done? 

Because right now in the research for the book, my publisher came up with some interesting stats, and that was that four outta 10 kids go into college not knowing why they're going. Scary. Number two, 25% of them changed their degree within the first year. Inefficient and scary. But the worst one was only 30, 35% ever use their degree. I mean, that's horribly inefficient. And I don't necessarily think the fault lies in any particular place as much as it does in this societal norm or this societal expectation because some of those kids weren't meant to go to college. Some of those kids were meant to start their own businesses or be contractors or be some of these other folks. And now, the kid from Avis. He wants to be a carpenter. I said, you know what, get outta here. Go be a carpenter like right now. I hope that he did that because at the end of the day, you really want to have value in what you do, and you sure as heck don't wanna give everybody else a five or 10 year headstart because you got that expensive degree that you're paying for, that you're not using. And that just doesn't make any sense to me. I would probably change a few things about that, I might not make any friends along the way. 

Yanely Espinal: First of all. My degree is right here. It's beautiful. It makes me very proud. I put it in my background, you know, Bachelor of Arts in History of Art and Architecture and Visual Arts. I have not used that. I don't work in architecture, I don't work in museums. I don't work in art. I don't work in arts management. I work in financial literacy education. And so it's interesting, you know, you mentioned that stat about so many people don't actually use the degree.

Ken Rusk: You know. I also wanna be a little careful because I suppose that I have a little bit of a biased opinion here because I was able to be successful not going to college. And I have a lot of friends that followed that same path, lots of them. But I suppose that there is the experience of college and the individuality and living alone or living on your own and the social aspect and, you know, learning how to do things like debate or take care of yourself or be on your own. I'm sure all of that is beneficial. So again, I'm not an anti-college guy. But if that's what you're gonna get and that's all you're gonna get out of it, I think there's less expensive ways to do this. I've told this equation to a group of parents, many of them who knew they had multiple children, and some of them should have gone and some of 'em shouldn't, but they just sent them anyway. And I said, if you look at it this way, let's assume that you're gonna go to a college that's $40,000 a year all in, okay? Books, travel, gas, everything. You know that's $160,000 after four years on the negative side of your asset base if you borrowed the money. So right now the average construction job pays 30 bucks an hour. That's about 70 grand a year or more after a 45, 50 hour work week. A little bit of overtime cuz they're all doing it. They're so busy. You know, after four years that's $200,000, 300,000, right? So that's probably a four or $500,000 swing in your asset base, one way to another if you're just going to college for the experience of it, right?

So all I'm saying is I'm not anti college. I'm gonna say it for the third time, but you at least need to think about that equation. Because that is a fully funded 401k. It's at least a half paid for house. It's a car. It's getting yourselves ready to rock and roll and start your life. So if you're just going to go at least consider that before you make that that huge leap because you're gonna be behind the eight ball with a lot of other people that maybe took a different route than you. 

[00:21:01] Transiting to Work after High School

Yanely Espinal: Oh yes, absolutely. What about the transition? Because you talked about going pretty much straight into blue collar work and like navigating in that transition pretty easily because you did it slowly over time. There's many students who maybe struggle with navigating that transition from education to employment in blue collar industries, especially if they lack prior experience. what might you recommend for students, especially as we have educators here who might be aware of students in their classes that are thinking about doing that transition? 

Ken Rusk: There is an absolute crisis of people that own their own companies, small contracting companies, whether they're plumbing companies or masonry companies. I know a half a dozen people in Toledo, Ohio that are ready to retire. They have companies that are paying them between 150 and 250,000 a year, and they have customers galore and work for months, and they have no one to leave these companies to. If you're just even slightly aware of your surroundings, you could go work for this guy or this gal. Spend four or five years working for them, learning everything that they have to learn cuz they're anxious to teach it. I mean, they're anxious to pass this on. And either you could buy that company, you could buy it by financing it from the owner, you don't even need any money to do that. You could start your own business if that's not the path you wanna choose. If he ends up giving it to his son or daughter out of nowhere or whatever. But you would learn from someone who has expertise, who has a well-run machine, okay? You would learn from someone who has made all the mistakes. So you're almost going to a four or five year college by working for somebody else and gaining that skill and the things that you need to manage and run that business efficiently. And then you get to buy it. I mean, it's unbelievable the opportunities that are out there. And there's generations and there's a whole 52 to 62 year old generation out there of people that own their own companies that have nobody to leave them to. If you told me, well, yeah, my daughter went right out of high school and started working for this gal and took over her company. Now she's knocking down a couple hundred grand a year and she's 28. I'm all ears. I'm like, hell yeah. Let's do that. Right? So you, you just have to be aware that that stuff is out there because it is, and it's working to your advantage because so many kids aren't willing to do that stuff. Or they're stigmatized against it, or they've been corralled away from it. So take advantage of the supply and demand issue we have of this crisis we have and go live yourself a really great life. I mean, it's out there for sure. 

