The 18-Foot Jump

I once read that paratroopers in training have to make a series of jumps from progressively higher towers, with more and more gear to slow their fall, before they finally leap out of a real airplane with a real parachute.

At one point, they have to jump from an 18-foot tower — precisely the height (I read) at which the brain is at the most stressful balance between “This is really high up” and “Landing is really gonna hurt!”

Lower, and you can convince yourself the fall won’t be too bad. Higher, and you can’t really imagine the fall.

Now consider two options.

One, an online course offered by a trustworthy person. It’s not accredited, but you’re confident it delivers what it promises. It costs $5,000 and runs for 4–8 weeks.

The other, a master’s course offered by a famous college. It’s accredited, but it’s really hard to measure its efficacy (if you care to measure that sort of thing). It costs $150,000 and runs for two years.

Think about it for a moment: which one feels more expensive?

If it’s the $5,000 option, it might be worth making an 18-foot jump before leaping from 30,000 feet. Like the acceleration due to gravity, student loans compound quickly.