insurance design

Smoking Charges Ignite

Last night, Amy took Anna, our seven-year-old, to the dress rehearsal for her 2015 dance recital. I was left in charge of Will, our nine-year-old, and Ella, our three-year-old. What follows is a litany of the kids showing me that I exist in their world as a piece of tightly-spun twine, permanently...

[ Swap Article ]

Sad Child


Our actions become our kids' reactions. Not exactly new. Not exactly Newtonian (pause while joke sinks in). But it's a truism all the same. ...

[ Swap Article ]

Car radio

Piece of Sh*t Car Reprise

When I was in high-school, a popular song named "Ode to My Car," by Adam Sandler, spun regularly on the radio. No, it didn't. All foul-mouthed teenage boys wished such happy, unfiltered radio days would appear, but that didn't stop the explicit lyrics from making an impact, even if the song's plot...

[ Swap Article ]


Advertise Here

The books punched through the plaster and lathe boards and utilities recessed in the ceiling, through the rafters and sheathing and shingles, sending splinters flying and pipes bursting. Roofing materials exploded into a thousand lethal projectiles as the book pile …...

[ Swap Article ]


Certain messes in life are unavoidable. If you get a DUI and your hair is sufficiently mussed or you manage to jam your finger into the nearest outlet just prior to the mug-shot, chances are you'll be a big-time celebrity some day. ...

[ Swap Article ]

A Reasonable Explanation

Therapist: Take me back to the beginning. Tell me how it all got started, how you eventually wound up holding the bloody knife in the aftermath of your killing spree. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation....

[ Swap Article ]

That's a Mouthful

Waking up to the sounds of birds and (outside) insects is alluring, and when you have your second 10th cup of coffee and realize you are on vacation, and this auditory lovemaking is real, not the result of an ambitious-carpet-cleaning hallucination, you can finally relax, letting your bulk stress...

[ Swap Article ]

Stupid Piece of ... Oh, That's Right

I'm a realist. I call things like they are, and if I look stupid in the process, well, so be it. ...

[ Swap Article ]

Deadly Donuts

The morning started off good. Four eggs fluffed with a splash of milk, mixed with Parmesan and salt and black pepper and red pepper flakes and slathered with Cholula hot sauce; four ounces of Bob Evan's spicy Italian sausage (sorry for the smell, honey, luv ya) fried into the wonderful concoction;...

[ Swap Article ]

When Did I Become a Pushover?

I've never thought of myself as the Ultimate Fighter type. As a kid, whenever the possibility of bodily harm came up, I tried to avoid confrontation. But if the issue was pressed, I could stand up and issue fake threats along with the best of them and hope that my manufactured bravado was enough to...

[ Swap Article ]

As I Approach 30

I live in a small town. Colona, IL has a population of just over 5,000. As a jogger, this means I am usually only assaulted with exhaust fumes a few times whenever I decide to go outside to burn some calories. But as far as the type of people passing me on the roadside? Over this, I have no control....

[ Swap Article ]

masters degree, 3D rendering, triple flags

Filed Under , on March 24th, 2018

Just Like Howard

By Seth Kabala

The books punched through the plaster and lathe boards and utilities recessed in the ceiling, through the rafters and sheathing and shingles, sending splinters flying and pipes bursting. Roofing materials exploded into a thousand lethal projectiles as the book pile launched into the atmosphere. With each mile the pile climbed, it shed pages, showering them below in a dome shape, like the bottom half of a literary wedding dress. But it retained enough core mass to concentrate its energy and continue to rise.

It never stopped. But it didn’t matter, because the student had exhausted his further need of the books, and he awoke from this nightmare, content in the knowledge that he had finished his masters degree, if only a masters degree.

* * *

“You’ll be just like Howard. You’ll have just a masters degree,” Will, my 12-year-old, said on my decision to complete my MBA. Thanks, kid. If you’re familiar with the show The Big Bang Theory, you can hear the comic disdain in Will’s quip, the feigned innocence belying harsh criticism, the insinuation of superiority drawn from within a youth whose father has influenced him to the point of creating a near duplicate human.

Sarcastic perfection.

In The Big Bang Theory, Howard is an engineer who works at the same college as his compatriots Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, experimental physicist; Dr. Sheldon Cooper, theoretical physicist; and Dr. Raj Koothrappali, astrophysicist. Despite Howard’s many accomplishments–building a space toilet, piloting the Mars Rover, becoming an astronaut–his colleagues, namely Sheldon, regularly deride him for having just a masters degree.

In one vicious repartee, Sheldon and Howard have the following exchange:

Howard: Give me a compliment. … I want you to tell me I’m good at what I do.

Sheldon: You’re obviously good at what you do.

Howard: Well, then, why are you always ripping on me?

Sheldon: Oh, I understand the confusion. I have never said that you are not good at what you do. It’s just that what you do is not worth doing.