[00:23:48] Experience Writing the Book

Yanely Espinal: Yeah, makes a lot of sense. This has been great, but obviously want to talk more about your book because your book is unique in the fact that it talks a lot about these ideas that I think a lot of young people aren't really hearing about. You know, being able to love your work and not necessarily feeling like you have to go to college to secure your future, and that you could prioritize happiness and do something that really brings you real joy. So tell us a little bit about the book, the motivation for you to write it, and also some of the key insights that you got while preparing to create the book and the research that you were doing that culminated in your published book.

Ken Rusk: I'll do this real quickly. So I never intended to be an author. My daughter got sick, really sick, pretty serious illness when she was 12. And gave her mother and I, a pretty scary five years and a lot of waiting rooms in doctor's offices to think about life, you know, and, she's fine now. She's, in fact, she's just told me that I'm gonna be a grandfather the other day, which is really cool. I don't feel like I have the grandfather like thing yet, but I'm working on it. 

So, I actually wrote a letter to her, a very long letter. Like, what would I teach you to chase in life? Like, what should you be chasing? And the words comfort, peace, and freedom just kept showing up. I couldn't get rid of 'em. They were just stuck in my head. Because everyone has their own version, or their own vision, or their own level, their own nirvana of what comfort, peace, and freedom is to them individually. I mean, we're not all gonna chase rap star careers and mansions and you know, 15 cars and yachts and all that. If we could live the way we wanted to live and we could see that and we could draw it, and we could leave it in front of us so that our minds would attract our bodies towards that would be really cool.

So that's kind of the impetus for the whole book. I've probably hired 2,500 people in my career over the last 30 years. And I've had to do a lot of involuntary life coaching, man. I mean, I have no letters after my name. I have no formal training, but, you know, you start working on people's driver's license and their first apartment and their checking account and their visa bills and, you know, you're getting all these things figured out and you help them to kinda straighten their life out and see what their life could look like. You gotta get good at it after a while. So I had a lot of people that approached me and said, Hey, you know, you gotta get this message beyond the four walls of your company and put it out on paper. So, I just started, I literally filled 12 legal pads with a pen and my hands and just started writing. I remember I was on an airplane one time and the guy sitting next to me goes, what are you doing? Cuz I was shaking my hand like this cuz I was getting cramps. And he said, I said, I think I'm writing a book. And he goes, yeah, but you're writing it. I mean, we have these things called computers now. I go, I know, but I write three words. I have to erase two of them. So I literally filled up these legal pads and then, Off it went. I never expected. I Google searched editors in New York, found a guy with a whole bunch of ghost writers who could help me clean up the language and organize it. And then from there it went to an editor. And then from there it went to an agent. And then from there it went to a publisher. And then the publishers all started fighting over this book and outbidding each other. And it became a bestseller. And I'm eternally grateful and unbelievably blessed. I didn't think it would go 10 feet, much less 10 miles. It's been one hell of a ride, that's for sure. 

[00:26:58] The Rise of Trade Schools

Yanely Espinal: That's amazing and, and even just from a conversation with you tonight and hearing all the insights. I mean, I'm sure there's just so many more gems in in the book as well. Trade schools are making a comeback. Trade schools can be a little controversial in the fact that it's a lot of the private trade schools have faced a lot of criticism for predatory practices. And so I think, you know, when we're talking about trade schools or any colleges, universities in general, this is not specific to trade schools, but it seems as though trade schools have really gotten a bad rap for this. But it's important to differentiate between the actions of few institutions and then the overall value and legitimacy of trade schools as a whole, but just your take on trade schools, vocational schools, career colleges, these types of training programs that are, you know, specifically for this trade or this skilled profession. Do you think that that's making a comeback? 

Ken Rusk: So, I visited several trade schools in Ohio and I don't know what you mean by the predatory side, so I'm gonna let that go for a minute, but I would tell you, if you saw these kids and how engaged they were because yeah, they were going to math and they were going to science, and they were going to English. But they knew at the end of the day they were gonna go build code for a robot, or they were gonna go, you know, use a high pressure water cutter for a or a mig welder, or they were going to, you know, start their salon business or they were going to bake something, or they were gonna build a barn or work on a transmission on an old Mustang. They're just really super engaged in it. I can't say I know that to be true everywhere. But the schools that I visited, those kids were interested in what they were doing. I mean, big time. So I have to think that there's something to that because I remember even in my own high school. I remember that I wanted to go to school cuz I know I had to do my classes, but I was gonna go make a table, man, that was cool. I was gonna run a high speed lathe and grind out a table leg. It was just gonna be awesome. So for me, it was again, the ability to discover even accidentally how cool these things were. And you can't take that away from millions of kids or else you're gonna create the problem that we have right now. I don't necessarily know about the dark side of those schools, but I do know that from what I've seen, those kids are so unbelievably engaged. I would not be afraid at all to send my child to one of those. 

