This article appears in the new Leaderboard section of the January, 16th 2012 issue of FORBES magazine.
A college diploma is not a prerequisite for obtaining an absurd amount of wealth. Out of the 400 richest people in the U.S., 63 entrepreneurs don’t have one–more than 15% of the list. With total U.S. student debt surpassing $1 trillion and unemployment pushing above 10% a budding entrepreneur might be tempted to skip university and instead enroll in the school of hard knocks. Author Michael Ellsberg spent two years interviewing business titans who did just that for his book The Education of Millionaires(Penguin Group, 2011). Here are a few lessons gleaned from four billionaires who learned from life experience, not lecture halls. Inspired? Great. If not, you can always plop down six figures and head to campus.
Sean Parker | Facebook | Net worth: $2.1 billion
SKIP COLLEGE; GOOGLE YOUR EDUCATION
“When these incredible tools of knowledge and learning are available to the whole world, formal education becomes less and less important. We should expect to see the emergence of a new kind of entrepreneur who has acquired most of their knowledge through self- exploration.”
Dustin Moskovitz | Facebook | Net worth : $3.5 billion
YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK
If Facebook hadn’t worked out after he left college to joinMark Zuckerberg, he said, “I could have gone back to Harvard anytime. My friends might not be there anymore. I might have to start over socially. That was a risk. But it was a pretty small risk compared to the opportunity at the time.”
Phil Ruffin| Treasure Island Casinos | Net worth: $2.4 billion
LOOK OUT FOR NO. 1
Ruffin’s last duty as someone else’s employee was to repossess a monkey. He quit and founded a chain of stores, and later, hotels and casinos. “The advice I would give to young people? Quit your job. Don’t work for anybody. You really can’t make any money working for someone else.”
John Paul DeJoria | Paul Michell Systems; Patron Tequila | Net worth: $4.0 billion
The Navy vet slept in an ancient Rolls- Royce ( RYCEY.PK – news – people ) onSunset Strip as he slung shampoo door-to-door before making it big with Paul Mitchell. “I learned sales and marketing from knocking on a hundred doors a day. You quickly discover that you’ll get 99 slammed in your face before you make a sale.”
By the Numbers: Education of theForbes 400