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20 Things I Wish I Had Learned in School

20 Things I Wish I Had Learned in School

Everyone’s journey through life is unique. Public education is supposedly designed to even the playing field, but some would say it is the root of great social imbalances. Too many graduate from high school without ever learning the basics. If I could send a letter back in time to my ten year old self, this is what it would say:

1. Nobody knows what is going on.

Scientists who spend their careers analyzing the nature and origins of life on this planet have gleaned only a few more solid facts about the universe than your own parents have. Nobody knows why we are here or what we are supposed to be doing, and anyone who says they do is selling something. What each of us perceives is only a fraction of what there is to know, and we can only find truth by combining our perspectives without judgment. But how can we do this if so few people can admit that they don’t know the answers?

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2. Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. (Frank Zappa)

For a lot of people, life is as simple as looking around at what other people are doing, trying to figure out what seems to be working, and falling in line without letting on that you have no idea what is going on. Every once in a while someone decides to do something nobody else is doing and suddenly, progress is made.  But this aspect of reality is not evident in the insulated hierarchical society of public schools. Imagine what would happen if we taught this to kids much earlier in life.

3. Being cool and popular in school is a trap.

All but a handful of my most popular and talented grade-school peers went on to become miserable adults. Kids who grew up never questioning themselves or the authorities because everything they did was rewarded with acceptance missed out on essential steps in mental development. As a result of the imbalances this creates, many adults have confidence beyond their capabilities, and others grow up without the necessary confidence to reach their full potential.

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4. Some of the highest quality human adults were late bloomers.

Some kids take their time, quietly trying to understand what is happening around them instead of taking everything for granted and at face value. They can come across as really weird to other children. Others are cast as ugly and weird as kids only to grow into the most beautiful humans on earth. Late bloomers tend to be paragons of perspective since they have the rare experience of viewing life from both sides of the coin. Their observations allow them to approach popularity and success with more wisdom as an adult.

5. Do not hate.

If you must hate, do not hate for what one has done to another. This is the root of 90% of drama and involving yourself in such conflicts is not worth it. This goes both ways, as it is also unwise to involve outside parties when you have a problem with a particular person. Confront them directly, as only your antagonist can provide closure. Involving other people who have nothing to do with the problem is only going to make it worse.

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6. You must know yourself before you can expect to truly know another.

Kids are raised to live up to all kinds of expectations. Many go straight from wanting to please their parents into long-term romantic relationships without ever taking time to address their own goals and desires. Selflessness can be seen as an honorable trait. If left unchecked, it can lead to misery and resentment. There is much more to life than graduating, getting married, and having kids. Many adults get so caught up in these things that the possibilities of their potential pass them by. People who take the time to become independent and happy in their own right while they are young grow up to be better partners and parents.

7. Do not start college until you have a sense of what your career should be.

Doing anything just because you feel it is expected of you and not for any particular reason of your own is a waste of time and resources. College is expensive, and taking random classes is not likely to result in a sudden revelation about exactly what you were put on earth to do. You can learn that kind of thing much more effectively from experiencing life and getting to know yourself better outside the classroom.

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8. There will never be a time when it is okay to stop learning and growing.

Diplomas are intended as trophies of expertise and certification in particular or general areas. Adults reach these milestones and the career goals associated with them thinking “I did it right, I know it all, I can stop learning now,” or “I have this child who is looking at me for answers, I had better at least pretend like know everything.” I once imagined myself reaching some unknown, intangible state of knowing everything. However this sense of serenity never came until I admitted that, despite years of higher education, there is very little I know for certain and probably a lot more left to learn than I have time in which to learn it.

9. Fear is the mind killer.

Fear is a very natural response that we all share, yet it is widely exploited by manipulative forces. It can set you back more than anything else, and those who are controlled by fear are the first ones to become stagnant and pliable. Irrational fears can easily be examined through facing them head on. Other fears are more deep seated, and can take a lifetime to eliminate. It is best to begin vigilantly examining fear as early in life as possible to avoid missing out on important formative experiences.

10. It is impossible for anyone to control what other people think, feel, or do.

Many learn at an early age that they can get what they want by manipulating others. There is certainly something to be said for the power of inspiration and influence. Yet even with the best intentions, the consequences cannot be entirely controlled. Talk until you are blue in the face, but people cannot change without learning new things. They are more likely to learn from their own experiences than anything else. If you want to make the world a better place your own example is the most influential tool you have. Life is simpler when you expect less from others and more from yourself.

Oh, and by the way:

  • Innocence is the one thing you can’t ever get back once you lose it.
  • Be very careful with other people’s hearts.
  • If someone does not listen to you when you say no, they are not worth your time.
  • Bullies and teasers are only projecting their own insecurities onto their victims.
  • If you spend your youth wisely, you will be a more stable adult.
  • Your twenties will be the best years of your life.
  • Learn to take criticism and overcome failure.
  • Get really good at doing what you love.
  • Don’t believe the hype.
  • The world is not what you think it is, people are not who you think they are, and nothing is what it seems.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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