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Want an Interesting and Lucrative Career? Skip College and Go Into Appliance Repair!

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


I was born in 1960. Both my parents were first-generation Americans, offspring of immigrants; my moms's side from Greece and my dad's side from Ireland via Canada. When I was growing up, the Kool-Aid was that you had to go college if you were going to be "somebody who mattered." My parents, both of the post-WWII Baby Boomer generation, totally drank that Kool-Aid and relentlessly bathed me in the College-Industrial complex propaganda:

"Go to college and you'll earn more money."

"Go to college to get a meaningful and interesting job."

"You can't be a complete person unless you've gone to college."

There was just one problem: I had absolutely no desire to go to college. I hated school. And by "school" I mean the government-funded warehouses most people park their kids in during the school year. In fact, I hated school so much that I quit in my junior year in high school. But, being a government-indoctrinated blood bag, what was my big idea? To go into the Navy and fix airplanes.

Actually, there was a bigger plan there. I wanted to learn a trade. The trade I had in mind was what I saw as an up and coming field: aircraft electronics technician.

I had a great job in the Navy repairing navigational radar equipment for Navy P3 anti-submarine squadrons. I can honestly say that it was the most challenging and interesting job I've ever had in my life, including my life as an engineer with not one but two college degrees-- more on that later.

So the end of my enlistment term rolls around and I opted to get Honorably discharged from Uncle Sam's Navy. While I loved the job, I hated all the micky mouse Navy shit: "Get a haircut, Brown." "Shine your shoes, Brown." "Quit smoking dope, Brown." Hey, I was still a teenager in the 70's - what do you expect?

Anyway, my enlistment term came to an end and me a buddy rode our motorcycles back home from Moffet Field, California-- my buddy to Texas and me to Georgia.

Once back home, the parental pressure resumed: go to college and make something of your train wreck of a life ("train wreck" because I had quit high school, shaming and embarrassing them to their corporate work-a-day friends).

I eventually succumbed to my parent's relentless pressure and guilt-trips. I had taken college courses while in the Navy and scored well enough on the SAT to get accepted into the University of Georgia. This isn't saying much as it was known as Budweiser U back in the 80's, before it somehow got a reputation as an academic hot spot in the South (which I still don't believe). I graduated in 1984 with a degree in Agricultural Engineering under the misguided vision that I would start one of the first legal marijuana farms in the country.

Well, that didn't work out so well.

So I worked for a year as a process engineer at Michelin Tire Corporation in Greenville, SC. That pretty much sucked. So after a year of sucking tire fumes, I was brain damaged enough to go BACK to college. This time for a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering so I could design hazardous waste treatment systems.

I think I reinvented the definition of "naively misguided." Now, when you look up "unbelievably naive" or "pretty fuckin' stupid," you'll see a picture of me.

I ended up with shitty jobs at consulting firms and corporations, primping around in suit and tie, learning to talk that fake professional talk in endless, pointless meetings with blow-hard lawyers, corporate apparatchiks, and hopelessly ignorant yet endlessly arrogant government regulators.

Then, one day, came my day of Epiphany.

I was at a job at a Tombstone pizza plant on an ammonia refrigeration system I had designed (it's a long story how I got into doing that, I'll tell that another time). I struck up a friendship with the head pipe fitter for the job, a union member.

The piping in ammonia refrigeration systems has to be steel because ammonia and copper hate each other. As my dear old dad, Grant Brown once told me, "Any asshole can work with copper; it takes a highly paid asshole to work with steel." And this guy was very highly paid, as I soon found out.

We compared work hours and salary/wages. Turns out he had more time off than me, made waaay more money than me, and enjoyed his job a lot more than me. So I then asked myself, I said, "Self, who got sold a bill of goods here?"

And that's when it hit me.

Most college degrees are about teaching you to become a corporate bureaucrat; to endure arbitrary deadlines and crank out work that has little personal meaning to you.

What you really want to is to be self-employed, not to work for some soul-sucking corporation. I discovered that the initial impulses of my youth were absolutely correct: avoid the college scam, learn a skill, and start your own business. Starting your own business is the essence of the American Dream because it is an expression of personal freedom and creativity.

The day I realized that, I quit my corporate job and began my adventure as an appliance repair tech. It's been much more interesting and challenging work than anything I did as an engineer.

Yanno, maybe back in the day, when getting a job with a Big Corporation meant employment for life, it might have made sense to go to college. But not these days. Nawsir, the name of the game today is to go your own way, make your own path. And starting your own appliance repair business is one of the best ways to do that today according to this report:

Great News: Positive Job Outlook for Appliance Repair Techs!


Scott--your sense of humor is one-of-a-kind:)

I love the article.

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I agree wholeheartedly with one caveat. Before I install another icing kit in a GE Monogram Fridge like I did all last night, I would happily go back to being one of those blow-hard lawyers or at least start a Marijuana farm (dude you were and always have been way ahead of your time)

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I agree wholeheartedly with one caveat. Before I install another icing kit in a GE Monogram Fridge like I did all last night, I would happily go back to being one of those blow-hard lawyers or at least start a Marijuana farm (dude you were and always have been way ahead of your time)

Seriously, we had a customer just last week, who mortgaged his $150,000 house last year to start a farm....   He got an offer of $4,000,000 just last week for it.... naw he says... gonna wait until $100,000,000 is on the table from RJ Ryendols....

