Being a millennial, I have very few regrets as I was fortunate to grow up in an education system that was entrenched in technology. My one frustration with the education system though is that it didn’t prepare me well for being an adult. School still skips the fundamentals of what we all need in life to be successful.
It didn’t give me the toolbox that I discovered later on which could have made me more successful earlier on in life. The one positive thing it did though was push me off the traditional path and towards entrepreneurship in the hope that something better must have existed compared to what I was being taught at the time.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not anti-education or anything like that, I just feel that the high school and university phases of our lives still have a lot of gaps. In this blog post, I hope to address what I think should be covered and the reasons why.
Below are the twelve vital lessons I wish they taught me at school:
1. Passive learning doesn’t work
I’m sure we can all remember days at school where we sit and listen to the teacher speak for two hours while we listen and copy notes from the whiteboard. The reason the vast majority of this information never get’s retained in our minds is that we are consuming the information passively.
Passive learning of information without emotion means that we will not get the results from what we are learning. Every thirty minutes of learning should have a change in state to allow our bodies to wake up and stay on the ball.
The second component to this idea is the need to link more emotion to our learning. When we learn a concept through a story that is emotional, we are much more likely to retain the knowledge and understand what the message is that we should be getting.
When I was studying, I found it hard to remember the stories I was taught because the stories were often outdated and not relatable to my classmates or me. Fast forward to the present, and I am learning new ideas every day because I link emotion to the learning process.
Even if the content I am learning doesn’t have any emotion, I will throw in some emotive YouTube videos every thirty minutes to anchor my state and create emotion.
2. You must develop yourself every day
In school, I never heard the phrase personal development. It was only when I was in my twenties that I discovered what it meant. The concept of developing yourself every day can really affect your success in life.
By taking small steps every day to be better than you were the previous day, you very quickly compound your results, your value, and your skills. The concepts of personal development have been around for a long time, and I would love to see these become part of the school system.
Even if you learnt no facts, no mathematics, and did no sport at school, I still believe you can be highly successful if you understand the vital content of personal development. It’s a big call I know, but it’s something I have seen first hand.
3. Money is not power
Society, the media, and school taught me that money is power, and it’s something I should strive for. I can vividly remember back to year ten when my high school careers councillor started talking about possible careers I might want.
She tried to lure me into different careers based on the promise of money. For those of you who are in Australia, you can probably guess what she recommended – become a tradie (tradesperson).
It’s true that in Australia tradespeople make a very good income, but a lot of them are also very depressed and unhappy in their occupation. Rather than trying to help me find my purpose, school just wanted to help me find a job or an income I would settle for.
With any negative comes a positive. For me, I discovered entrepreneurship because I didn’t want someone giving me orders or telling me how much I should earn. I liked having ideas and then testing them. I liked that my annual income was determined by how much valued I added and how good I was at pleasing customers.
Money will never make you happy: finding out your dream and then pursuing it until your last day on Earth will.
4. Giving is the lifeblood of your success
We’ve all had an experience where we watch an awesome movie and then the first thing we want to do is call our friends and tell them how great it was. The best thing often about an experience is not the experience itself; it’s the opportunity to share it with our friends, which is why social media has exploded.
This simple idea is very similar to giving. The look on people’s faces when you give something to someone that they weren’t expecting is priceless. You will feel better than you have ever felt when you do things for other people and put a smile on their face.
This philosophy of giving was not what I was taught at school. School taught me that giving was all about charity and only giving to large, not for profit organisations. The donations made to these companies are often invisible, and the person receiving the assistance never see’s you.
Worse still, a large proportion of your donation often never get’s to the person who needs it because it’s eaten up in administrative costs. Giving is so much more than just throwing money at something and hoping it will fix itself.
“The concept of giving is to create value for other people without expecting anything in return. It’s about doing things for the greater good and not operating from a mindset of scarcity” – Tim Denning
Giving is actually not about donations at all. Giving is what makes the world go round, and if everybody did it religiously every day then, the world’s challenges would be far fewer than they are right now.
Giving involves using the gifts you have been given to make people’s lives better. Whether that’s through a blog like Addicted2Success or some other means, there are limited ways for you to give back without necessarily going down the path of charity. I wish school taught me this.
5. The strategies you need are found in non-fiction and autobiographies
At school, there was always a strong focus on fictional stories. These stories can be great for the imagination; the challenge is the story is made up, making it hard to relate too. The books I discovered later in life were non-fiction and autobiographies.
There is no better way to be successful in life than read about people who have already done remarkable things and learn exactly what they did to achieve their goals. These stories highlight the barriers to greatness and show how failure is critical for any pursuit of success.
School should have books like Think And Grow Rich, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, and The Alchemist as part of the syllabus.
These books are named by so many successful entrepreneurs as being a significant contributor to their success. Imagine if all school children got the same benefit as a mandatory part of their education.
I wish I were made to read these books when I was at school.
6. How to make an income
School is a lot about the theory of how the world should work. The part that was missing for me at school was the practical steps to make an income whether that was through entrepreneurship or working for someone else.
