Neither College nor a Cool Name Will Help You Drive a Train

In the movie “Freakanomics,” the writers asked the question, “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” by comparing the way different classes have named their children over time.

This part of the transcript is the important one:

“…one of the most predictable patterns when it comes to names is that almost every name that becomes popular starts out as a high-class name, or a high-education name. So in the California data we had, we could see the education level of the parents. And even the names that eventually become the quote “trashiest” kinds of names (so the Tiffanys and the Brittanys, and I’ll probably get myself in trouble…the Caitlyns and things like that) they start at the top of the income distribution, and over the course of 20, or 30, or 40 years they migrate their way down becoming more and more popular among the less-educated set. And as names become popular among the less-educated, the higher-educated parents absolutely abandon these names and don’t want anything to do with them.”

In other words, you can predict which names will be popular among middle or lower class individuals a few decades from now by looking at what the wealthy are naming their children TODAY.   It’s almost as if people believe, “I’ll make my child successful by naming him the way successful people do.”

When you look at the statistical data, you see the mimic-effect happen over and over again.  The Wealthy are setting the trends, and the middle-and-lower-classes are simply following, a generation or two behind.

You might say the Wealthy are driving the Baby-Name Train, while the rest of us are simply following along on the same track, several years behind.

So I started wondering…

What if that same pattern is happening in areas besides baby-Naming…

…like education choices, for example?

What if we’re being TOLD that we need to go to college, because that’s what “successful people do.” But, actually, we’re just mimicking what the Wealthy were doing several decades ago?

I think the obsession with college is just the middle-and-lower class families, arriving late to this trend, as usual.

If you don’t believe me, pay attention to what many successful, “train-driving” people are teaching their children RIGHT NOW.

Many are telling their highschoolers not to go to college.

The most out-of-the-box thinkers believe that a diploma is really just a piece of paper. (And one which is losing value every day, as the government hands out more and more of them like candy.)

You might as well give your kid a name-tag that says “Blue Ivy” to ensure he/she becomes a celebrity…

Meanwhile, the true Train-Drivers are telling their children to find a trade/specialty, preferably in a technological field, and learn to do it very, very well.

Drivers want their kids to be SELF-taught, so they can grow and adapt to shifting tracks for the rest of their lives.

And, finally, they want their kids to build networks and sharpen their interpersonal skills–which means that sleeping in a row of desks while a foreign professor mumbles very well could set their kids back, rather than providing something valuable and necessary.

Of course, it’s risky to neglect to get a diploma when the middle-and-lower class faithfully believe you need one.

But that’s what trend-setting, train-driving people are famous for.

Successful people take risks, and sometimes even get derailed. But they learn how to shift gears, adjust their speed, and keep on chugging…

…while others wait to see what works, and get pulled along behind.

I mean, sure, I might be wrong here.

Maybe the college-and-university type of education really is the difference between failure and success.  We’ll have to wait and see.

But, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if–a hundred years from now–everybody is naming their baby “Apple”…

…and only the poorest people end up in outdated places like college.

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