We all learned a lot from school. That’s what’s supposed to happen, after all. We studied all sorts of subjects from geometry to language arts. If you worked hard and had great teachers, you learned everything they could teach you.
But what about that which a school refuses to teach? Schools can only do so much, and even then you can’t learn the most important lessons in a classroom. Here are 10 things they refused to teach you in school.
1. Do What You’re Good At
You can learn any number of subjects in a classroom, but you can’t learn what you should do with your life. As good as some teachers are, they still can’t make that decision for you. You have to figure that out for yourself.
The hard part, however, is deciding what to do. Most people will tell you to find your passion and follow it. Figure out what you love and try to make a career of it.
That’s total BS.
One of my favorite books is Taran Wanderer, a book in the series Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. In it, the title character, wanders through the country searching for his purpose. He tries several trades, weaver, potter, shepherd, and swordsman. He was great at several of them, but his heart wasn’t in it. His dream was to become a swordsmith, but he was terrible at it. Taran could have been an excellent weaver, but he would have given it up to be a terrible blacksmith.
Do what you’re good at and people will pay you to do. Then you’ll like it.
2. You Have To Lead
When you’re in school, everything comes from your teachers. They develop the curriculum and give the assignments. They put together a course of study to get a degree. Everything comes from them.
That’s not how life works after you graduate. You can’t wait for teachers or employers to tell you the next step. They will think about themselves and their own interests. You need to set your own path and go after your own goals. If all you do is wait, you’ll only get what the world drops at your feet (Psst…That’s usually nothing).
3. Be Ready To Fail or You Will Fail
Classrooms instill fear of failure. I took a sculpture class in High School, and I had what I thought was a really creative idea. It was more complicated than any other sculpture I had done, and I didn’t even know if it was possible given the material I used. I did everything I could to make it happen, but I failed. It didn’t turn out, so I ended up with an impossible project and nothing to submit for a grade. Because I tried something creative and difficult, I got a bad grade.
If you only try things you know you can do. What kind of life is that? Can you imagine avoiding any challenge where the result was in doubt? Could you find a way to only do those things in which success is guaranteed. That sounds like a failure to me.
To grow as a person, you need to be ready to fail. All the best, most interesting people tried and failed at many things before they became successes. As J. K. Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
4. Happiness Is Overrated
I know you must think I’m crazy. Isn’t happiness the goal? Isn’t that what everyone should work to achieve? I say no. Why?
Happiness comes and goes. One day, you go out to a nice dinner, and you feel happy for a little while. Then, you’re back to normal. You buy something nice, and it makes you feel good for a while. Then, back to normal.
Sometimes you’ll have long stretches of life when only terrible things happen. Should you just give up? If happiness is out of reach, why keep going?
Happiness depends on external forces, your job, what you buy, your family etc.. Purpose, however, remains the same no matter what. Purpose gives your life meaning when you aren’t happy. Purpose gives you what you need to keep going through good and bad.
5. Hard Work Matters More Than Grades
I didn’t have to work hard in school. I was naturally good at retaining information, and I excelled at taking tests, even when I didn’t know the subject well. I know. You hate me.
That didn’t serve me well when I left school, because I hadn’t learned how to work hard on a project over the long term. I did the kinds of things that came easily for me, and I expected to do well in life following the same pattern.
Yeah…That didn’t work. Life slapped me in the face pretty quick. Being smart didn’t bring success. Only hard work can do that.
6. Basic Life Skills
Do you know how to balance a checkbook or make a budget? Do you know how to cook for yourself? Has anyone taught you how to iron a shirt? If your parents didn’t teach you, you probably don’t.
That’s because our schools don’t teach some of the most important skills to manage real life. Students don’t learn how to use a bank or how to save for retirement. They can’t imagine sewing a fallen button back onto a shirt. They wear rumpled clothes to interviews. We need to know these things to be an adult human, but so many of us don’t have teachers.
7. Everyone Struggles At First
Your parents and teachers probably gave you this life script. Go to high school and get good grades. Find a good college and get a Bachelor’s degree. Then, get a good job, and you’ll have it made. You’ll find a great job that fulfills you and pays you a ton of money.
They lied to you. Everyone struggles in the beginning of their careers. They get a menial, entry-level job where they feel like their skills are wasted. They have to do boring work, day after day, and it won’t pay that well either.
Everyone goes through this. Everyone struggles at first. If you expect it, you’ll be able to keep your nose to the grindstone until it gets better.
8. How To Read A Book
Schools don’t teach us how to read a book. They teach you to run your eyes over symbols we call words. They help you connect the words to each other so you can get the meaning of each sentence. But they still don’t teach you how to read to learn.
That’s because teachers do a lot of the work for you when you read. You read a book with the class, and then they lecture on it. You don’t learn from the book. You learn from the lecture.
Anyone who wants to be a real reader needs to learn how to read a book to mine the truths that the author places there. That takes some skill. It takes long practice taking notes, comparing ideas, and evaluating arguments.
If you want to really learn how to read a book, try this: How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler. It will change how you read forever.
9. Great Work Comes From Practice
Talented people make their skills look easy. When you watch the NBA, it seems like the ball sticks to their hands as if they have some magical control over it. It’s effortless. When you see a cellist playing a technically demanding piece, their fingers fly across the strings as if they’re doing it on their own. It looks so easy.
That masks the countless hours, even years, that great people practiced to become the best. NBA players did simple drills at home for hours and hours so the ball would stick to their hands like that. Cellists developed finger strength and dexterity for decades to perform at their best.
Even if you’re not a performer, you’ll need long hours, even years, of practice to really perform at top levels. It goes for every kind of job. You start out doing basic work, often badly, but you learn as you go. Eventually, with a lot of practice, you become mediocre. Finally, after years of slowly developing your skills, you’ll be pretty good.
You have to be ready to work hard, for years and years, to be really good at something. If you aren’t willing to do that, you’ll never be great.
If you walk through the cafeteria at any school, you will not like what you see. There’s food everywhere. People chew with their mouths open. They shout at each other, usually with half chewed food in their cheeks. It’s gross. But people can get away with it, because manners aren’t important in school.
They are really important in the rest of life. Manners are how you keep from embarrassing yourself when you meet new people. They help you eat neatly when the boss takes you out to lunch or you go on a first date. They help you talk politely to your girlfriend’s dad when you first meet.
Schools don’t teach manners, but you need to them to succeed. Manners help you develop relationships that can launch you to new heights in your personal and professional lives. Poor manners can turn those people away.
Schools do a lot of really good work. They’re great at teaching subjects, at dispensing knowledge. They are not, however, good at teaching you the life skills you need to truly succeed. To do that, you need to find other teachers.