In school, I was led to believe that if I wanted to work for someone else, I would be asked detailed questions about my education. The reality, after having interviewed for lots of high ranking corporate jobs, is that most organisations will never ask you about your education.
There are some specialised fields like medicine and law that will ask, outside of that; it’s becoming less and less relevant. It’s quite easy for any of us to rack up a huge university debt and get a piece of paper in a field such as business or marketing, but most other people can do that as well.
Don’t get me wrong, university degrees are great to have, it’s just that they will not be the saving grace that the school system makes out they are. Experience in business, passion, rapport, strong emotional intelligence, a good imagination, and the guts to have a go will get you much further. I wish I learnt this in school and not later in life. Better late than never.
7. The truth about failure
Failure is your real education. Failure gives you the mental toughness. Nothing is easy, and nothing can prepare you for the challenges you will face. School taught me to try and be perfect and get straight A’s. Perfection was my downfall because it’s an impossible requirement to meet.
It was only later when I studied electronic music outside of school that I learned that imperfection is where all the beauty is. Imperfection is what makes rock music so addictive and it’s the foundation of all popular music.
Failing on a maths test was the greatest lesson I learned in my school career. Why? Because I realised I had no interest in maths, and I was able not to waste too much time on it. Had I not have failed, I could have put hours of work into something I hated which is the recipe for disaster.
It wasn’t until after I finished school that I learned this lesson. I wish I had learnt it earlier.
8. You whole life is about salesmanship
Everything you do every single day revolves around selling something. You are either selling your business idea, selling a concept to internal stakeholders, selling the benefits of cleaning up to your children, or selling the idea of a holiday to your partner.
I never learned any sales skills at school and I wish I had. Learning how to sell and attending yearly sales training events has allowed me to communicate an idea, and get people to join me on my mission both in business and in my personal life.
9. Public speaking will put you ahead of the pack
School always made me think that public speaking was for politicians. To be an entrepreneur, thought leader, sales person, or just anyone that matters, you need to be able to speak in front of other people. The better you get at it, the easier it will be to get buy-in from other people to follow your vision.
I wish I had known about Toastmasters at school. I wish I were forced to do it. Since joining Toastmasters, I have learned why public speaking is so difficult and how to overcome the fear of audiences. With a little practice, it’s perfectly achievable to get good at it.
Forget about yourself, concentrate on delivering value to your audience, and not about everyone’s opinion. That pretty much sums up public speaking. Now go practice it!
10. Alkaline food will give you the energy you need
Thinking back to my school days, I didn’t have a lot of success with studying because I regularly suffered from low levels of energy and frequent colds. This was not uncommon, and many of my school friends had similar challenges.
If I analyse my school diet it consisted of zero water, lots of soft drink, pizza, pasta, sausage rolls, hot dogs, and ice creams. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed at schools although there is some awareness about soft drink nowadays.
In terms of nutritional education, there wasn’t a whole lot except for the lie that is the food pyramid which still appears in my doctor’s office when I see him once a year. Had I have known just how large the proportion of fruits and vegetables needed to be, and more importantly, just how good the benefits were to eating more from this food group, my health would have turned out a lot different.
There’s no point dwelling too much on the past (this subject has been a frustration for me), but it’s my hope that nutrition will play a bigger part in school life going forward. Thankfully, we have ambassadors like Jamie Oliver, who are carrying the message.
11. Advanced computer skills will give you a voice
In adult life, you enter a very noisy world where it’s even harder to be heard. The ability to be able to put together websites, create content, and share your message on social media is critical. If you can learn basic coding, then you will be even more ahead than the average person.
I was lucky that I first got onto the Internet as a kid in 1996. Before then, I had worked on MS-Dos and Windows 95 computers. This gave me an edge because a lot of my friends didn’t have this luxury. A computer allowed me to solve modern problems far quicker and hone in on my computer skills.
I was fortunate enough to be an earlier adopter of Google, eBay, and Amazon. These websites showed me where the world was heading at its part of what has allowed me to work in tech day-to-day. It was the gentle inspiration I needed at a time in teenage life when we have no idea what our future looks like.
While traditional education has an element of IT subjects, I still wish that there was an even greater focus on the more advanced computer skills that are needed in an ever-changing global economy. These skills during my own schooling would have been very valuable to me, and many of you reading.
12. Everyone should try entrepreneurship
A lot of my school life centred on the fact that I should work for someone else. The idea of starting a business was almost like a taboo subject that only suicidal base jumpers would dare try. I wish school had taught me that everyone should try entrepreneurship at least once.
Even if you choose to work for someone else, you are still an entrepreneur in a way because you have a small (or large) slice of someone else’s business you have to manage. You can’t escape entrepreneurship, and I believe it’s good to try it.
You can learn anything you put your mind to even if you don’t meet the wah wah entrepreneur personality type that is portrayed on TV. Hopefully, though, you like working with other people because you can’t do everything yourself.
What do you wish you learned at school? Are any of these above skills missing for you? Let me know in the comments section below or on my website timdenning.net or my Facebook.
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