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7 Important Lessons on Success That Your School Can’t Teach You

7 Important Lessons on Success That Your School Can’t Teach You
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“Stay in school, work hard, get good grades, and go to college. Do these things, and some day you’ll be successful.”

This statement is the biggest lie told in the education system today. It invites a fixed mindset that can eventually result in crushing defeat and letdown. It’s a big fat sucker punch when you do all the things required and still end up scrubbing soup containers at Whole Foods for minimum wage.

Thankfully, everyone is capable of success. There are countless entrepreneurs and business leaders who have successfully put themselves through the ringer, learned things the hard way, and made it out alive to teach us what they learned. And, no, these aren’t things you learned in Mrs. Johnson’s 6th grade social studies class.

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1. Forget failure

Ah, yes, the dark side of academic judgement. In school we’re taught to avoid failure, and some people will stoop to nearly unspeakable levels to not fail. Cheating, copying, and other means of deception are used as a result of the unfair stigma put around failing. Contrary to popular belief, the act of failing is where the majority of growth occurs. Entrepreneurs and business people are well aware of and well acquainted with failure. They are not afraid to experience it, and they quickly learn and move on after they fall flat on their face. Arianna Huffington epitomizes this resolve. Her first major failure came when her second book was rejected by 36 publishing houses. Do you think those places wish they still had a chance to accept the work of someone who created one of America’s leading online news aggregates?

2. Take action despite fear

Everyone has fear. No matter how cocky, confident, or sure someone may seem, they are afraid. They are afraid of failure, rejection, and pain just like everyone else. How great leaders differ is the ability to take action despite that fear. Once they are in action, they are often too busy and occupied to worry anymore. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strips, once perfectly summed this step up:

“I go into most risky projects (and those are the type I prefer) with two contradictory thoughts: one, this sort of thing is unlikely to succeed and two, this will totally succeed.”

3. Planning is great, but don’t overlook right now

A large part of our current education system relies on an unhealthy obsession with the future. Even if it’s not direct, like a high school senior looking for colleges to attend, each schoolgirl and boy is planning for the future with every test aced or every subject flunked. This breeds, again, a fixed mindset that’s detrimental to progress and applicable growth. Instead of worrying about getting into Yale, worry about getting one answer at a time correct on the next homework assignment. Value the journey over the destination. Businessman Peter Drucker teaches us the importance of not looking too deep into the future, and staying dedicated to taking the appropriate steps in the now:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

4. Don’t be afraid to ask a question

There is always that one girl or guy in the front row who asks something every time there’s an opportunity, but they obviously have no issue with speaking in public.  Some people experience a paralysis when asking a question in class. For those who truly don’t understand something, speak up. This problem exists in the workplace, too. Far too many workers are confused or even under appreciated because of their inability to speak up and add input. The best in the business feel they deserve to be heard, and their questions are worthwhile and valid. So are yours. If you need help with public speaking, these are some fantastic tips from professionals that you can use.

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5. If you believe it’s worth doing, it is

Our schooling system dictates, for the most part, what you have to learn. This, sadly, leaves us unable to truly peruse the things we’re passionate about because we’re shackled to a curriculum dictated by the school. The most brilliant and successful people in this world focused and honed their passions. Thomas Edison, who failed countless times and was almost killed by scarlet fever at a young age, wouldn’t allow his passion and vision for inventions die. He went after it no matter what it took (1,000 some odd tries before the lightbulb). The same goes for you, who needn’t seek validation from anyone but you. If you think something is cool, or a career is interesting, or a project is engaging, go for it. Forget about those who won’t back you up. They don’t matter anyway.

6. Patience, Iago

A lot of teachers are really great at super responsive feedback, but that too can be a hindrance. It establishes an expectation for instant results, which isn’t conducive to success in the business world. Things happen slowly. They happen so slowly, that the main reason people give up on almost any endeavor in almost every aspect of life is because of the sluggish pace of dreams. They threw in the towel when they moved in inch in a year, when they expected a mile. To piggyback on the second point above, this, too, comes from fixating on the future. Successful people don’t focus only on the end, but also how far they’ve come. Jim Carrey and his family, for instance, were once so poor that they were living out of a van to keep food in their stomachs. If Jim didn’t have the patience and belief that one day he’d be a great comedian, we’d have never seen his genius shine.

7. See greatness in others, not just the mirror

In school we loathe working in groups, and are geared to focus only on our own performance. There might be a misconception that smart and successful business people are inherently selfish. While there my be a few examples of these in corporate offices across the nation, don’t let a few bad eggs spoil the whole carton. The most talented are also usually well liked because of their ability to help others shine brightly. They can easily recognize a hard worker, a hustler, and someone who lives life with a lot of passion. What’s more, successful people always help others look better than themselves. They don’t take all the credit, they do not steal the ideas of others, and they certainly do not back stab or step on others to get what they want. Dale Carnegie is the prime example of a successful entrepreneur who evokes and promotes camaraderie in the workplace through his best selling novel, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

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Our formal schooling taught us many beneficial things, but there’s always more to discover and sponge up in our journey to achieve greatness. With the steps listed above you will be well on your way to learning the essential things that were unfortunately skipped in school.

The closing bell may signify the end of a scheduled school day, but not the end of your learning.

Really, it’s only the beginning.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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