[00:29:21] Taking a Gap Year

Yanely Espinal: That makes a lot of sense. I think many educators are trying to find the best way to expose their students to that. How can these educators best expose students in a way that's engaging and informative, given that, you know, obviously the school is limited in what is included? 

Ken Rusk: I would first say this and this isn't always easy, but you know, I've heard this statement from parents a lot where they say, you know what, when my kid was younger, he was always blank. Like he was always fixing something or he was always building something, or he was always taking something apart, or she was always ba I mean, it doesn't matter. I know a gal who's 27 years old who's a welder. She stands on top of a 300 foot tall windmills and welds those machines, and she's making 175,000 a year. It's crazy. But the point is that, there are so many opportunities between the building I'm standing in right now, my office and the freeway. There's probably 40 help wanted signs. Okay. So there has never been a better opportunity to kinda job shop or job hop and maybe take that gap year. I don't think that gap year is a bad idea. I really don't. Especially if you're not necessarily committed. I think you can go try some of these different jobs and see if something trips your trigger. 

And don't forget if the 10,000 hour thing is really true, which is it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. And I know people have debunked that theory as well, but, If it's really true, then in four years or five years, you're gonna be an expert at one of those things that you decided to try and that leads to a great life for yourself.

And so, yeah, I would say, take a moment, think about it. Go out there and experience some things. And then if none of that works for you, I mean, the colleges will always take your money. They'll always be there for you. So, you know, maybe that's a good plan. 

Yanely Espinal: That's so funny. I do think that gap year is important to talk more about because I don't hear it as much these days. 

Ken Rusk: My daughter went to an all girls school and she came home when she was 13 and she said, mom, I'm supposed to tell 'em what I'm supposed to do for a living. Like, what am I supposed to do for my life? When she was 13, 14? And I'm like, how are you supposed to know that right now? I mean, some of the girls knew because their parents were doctors, their grandparents were doctors, and they're gonna be a doctor. And that was just the path they were gonna take no matter what. Okay? But a lot of the girls didn't, and they were confused and they were like, well, I don't really know yet. And at the end of the year, what did they do? They put 'em all on a stage and they celebrated how many scholarships they won that year. Well,, what if you wanna be a baker or what if you wanna be a welder? What if you wanna be a carpenter? That's just all messy to me. And I get it, that they wanna be proud of their record of getting people into colleges and scholarships and all that, but not at the detriment of the kids who don't. There's a pretty good chance that maybe 40% of those people aren't gonna do that. So you're taking a chance there. And, and I guess that's part of the problem that I have with that whole thing. 

Yanely Espinal: Absolutely. 

Ken Rusk: You know, when I drive around the neighborhood and I see people having picnics or playing frisbee, or walking the dog or mowing the lawn or whatever. I never think about what they do for a living. I think about it looks like they're living a pretty cool life. You know, they're riding a bike with their kid or waxing their boat or whatever they're doing.

I think, okay, those people are, you know, they're having a good life. I don't necessarily think of, wow, what is that person? What degree do they have and what do they do? You know, again, we spend eight or so hours a day doing whatever we do so that we can live well. What does live mean? Let's focus on that and a little less on all the mechanics of how you get there. That's probably controversial. I mean I'm probably in the minority when I say stuff like that. I hate to tell you that I've been on this earth for five decades and, you start to think about how valuable time is. You start to really think about how valuable that is and, and maybe how it's more valuable than some of these other things.

[00:33:20] Conclusion

Yanely Espinal: Well, I think it's an amazing message, especially as we think about imparting in these bits of wisdom and onto the next generation. They're growing up in a completely different time. I do think these conversations are so important to have with students. So just super appreciative of your time, Ken. 

Ken Rusk: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me again. Thank you to all the teachers out there. You have to be really proud of what you do and from my family to yours, a big thank you to all of you. And if you ever want me to come back, I love talking about this stuff, so feel free to, to gimme a call and we'll make that happen.

Yanely Espinal: Absolutely, we'd love to have you back. 

Ren Makino: I hope you enjoyed this episode with Yanely and Ken. I have a few final housekeeping items before we go. The show notes and full transcript can be found on ngpf.org/podcasts. You can also join these sessions live and ask the speaker questions by signing up for the NGPF Speaker Series sessions that occur on Thursdays at 4:00 PM. Pacific Time. You can sign up to attend on ngpf.org/virtual-pd. Please be sure to subscribe to the NGPF podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Better yet, leave us a review. We love hearing from you and it will help us reach a broader audience. On behalf of you know Yanely and Ken thank you for tuning in to this NGPF podcast, have a great one.

About the Author

Ren Makino

Ren started interning at NGPF in 2014, and worked part-time through high school and college. With his knowledge growing alongside NGPF, he joined the team to work full-time after graduating from college in 2020. He is also the producer of the NGPF podcast. During his free time, he likes to try out coffees from different roasters across the world.

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