"Hacking Your Education," Coming To A Bookstore Near You

Quitting college at 18 to move to Silicon Valley and pursue your startup is the stuff of Hollywood dreams. Now add a billionaire benefactor—PayPal founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel—bankrolling you and under pressure to prove that entrepreneurship can rival Harvard as a path to success. The inaugural class of Thiel Fellows is blogging about their experiences for Fast Company. Dale Stephens continues his story—by putting it on the written page.

Dale StephensI'm writing a book. Not only am I writing a book, someone is going to publish it. That someone is Perigee/Penguin, which means people might actually read what I write.

That reality hasn't sunk in.

I was in a pub in London last week having cider with friends and two women sat down at our table. After exchanging niceties, one revealed that she worked in publishing—she's an editor at Pearsons. Since I had just gone through the editor dating process (in which I talk with editors to see if there's mutual interest) I had some questions for her about publishing in the U.K.

She kindly answered my questions but said nothing more. Later on, she asked why I was interested in publishing, and I responded it was because Perigee/Penguin are publishing my first book in early 2013. She looked me up-and-down and inquired, "How old are you?"

"I'm 19," I said.

She began laughing hysterically, because as she explained once she regained control, "You can't buy alcohol in the U.S. but your book is being published by Penguin. Do you know how many people dream of being published by Penguin? And you've done it when you're 19. Fire-trucking brilliant."

Fire-trucking brilliant is right. Perigee/Penguin will publish my first book about hacking your education in early 2013. The book is a practical guide to developing the skills that school isn't teaching but are requisite for success.

In the last five months of my life—since I founded UnCollege—I've crossed more items off my bucket list than I thought I'd live to see. I've traveled the world, been on national news, received a fellowship, and now signed a book deal. Is this a dream?

No, it's life—and that's the best part. It's not a matter of dreaming—it's a matter of living every moment to the fullest. Everyday I think to myself "life couldn't get better" and then somehow it does.

What does writing a book mean on a practical level? My book will be published early 2013—which seems far away—but that's quick by publishing standards. I know I have seven months to write the book—about half the time authors normally have to write—which means there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything.

That means I'm doing fewer speaking engagements, left the RadMatter team, and am putting consulting project on hold until I turn in the manuscript. I have seven months and 61,273 more words to write. Just like The Little Engine that Could, I'll be repeating the words "I think I can, I think I can" to myself over and over again.

Dale Stephens was homeschooled and then unschooled. Now he leads UnCollege.org. Perigee/Penguin will publish his first book about hacking your education in early 2013.

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