Traditional education is useful. But did it set you up with everything you need to navigate the waters ahead? If you could go back to high school and do it over again, what classes would you have taken?

In this episode of Creativity Excitement Emotion, David shares the most valuable education he got in high school.

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Highlights:

00:17 – The usefulness of school for artists, freelancers, and entrepreneurs
00:58 – It’s cheaper to travel the world than it is to live in a major city
01:50 – School leaves you with many incorrect assumptions
02:27 – #1: Typing / keyboarding
03:20 – #2: English
07:15 – #3: Art
08:05 – What David would have done differently

Transcript:

So, I got to thinking today. What are the most useful classes I ended up taking in high school?

School has limited use for freelancers, entrepreneurs, sometimes even artists. I said “limited use.” I didn’t say no use.

School is an important part of our growth and yet it has the potential to be so much better, not lead people down these hallways of “This is life, this is how it is, and this is the way you should be.”

People get stuck there and then they end up living lives that they don’t want, don’t like. They’re not able to create the life they love because they’re limited by everything.

I remember having a conversation about how it’s cheaper to travel the world than it is to live in a major city.

People are like, “No way, no way. You need a lot of money to travel the world.”

I’m like, “No, you don’t. You don’t. You literally don’t. It is cheaper to travel the world than it is to live in a major city like New York or LA.” I find it surprising that people think that’s surprising.

Now, of course, it depends on how you route your trip. Waste all your money in Zurich or something like that. It depends on how you route your trip.

But if for example, you spend a good chunk of your time in Asia… Honestly, even if you go to Japan and stay in Tokyo, chances are it’s cheaper than most major cities in North America. It just is. The food is way cheaper.

So, school is leaving people with a lot of incorrect assumptions. That, combined with the fact that our ego wants to be right about everything. It’s a dangerous combination for getting stuck in a certain way of life that’s dictated to you, instead of the life by your creation. Life by default, instead of life by design. That’s my preamble.

School is leaving people with many incorrect assumptions. Click To Tweet

But this one is about focusing on what were the most useful subjects and classes in school.

Number one for me. Absolutely number one for me. It may be something that everyone can do nowadays, but it wasn’t always the case, especially when I was growing up, and that’s typing.

I did not like my teacher all that much. She had a strict “three strikes out” policy. If you missed your homework, like it was not exactly easy to remember. And this was even an elective course if I’m not mistaken, it was not a core subject. But if you missed your homework three times, didn’t get a signature from your parent, you were out. That was it. You were not going to get a pass in that course. I did not like that system. I did not like my teacher.

What did I learn though? I learned how to type. You know what? That’s like an essential skill now. I’m just glad that I was ahead of the curve rather than behind it.

Number two is English. I ended up starting in English 10, just like everybody else. I didn’t do very well. Probably because I grew up in Japan. I was still only two years living in Canada, not even one full year. And so, I’m taking English at the level that everyone else is taking it and I’m struggling a little bit.

And the biggest thing was reading speed. I don’t know. I don’t even know that to this day I have a reading speed that exceeds most people. Just that I’m far more dedicated to reading, period.

I’ve read a couple hundred books going on to 300. I plan to make my way to hundreds, maybe even thousands of books in the following years.

But at the time I was not a good reader. I struggled with that. I think I got a passing grade, but just barely good enough.

And from there I went into English 23, which is the lesser one. If I’d done well in English 10, I would have moved on to English 20. I didn’t, I went into English 23.

I did very well in English 23. And part of that was I’d always had this innate fascination with vocabulary. I was obsessed with it. I just wanted to learn more words. I thought it was amazing that some people could sound so smart and intelligent. It’s a silly thing looking back now, but these are the thoughts that occur to a 14-year-old, right?

I thought, “Wow, these people sound so smart using all these words that I didn’t even know existed and don’t know what they mean.” So, I became quite obsessed with vocabulary.

Because of that, I’d gotten a lot of practice reading and writing, and I built my own websites too. And that’s not thanks to school. That was something I learned on my own, even though I did end up taking computer programming courses and other classes where I was able to build a website for extra credit. But that had nothing to do with me learning HTML from scratch or anything. I already knew how to do it because I’d spent a lot of time doing it myself. And I’d also written content for my websites.

People are lazy now. And they want to rely on AI to write everything for them, but I think there’s incredible value in learning to write.

So, I went on to English 20, I upgraded the same year. So that was my third English class. And then in, in grade 12, I took English 30.

By that point I had gotten so good at it and had dedicated myself to it that I ended up getting, I think it was 70 or 80% on the multiple choice. Which is fine, I’m satisfied with that. But I ended up getting 100% on my English essay. And I’m rather proud of that fact. So, I ended up doing very well in English.

I still wasn’t a great reader. And, honestly, you think I would be able to tell you what a verb or an adverb is, or an adjective… That stuff never stuck with me no matter how many times I learned it.

Plus, it was too remedial for at the point at which I was entering into English classes. I never needed it though.

I wouldn’t say I’ve never needed it. Sometimes people are talking about tense and adverbs and adjectives and incorrect writing or grammar, spelling or whatever.

My whole thing is “Who gives a damn if you can’t communicate a message in a way that anyone can understand it?”

I see a lot of writing like that, and I’ve had to process a lot of writing like that and turn it into my own language at this point. If you can’t get your message across in a way that anyone can understand it, do you understand it?

And then the third most useful or valuable class, at least for me in high school was art. I took as many art classes as I possibly could. Obviously an elective and not a core subject, but I always loved drawing and painting and doing things with my hands and crafting.

Weirdly enough, those classes ended up offering the opportunity by the time I was in grade 12, I spent some of the time in class playing guitar and chatting with my buddy sitting across from me instead of drawing anything. And I was starting to feel a little bit uninspired by drawing at that point for whatever reason.

I was still doing it, but I just didn’t feel super inspired by it. So, sitting there playing guitar was the exciting new thing to do at the time.

Maybe if I’d spent more time looking and assessing what sort of electives and classes were available, as well as what I could expect to learn in them, I might’ve taken away a few more useful things from high school.

Nevertheless, in becoming an independent thinker, at some point you’ve got to choose. It’s not something that people are going to give you permission to do. And in fact, people are sometimes even going to criticize you and look down on you for being an independent thinker and questioning everything.

You don't need permission to become an independent thinker. Click To Tweet

That’s why you’ve got to choose to do it. It’s so important, especially if you want to create a life that you love, not one that’s been dictated by others.