Screw Qualifications.

I posted this on my personal Facebook wall a few days ago, but I want to republish it here along with some of the great discussion that came from it.

Recently, James Cameron manned the submarine craft that made the deepest ocean dive in 50 years.

I told someone about this, and their response was:

Why did he do it? They should have sent a scientist. He’s a movie director; he doesn’t deserve to be the one to do it.

There’s so much wrong with this that I have trouble knowing where to begin. First off, James Cameron became a licensed scuba diver at age 15 and has been doing deep sea exploration for 50 years.

After he made Titanic, he literally quit making movies and did nothing but deep sea exploration until he made Avatar. There’s almost no one more qualified.

If you weren’t aware of just how much deep sea experience Mr. Cameron has, or if you just want to be inspired, I highly recommend taking some time and watching his TED Talk:

Cameron’s specific experience isn’t really the issue, though. The issue is that people seem to think you have to have some official title or BS qualification to do something amazing. They think that if you don’t, then you don’t “deserve” to do remarkable things.

Screw that. Screw qualifications. If you want to do something, and you have the ability to do it, then do it. It doesn’t matter what your day job is.

That was my first thought, at least.

As I said at the beginning, this generated some great discussion. My friend Sam offered up a counter:

When do you expect me to perform that quadruple bypass on you Thomas? Next week? Just because I might want to perform heart surgery on someone doesn’t make me qualified to do it.

When you go to an accountant, you expect someone who is licensed and has proper certification and experience to do the job.

To be honest, I completely agree with what he said. So I think there’s a distinction that has to be made here…

I think qualifications are important if we’re talking about doing something for someone else. When you’re performing a service for which there are established, expected results that another party wants, then it’s good to have the qualifications in order to establish trust.

Mark, another friend, said it a little more succinctly:

The only reason you get “qualifications” are to get other people to trust you.

When you’re doing something for yourself, though, the qualifications aren’t needed. Making a deep sea dive wasn’t a service being performed for another party, and it wasn’t something that should have an expected, guaranteed result.

Yes, we need people with recognized symbols of qualification that we can trust for certain things. But we also need patent office clerks who can revolutionize science 🙂

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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  1. Thomas, I also read it on facebook as well whwen you posted. I agree with you 100% on this but i still wonder why some people are so negatively ‘naive’.

    If you can do something then get it done. If you fail, you should not complain to anyone cause no one pushed you to do it.


    • Sheyi, you make a really good point. A lot of people will assume that because they don’t know enough right now, they automatically can’t do something. It’s important to channel that naivety in a positive way – a way that drives you to just jump right in and start doing things!

  2. I actually saw your response to Sam and agreed with it 100%. People oftentimes forget that they can do things for themselves that require no approval from others.

    If you’re going to perform surgery on me, you most definitely need to show your credentials. You can’t fight that one. But that some doctor didn’t need approval from anyone when he or she made the decision to pursue the medical field in the first place. Great distinction.


    • Exactly. Qualifications are for establishing trust. Fortunately, the bottom of the ocean doesn’t need to trust you 😉

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