The school system is fine for getting started in the world. But to me, traditional education is not the be-all end-all of higher learning.
I ended up choosing an unconventional path a year out of college, which meant I had to blaze my own trail before I even had a sense of my own identity.
In my formative years, if I’d had mentors or coaches who recognized my gifts and helped me foster them, that, to me, would have been a more valuable education than schooling could have ever provided.
Which is why I wish they taught these skills in school:
Music is taught in school, sure, but there’s a serious problem with the system, namely that the “talented” kids get to play all the fun instruments, and the less talented kids end up on boring instruments like the triangle or tambourine – which is exactly what happened to me.
Although I did demonstrate a lot of interest in music (no one noticed), I didn’t seem to have a knack for it – that is, until I discovered the guitar, and surpassed my teacher in a matter of a few lessons.
I have been playing guitar since I was 17, and I’ve written hundreds of riffs and songs (it’s probably closer to 1,000 by now). I’ve recorded and published multiple singles, EPs, and albums, and also have experience as a session player.
If only someone had helped me discover this passion sooner.
2. Personal Development
I started my personal development journey in 2007 and although it has been a bumpy road, nothing has had a greater impact on my ongoing growth and learning than personal development.
I’ve interviewed many of my heroes – Derek Sivers, Tommy Tallarico, Pete Lesperance, David Hooper, James Schramko, Bob Barker, and others.
I’ve started a dozen or more businesses, published over 300 podcast episodes, wrote over 2,000 articles and blog posts, and self-published five books.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but looking back, I’m not sure any of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken self-improvement seriously.
Much of what I needed to know, I didn’t learn in school – I learned in books and audio programs.
I didn’t come into this world knowing that I would become a freelancer or entrepreneur.
If there was anything that tipped me off, it was my unwavering interest in homespun, DIY projects, be it music, audiobooks, blogs, podcasts, videos, or otherwise.
Even as I was offered multiple employment opportunities (some very lucrative and promising), I kept finding myself drawn back to my various personal projects. At first, I thought there was something wrong with me. Turns out creating my own job was of greater interest to me than being gainfully employed in any capacity, even if it meant sacrificing income short-term.
I know that entrepreneurship can’t really be taught. I’ve seen the way universities approach it, and it’s kind of backwards. But I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at today without countless mentors and coaches, which just goes to show that, even if it’s just building awareness for opportunities outside of jobs, the education system is failing people who don’t fit into the system.
I spent about four years in network marketing discovering the importance of leadership, that if something wasn’t quite right with a community, business, or organization, it could usually be traced back to the leader.
Then, in 2019, I engaged in a three-month leadership program that transformed my life. Starting later this month, I’m headed into an intensive, yearlong leadership and management program to further hone my skills.
It’s safe to say I don’t have leadership figured out yet. But I do know how critical it is, and I also know that I want to build structures and a team around me so that I can be more effective in my business and community efforts.
I know full well that there are programs based around communication. But that’s different. What I’m talking about here is the ability to connect with others, no matter who they might be, hold a conversation with them, and build a true connection.
Some people are naturals in this area, but the reality is, most of us learned what we needed to know about making friends and connecting with others through books like How to Win Friend and Influence People and Influence (affiliate links).
I’ve picked up a lot of skills in this area by attempting to build a network marketing business, listening to podcasts, and observing mentors. But knowing how to communicate with others earlier would have made a big difference for me in the areas of friendships, relationships, partnerships, and more.
Having lived in Japan and observed firsthand how the culture is more community minded, I can honestly say we’ve got a lot to learn in this area in North America. Not to say Japan can’t learn a few things from us, too, though.
I certainly can’t discount the notion that because of school, I discovered what I didn’t want, and didn’t like. There’s a lot of value in knowing that, because it can help you move in the direction of what you do want and do like.
And I’m certainly not saying that the education system is all bad. I believe the teachers of the world should be some of the highest paid individuals, given that they hold the future in their hands. If they were equipped with the right tools, and empowered with the right skills, they could do so much more to impact generations.
But remember – if school didn’t prepare you for everything in this life, it’s because it was never meant to. What you truly need, especially if you’re on an unconventional path, is ongoing self-education and personal development.
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