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8 Essential Skills They Didn’t Teach You In School

8 Essential Skills They Didn’t Teach You In School

Lately, I’ve been simultaneously using less and less of what I learned in school while discovering more and more skills that are vital to success which were never even offered in school!

If I were to be 100% honest, probably the most valuable skill I learned in college was how to talk to girls (certainly a vital skill for happiness and success, but not what I was there to learn).

The economics classes? Nope, mostly academic mumbo-jumbo that is entirely useless to all but a handful of policy makers. The computer science classes? Hmm, maybe about 10% of that I’ve used, but it’s nothing I couldn’t have picked up with a couple good books, which I routinely do now. The history, English, philosophy, and physics? Aside from giving me a general understanding of the world and making me sound smart at cocktail parties, I can’t think of anything in there that I really use on a day to day basis.

Much of college gave me a bad taste for education. It made learning a real drag. I got through it to get the degree, but it wasn’t until after school that my education really began.

So what are the top skills that should be taught to every man, woman, and child who enters our education system? I’m glad you asked…

How to make people like you and network

For a skill so essential to success that affects every area of your life (from dating, to family, to work) it’s amazing how little people know about this. I can hear you saying…”I thought some people were just born with it and the rest of us were out of luck! You mean it’s something you can study?” Well, yes!

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There is great power in knowing you can reach out to your network whenever you have a problem to solve, to be able to reach key influencers at conferences and meetings, to make an impression on audiences, to project confidence and trustworthiness, and to make friends with other successful people.

The shy folks lurking in the corners at cocktails parties will never reach their full potential as human beings because our school system didn’t place enough value on “being social”. President Bush didn’t get the best grades at Princeton, but boy did he know how to network, and look where that got him.

Required reading: How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships.

How to speed read and the power of audio books

Yes, speed reading and speed comprehension is real. The nominal investment of time it takes to learn pays off in spades for the rest of your life. After all, how would your life be different if you were able to read an extra book each week?

The same goes with audio books. If you spend an hour per day in the car learning instead of cursing at other drivers or listening to Britney Spears, you will have attended the equivalent of an entire semester course. Every major book today comes out on audio book, and you can read (listen to) them all without taking any additional time out of your day. Why wouldn’t you?

Looking at all the “required reading” links in this article might seem a little overwhelming, but I was able to listen to them all on audio books while driving around town. It was actually fun.

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Required reading: The Psychology of Achievement by Brian Tracey

How to set goals and manage time

Want to know how to get anything done in life? Our school system doesn’t feel that this is worth teaching apparently, but call me crazy, I think it’s important (I’m probably preaching to the choir on LifeHack.org, but still).

The research that has come out lately is groundbreaking…everything from eliminating multi-tasking, using blocks of uninterrupted time where phone and email are off, prioritized to-do lists, urgent but unimportant vs. non-urgent but important tasks, etc.

If you have ever found yourself being busy all day only to wonder what you accomplished at the end of it, then you need to learn this stuff. Understanding productivity will give you such an advantage over other people it’s hardly even fair.

Required reading: Getting Things Done, Eat That Frog, No B.S. Time Management For Entrepreneurs

How to read a financial statement

Robert Kiyosaki is fond of saying that the rich teach their children how to read financial statements and the poor do not. He is right. Schools have never been very good at teaching people how to get rich, probably in no small part because professors are generally poor and wouldn’t know how to teach it.

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Yet with 95% of our population retiring at or below the poverty level, the economy in the dumps, and many people losing their homes to foreclosure, I bet plenty of Americans wish their school system had been a little more focused on money. After leaving college my friends could tell you the symbolic meaning behind the Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales, but they couldn’t tell you the difference between a balance sheet and income statement. Nice job school system!

Required reading: Cash Flow Quadrant, or this blog article

How to negotiate, use contracts, and not get taken advantage of

If you want to accomplish anything of significance you’re going to have to work with other people. Whether its contractors, outsourcing, employees, etc…there is a certain art to structuring good contracts with these people, knowing how to find good talent, measuring results, knowing how to fire them, and not getting completely taken for a ride in the process. School teaches you none of this and most people have to learn it from the school of hard knocks by literally get taken advantage of several times.

Required reading: I haven’t seen many in this area but one that comes to mind is Donald Trumps The Art Of The Deal

How to save and invest

Again, people are never taught how to build wealth, which is why we have a nation in credit card debt. Moreover, they are never taught the power of passive income streams and how to really break free from the rat race of working 9-to-5. There is a whole body of literature on this topic which is never even touched upon in traditional education.

Required reading: The Richest Man In Babylon, The Millionaire Next Door, or Ben Franklin’s The Way To Wealth

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How to be successful in life

Sounds sort of broad, doesn’t it? Yet some people have devoted a lifetime to understanding what makes people happy and successful. There are the big three: health, wealth, and relationships. People need to find what they really want to do with their life (something few of us ever really think about). We need to figure out how to do scary things that would be good for us, break bad habits, how to let go of bad things in the past, etc. There is a lot to learn here!

Required reading: What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, When I Say No I Feel Guilty, Think and Grow Rich, The Way Of The Superior Man (Ladies maybe you can recommend a relationship book for women in the comments)

How to spread an idea and basic marketing

Finally, I’ll just say that the basics of marketing are something everyone should understand. Even if you don’t think you’re in marketing, you’re in marketing. If you have an idea at work, or want to get a raise, or want to convince your kids to go see a movie then there is something applicable from the marketing world. Even just picking out a good headline for something you’re writing so that it will actually get read requires some basic marketing skills.

Required reading: Dan Kennedy’s The Ultimate Sales Letter, CopyBlogger, The Psychology of Influence

Conclusion

Until the school system comes around, I suppose its up to each of us to take care of our own education. That means reading, finding mentors, audio books, going to conferences, and of course blogs are a great resource.

What did you miss out on in school that you wish you’d learned? Or if you’re an educator do you feel there is a mismatch between what is taught and what’s important? Leave a comment below!

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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