Looking past the condescension, behind the weather climate circulating the noses jutting high into the atmosphere, lies the truth. The truth is this: people with masters degrees leverage greater financial benefits in their professional careers than those without. This is not a debate about the merits of a quote-unquote professional job versus a trade or a calling or a passion. Those terms are subjective. Individual stories vary as often as the weather changes from sun to rain here in Oregon: often and with little predictability. I’m interested only in the connection between education and earnings.

Looking at larger macro studies, patterns emerge. Again and again, these studies (see Georgetown and the Social Security Administration, among many others) show that the higher the level of formal education a person obtains, the greater, on average, that person’s lifetime earnings.

I am a student of accounting, probability, risk management, and risk aversion. The success I have achieved is the product of avoiding bets with a low perceived expected value. I didn’t design experiments to overlay equations onto my life, but I did look at the macro picture and weigh the odds, if only in my gut.

Those odds told me it was financially smarter to pursue an accounting degree than a career as a professional musician. Smarter to go to work as a public servant than to roll the dice in industry. To earn my CPA credential, rather than send off article queries and troll for music gigs on the weekend.

My internal analytics were right. I’m up nearly 400% in earnings since I completed my undergrad nearly 12 years ago, and things are trending upwards. Is there time for feeding my soul, for catharsis? Of course, but without a solid financial base, of what use is passion? I’ll take undeveloped passion over an empty bank account any day of the week.

I can endure condescension, real or perceived, so long as the material facts of my financial house are in order, i.e., I’m making what I intended to make, and things are looking up. Will I someday get a PhD? Probably. That’s on my before-I-turn-50 list. But for now, just a masters degree suits me fine.

Worse ways exist to inspire your children and build a good life than to earn and leverage a masters degree.

I’m okay with being just like Howard.


Leave a Reply

Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0 Comments Load Comments

Plumbing Speed Logo Icon Design

Speed Plumbing

The pipe masters ascended the stairs and entered the arena. They'd come a long way, building rudimentary structures to escape cribs and punish bullies as children, graduating to more complicated designs as adolescents and adults. Mario had been especially proud of his design that transported him...

[ Swap Article ]

Fortune cookie bad set. death and robber on paper prediction. Vector illustration

Imaginative Cookies

The executive stepped to the lectern, his stomach churning with nerves and the remnants of last night's authentic Mexican food. Wonderful flavors. Wonderful and punishing, that is. This moment was shaping up to be a repeat of that theme. Investors, the public, the press--if he could convince them...

[ Swap Article ]

Businessman Drawing on the Whiteboard. Pop Art

Editor's Note--TFF Issue #19

A few months ago, I decided to write a daily quote on my office wall. No, I’m not an irascible child who will not be contained in my creative fury. I have a whiteboard that I use for quote purposes and other work stuff. ...

[ Swap Article ]

Funny broken furnitures trash pile

Backyard of Doom

The kids left detritus lying all over the yard during a recent play session. When I went out later to bring the garbage cans up from the curb, it was like Indiana Jones making his way through the Temple of Doom, stumbling over a rubber rain boot, high stepping over the top of an old bar-stool,...

[ Swap Article ]

!FINAL FINAL Mike Graphic Album Cover v2 Option D copy

Review: The Worst Kind of Thoughtful

"One-hundred percent Italian" stand-up comic Mike Vecchione hails from the Queens borough of New York City. While writing, rehearsing, and recording The Worst Kind of Thoughtful, his 2nd comedy album, we're guessing he never gave a thought to how the awesomeness of his work would necessitate public...

[ Swap Article ]

Running coach - dinosaur

Surplus Children

Crouching under the elevated prison, the man held his hands over his ears, rocking back and forth like a buoy on a turbulent sea. No, no, no, he thought. This could not be happening. He'd done everything by the book. Prepared the beast's meals exactly as prescribed, acquired the best clothing and...

[ Swap Article ]


Editor’s Note_TFF Issue #18

The entertainer waited patiently at the street corner. Regaled in his Darth Vader mask, he struck a menacing, if not eye-brow raising, figure. A black cape flowed behind him in the soft downtown breeze, also ruffling the hem of his kilt. ...

[ Swap Article ]

roller coaster

Thrill Ride

I delivered my 10th speech at Toastmasters this past Thursday, earning me the ranking of Competent Communicator (CC), as if there was any doubt. I've found it helpful to post these speeches here, as 1) they might help you light a fire under your ass to start your public speaking journey, and 2) I...

[ Swap Article ]

The sun painted chalk on the asphalt

Editor's Note--TFF Issue #17

I find myself sitting at my kitchen table on the best day of the year, weather wise. I'm inside but close enough to the patio door to feel the sun's rays radiating through the glass. Their circle of influence grows strong today. ...

[ Swap Article ]


10 Things I Learned from Fast & Furious Movies

Amy and I watched all eight Fast & Furious (FF) movies over the past couple of weeks. We had seen the first couple, but nothing post Paul Walker (RIP), and it had been years since the franchise debuted, so we started at the beginning. They are pure escapist pleasure, short on substantive plotting,...

[ Swap Article ]

Claw scratch on white background, a vector illustration.

New Claws

The end has come for a man called Logan. That was his name, wasn't it? I don't know, man. ...

[ Swap Article ]