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Great story, I was raised in a mixed married. Moms side was all college graduates ie. doctors, lawyers, administrators, basically corporate drones. Dads side were all self educated immigrant business owners most made more than the college group. We were in the pizza business, And as a kid seeing thousands of dollars on the kitchen table in the morning from last nights sales. Really swayed me to the "self educated camp". I tried "working for the man" many times. But I realized you've got to have a certain mentality to work a "real job". And thanks to my grandfather I don't. Sorry to babble. But Great story Scott. 

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As a counter-point to this, a college-educated career doesn't have to be a pit of despair.  Certainly, it's pretty easy to do college "wrong".  You get forced to go to college and you can pick a field you don't like because you heard it pays well.  You'll end up with a degree you don't value and a job you despise.  You can pick something you really enjoy that doesn't pay for *bleep!* like 18th Century Ugandan Poetry.  (The most likely outcome is you'll end up with a McJob you despise.)  You can end up attending a mediocre school that accepts students that would not have had the academic chops to attend college in an earlier age.  You can sign up for a for-profit school, where your time would be better spent lighting your money on fire.


Or, you can do college "right".  You can pick a field you are interested in with a decent chance of a usable job, do well in that program (while supplementing your formal education with all the out-of-class learning you can get a hold of), graduate, get a job for The Man, and live more-or-less Happily Ever After.  (I can imagine your view on college might have turned out differently if you got a degree in Engineering on the type of electronic systems you enjoyed servicing so much.  And if the MJ farm had been a viable business idea, you probably would have found your Ag degree a little more valuable.)


I enjoyed computers in high school, so I went to a decent school (with lots of "scholarships"... a.k.a. a discount of the ridiculous sticker price), and got a degree in Computer Engineering while taking all the part-time and summer jobs in the field i could find, and was hired by a gargantuan company where I have toiled away for the last 15 years doing interesting, challenging, work.  I paid off my modest student debt in five years.  I thought most of my classes and professors were pretty interesting, and I don't recall any classes in "Meaningless Work on an Arbitrary Deadline".  Yeah, by the end of my degree I was ready to go out into the Real World, but I didn't loathe college.


I get paid pretty well, I work around 45 hours a week, I get benefits, retirement, etc., and I get to do stuff I find really interesting.


From my perspective, the thing I value most about my job is that The Man takes care of all the stuff I have absolutely no interest in and likely would have little aptitude for.  I do IT Architecture for disaster decovery environments.  In return for their modest profit margin, The Man takes care of sales, marketing, accounting, legal, contracts, IT, facilities, etc.  Another department handles the actual implementation of my designs; something else I don't want to do.


I won't deny that college isn't for everyone; many college students today are wasting their time and money.  There are indeed many trades that pay well and are quite fulfilling for people with the right mentality.  (Although there's less of those than there used to be.)  But for the right student, college is a great experience that is just what they need to start their career and life.  (Not to mention that there are many careers that simply require a college degree and/or skills that are difficult to acquire on your own...)  And plenty of college grads do start their own businesses in the fields they were educated in.  (One of my friends had a Dad that owned a rivet factory.  My friend essentially built himself a Bachelors in Rivet Factory Running (ostensibly mechanical engineering), with the intention of taking over the family business.  Using what he learned, he doubled the mature, successful, company's profit in two years by making changes to production methods and IT systems.)

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Here's another persons view of mandatory college. 


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Hey Guys, I think my previous repair background as an in home electronics tech, and as a guy who has only needed to call another tech in to repair my condenser unit. I'm sure we all share the same abilities. I've repaired everything from my automobiles, appliances, electrical repairs & plumbing. I'm having a lack of faith, about jumping in the appliance repair field. Maybe because of my background, and being a cheapskate. When i look at the price of replacement parts especially control boards plus labor and s/c, I see it as a hard sell. And in my previous career I also had to sell the repair, one example, when plasma tv's were new in the market, I had to give a $1500. repair estimate on a $15,000. Plasma Tv.  The customer gave the go ahead, But inside I was thinking "oh crap he's gonna scream" But he didn't.  So I think the problem is with my valuation and not the norm. I've completed phase one of the boot camp, have the tools, and the funds to start. I've done in home service before. I don't know why I'm sitting on the fence!  Ok Doctors, I'll lay on the couch, And listen to advice. Thanks in advance.  

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It's called paralysis of analysis.

Years ago, I also suffered from that terrible debilitating disease. You think you don't know enough and constantly procrastinate by saying things to yourself such as "I have to learn this first... etc"

The key to overcoming it is to realize you will never learn it all. And why should you attempt to learn it all, anyway? The stuff is changing and a rapid change and learning it all is next to impossible .

Continuously learn the fundamentals, have the proper tools and PREPARE for the specific models you will be seeing that day. But you have to go to appointments! Not only will you make money but it is an extremely important part of the learning process. Then that night, take notes on what you learned that day from your repairs, study and ask questions. From time to time take a few classes given by manufacturers. Rinse and repeat.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a highly qualified and well-compensated tech. Although there are techs doing it, to build your own business and justify a good fee, the days of "winging it" have long been gone.

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Thanks, I was just having an off day. I get those about once a month. You're right though, I do over analyze sometimes. But my main concern was price of repair.  But now that I look back, my old company was charging  a $95.00 S/C, $150.00 Labor plus parts back in 2006.

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