“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.