Everyone has heard the following cliché – the most important things you learn in life you don’t learn in school. While the old adage of “Stay in school, work hard, get good grades, and get a job” is not bad advice, it’s entirely possible to do all these things and still not be successful. You see, although our universities may be good at pumping out accountants and engineers, they don’t really do a good job of preparing someone for success.
Thankfully, there are countless people who have successfully put themselves through the ringer, learned things the hard way, and made a success of themselves despite not learning how to do it in school. And as I’ve said before, success leaves tracks. It leaves tracks for others to follow.
With that, what follows below are four top things about success that they don’t teach in school. And, no, these aren’t things you learned in your freshman economics class.
1. They don’t teach you that personal finance is the lifeblood of success. You can have a lot of success in other parts of your life (career advancement, recognition, authority), but if your personal finances are a wreck, all those things are just resting on a house of cards waiting to collapse. The average American household has over $15,000 in credit card debt and 36% of working Americans have nothing saved for retirement. With such abysmal statistics like these, it’s no longer acceptable to have an amateur’s knowledge of credit cards, interest rates, credit ratings, retirement accounts and investing. Managing money well is the ultimate test, and the majority of the population is either failing or dropping out. To get ahead in life, a person must master their personal finances and continuously be a student of money management.
2. They don’t teach you that self-awareness is the key to growth. There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every successful person. That quality is self-awareness. The best thing a person can do to improve their odds of achieving success is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making. It’s easy to place blame for issues on externalizations because it’s the convenient excuse, when in fact it’s better to start thinking about your role in the situation, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from mistakes. The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right.” To get ahead in life, a person must have the courage to self-inspect and when they realize that something about their behavior, philosophy or habits is not serving them well they then make the necessary changes to improve.
3. They don’t teach you that critical thinking creates a life of success. The problem is in school we’re rarely taught how to actually think or problem solve. Instead, we’re taught how to memorize things — and then promptly forget them! This poorly suits us for sorting through the complexities of adult life. And especially in the 21st century, life is getting really complex. I feel like much of the money problems facing the population today comes from this complete lack of preparation for a complicated postmodern world. It’s easy to unreflectively take in many beliefs merely because they are believed by those around us. It’s easy to just do what everyone else is doing. However, without intellectual standards, if it feels good to believe something a person will generally believe it. But when problems arise, they usually fail to recognize them as such. They have no knowledge of the “moves” their minds are making. Therefore, they cannot correct its errors. We live in a complex world with complex problems. And complex problems require complex thinking. It’s not acceptable to outsource our thinking to someone else or put our brains on autopilot. Our head has to be in the game at all times. To get ahead in life, a person must take the time to analyze the elements of thinking through a problem. They must develop the habit of rational thinking, weighing the pros/cons and making informed, not emotional, decisions about the important aspects of their life.
4. They don’t teach you that being intellectually curious will open many doors of opportunity. I will tell you this, many good things in life come first from uncertainty or a state of not knowing. Uncertainty is what drives you to become curious, to learn, to test new ideas, to communicate your intentions to others. It’s also what keeps you humble. The act of continually learning cultivates the ability to open yourself to alternatives, to withhold judgment, to question and challenge yourself and to make yourself a better person. Life is lived in the unknown. It’s not lived in comfort zones which are just a way to avoid life’s complexities. Comfort zones offer someone a way to avoid adapting and changing and growing. But education and learning shouldn’t end when the last textbook is shut or when the diplomas are handed out. It should only end when we do. To get ahead in life, a person must stay intellectually curious. They should become a “learning machine”. If you are not continually learning, you are regressing in knowledge. To earn more, you must learn more.
It’s been said that the average degree has a shelf life of about five years. Then it’s obsolete. Our formal schooling taught us many beneficial things, but there’s always more to discover and sponge up in our journey to achieve greatness. With the ideas listed above you will be well on your way to learning the essential things that were unfortunately skipped in school.
Ready for more tips on how to achieve the free life? Check-out more articles from the blog archives below: