How the Vengaboys Kicked me Out of University

In 1999 I went to University to study Business Information Systems.

The course was brand new and it was a mix of different subjects, ranging from business to engineering.

I had no idea what I wanted to to with my life and I was not 100% sure I wanted to go to University.

What I did know is my best friend was also studying in the city and a room was available in the house he was living in.


I had a romantic idea that University would be the odd lecture here and there.  I would consume a mountain of books and an even bigger mountain of drink.

Mistake No 1

Take no time to understand the course content, the number of classroom hours, or the extra work involved.

My friends all studied different degrees with seven hours, at most, of classroom time. The rest of their time involved reading and self learning.

My course turned out to be 35 hours per week of classroom and tutorial.

This was turning into a full time job. It was something I was not prepared for, or happy about!

Mistake No 2

Don’t worry about how long it will take to travel to lectures. Everyone lives close to University, right?

My house mates lived near their university and in most cases they had a 10 minute walk.

I also had the same walk and then a 30 minute bus journey and another 10 minute walk.

See Mistake No 5 and why this added extra complication.

Mistake No 3

Convince yourself that studying in the same city as your girlfriend won’t be a problem. 

You’ll end up spending way too much time together and it will get in the way of studying.

Oh, she will cheat on you as well.

I deserved it.


Mistake No 4

Pay no attention to the lecturer when he is giving out important information.

Through a hangover so thick, it was knitted together, I heard the following:

‘This assignment is voluntary and I recommend everyone completes it. Submission is by the end of the month. Completing the assignment will help you understand how to put an assignment together. It does not count towards your grade.’

What he actually said:

‘This assignment is not voluntary and I recommend everyone completes it. Submission is by the end of the month. Completing the assignment will help you understand how to put an assignment together. It does count towards your grade.

Great, I thought, a voluntary assignment! Most of the others won’t complete it and I’ll focus my energy on the next mandatory assignment – see Mistake No 6.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true”]“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” ― Rita Mae Brown[/tweetthis]

Mistake No 5

Dancing to the Vengaboys at 3am in the morning.

Especially true if you have lectures at 9am, which I did. Frequently.

Mistake No 6

Believing you could charm the head of the course and convincing him about what you heard in Mistake No 4.

‘I don’t think it is working out, is it Ian? I think it is best if you left. Don’t you?’

Over the course of our chat I could see, whatever I said, would not work. I nodded quietly and headed back to the house.

What was I going to tell my parents?

Mistake No 7

Don’t lie to your parents.

They knew about the break up and I leveraged this as a reason for wanting to return home. I still feel bad about it now – they had paid the University fees and rent upfront.

Looking back I believe it would have been better for me to work for a couple of years and then study. I would have been more mature, would have applied myself and got the best out of the experience.

Instead, I was back living at home within three months. Oh, did I not mention this all happened between September and December of 1999?

Yes, three months. Spectacular, huh?


I have shared this story with many of the people I have worked with.

It is a cautionary tale of not appreciating what I had at the time.

I encourage the people I lead, especially those at the younger end of the spectrum, to make the most of opportunity.

Many people underestimate what they can achieve in a short space of time. You can accelerate your progress more than you imagine, if you choose to do so.

Making the mistake is not the issue. It is making continued mistakes and not taking the learning from the experience.

It also taught me that, no matter how bad it seemed at the time, you can recover from big mistakes.

I did not learn from my mistakes (during the 3 months) other than knowing I hate the Vengaboys.

Believe and take action.

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