Gretchen Schauffler

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Why Choose A Lane Rather Than A Degree

Why Choose A Lane Rather Than A Degree

Choosing A Lane

Unlike Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, LinkedIn reminds me a lot of college. It’s competitive. Recommendations are needed, degrees matter, and participation is required.

Every time I would sign on to LinkedIn it would ask me to fill out incomplete information about my education. I always skipped it. The details of my time in college were complicated. Let’s just say I went through several “grow out” periods. I changed colleges and degrees like I changed hairdos. I didn’t want to talk about my hairdos as much as what I had learned from growing them out. LinkedIn, it seemed, wasn’t the place to do that.

That is, until I realized you can write posts.

In a recent interview Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical Broadway hit Hamilton, told Charlie Rose on Sixty Minutes that he had gone to a school where everyone was a genius. Knowing he was not the smartest or the most talented, he said he picked a lane and started running ahead of everybody else, theater. Miranda ran hard. He went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, two Grammys, an Emmy, a MacArthur "Genius" Award, and three Tony awards, among others. Hamilton broke the record for most Tony nominations in 2016 (16 total) and won 11 awards.

 Miranda used the word lane; a word associated more with a path or journey rather than a destination or degree. A lane, unlike a path, implies you are meant to keep on moving. His lane took him far beyond a just a college degree—to places he never imagined. It took him a year to write Hamilton’s first song, and then another year to write the second. I am sure he invested all that time not knowing if Hamilton would succeed, let alone become the toast of Broadway. That’s what happens to you when you are in the lane.

You can wonder without fear of getting lost.

 Like Miranda, I was not the smartest or most talented but I was creative. Art degrees suited me best. Unlike him I didn’t pick a lane, art. Instead I picked art degrees.

I was lost chasing after degrees and destinations rather than owning my path.

I picked degrees because they seemed to be the path of least resistance as opposed to a lane I could run ahead of everybody else with abandon.This is why I changed colleges and majors four times. I never planned on becoming an artist for a living. Once I graduated from college with an art degree, I went straight to work in consumer sales.

 It wasn’t until I quit my job to stay home with my kids that I stepped into my lane and started running. Everything I learned in college (see now my completed education section) but felt I had failed at, fell into place. I began to make art for art sake. As a way to make extra money I sold my work in art shows, then galleries. Customers loved the colorful energy of my work and coined it “Prozac Art”. I then began to experiment with faux finishes and custom paint colors for walls. From there, friends and neighbors began to ask me to make colors for their homes so I began to make custom colors. I was in my lane, wondering without getting lost. That’s how I went from selling “Prozac Art” to selling Devine Color, Color Therapy from The Northwest; a line of artistic paint colors and illuminating paint finishes for interior walls.

Degrees are more like exits on a highway and lanes are roads full of signs that you keep going, taking you places beyond what you planned or imagined.

They are abstractly intertwined with who you are rather than what you do.

They require tenacity over competition, and curiosity over certainty.

The lane is not a path of least resistance; it’s a path less traveled.

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