Five Things I Wish I Learned in School

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Oscar from Freestyle Mind.

I’ve never been a perfect student, at least not in the way that school expected me to be. I’ve always been told by teachers that I had the potential to easily grasp any subject if I simply wanted to, but that was not enough for me to follow the traditional path they were trying to guide me toward. The fact is that school was not for me because I considered it to be boring and impractical. That’s why I left school at 18 to work for myself.

After one year, at 19, I started my own company and I’ve been self employed since then. I can’t say it was successful from the first day and many things have changed dramatically since then, but I don’t regret my choice of abandoning school to follow what I truly wanted at that time.

Still, there are a few things I wish I could have learned when I was in school. Here are some of them:

  1. Learning new things is sexy. The fact that I left school didn’t mean that I no longer had a desire to learn. On the contrary, from that moment I had more time to study what I really wanted to. In a short period of time I taught myself lots of programming concepts and I also began reading books about business and self development; all of this after having to learn English (most books are written in English). I now consider myself a self learner and I’m always eager to learn new things.
  2. Failing is OK. When I was in school, failure was seen as something bad to be avoided at all costs. Instead I see failure as an opportunity to learn. Great inventors and geniuses did not make their discoveries the first time they tried something, so why should I be different? Failure is an integral part of success and should be seen as a reason to keep trying rather than an excuse to quit.
  3. Changing inside means changing outside. This is more on the inner level, but I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. Changing your internal state automatically changes your external state. Let me repeat this again: being successful inside means becoming successful outside. We can’t succeed externally if we are not already successful inside. Mastering our inner self is the most powerful tool we have, and it really pays off to learn how to use it.
  4. There’s no limit. The only limit is determined by our imagination. We can do almost everything we can think of if we really want to. There are hundreds of thousands of examples of people who achieved their dream despite having been told it was impossible. Don’t be afraid of what other people say. See limitations only as challenges to conquer, which is what they really are anyway. Never give up on your dreams and one day you’ll see them come true.
  5. Step by step doesn’t always work. Even though I’m a technical guy, I know that step by step formulas don’t always work. One thing I missed in school was how to deal with unexpected behaviors. In real life things rarely work as they should, so knowing what to do when something goes wrong is often the difference between success and failure. The only way to get better at dealing with the unexpected is through continuous practice.

My goal here isn’t to convince you that school is bad (it’s not), but rather that you should take responsibility for your actions and figure out things for yourself. I acknowledge that my experience is probably very different from that of many, and that you don’t just go to school to learn things like this. Yet, I think that it’s up to you to take responsibility and act accordingly. Remember that just because everyone is acting a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t do things differently.

About the author: Oscar Del Ben writes about personal development and productivity. You can read his blog at FreestyleMind.com or subscribe to the RSS Feed.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey April 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Hi Oscar,

Great post!! It’s amazing as we get older we learn things and we develop the mindset that we never had when we were younger. This is an amazing list. Thanks for sharing!!

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usman April 15, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I feel ya. I graduated from College a year ago and since then I have learned many things about personal development. i.e. learning, failure, motivation.

I enjoyed the school experience, but I agree with you, our education system NEEDS to change. We need to be taught these life skills instead of them drilling us with math equations and chemistry compounds all the time. I studied sciences so I’m kind of on a rant. Well, those subjects are important but other areas should be too.

I have a lot to say on this topic, and this gives me enough motivation to blog about it. I’ll have something posted on it by tomorrow.

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Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com April 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm

mastering our inside means we will be successful outside. So many times we get caught in the trap of trying to win on the outside before the inside has changed. It won’t work, change has to flow from the inside.

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Sid Savara April 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Hey Oscar and Jonathan!

I think one of the benefits of being a software engineer is I learned fairly early on that failing truly is just discovering one more way that doesn’t work and getting one step closer to my goals.

Although you’re right – school doesn’t treat failing the same way, and doesn’t reward that as learning ;)

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Oscar April 15, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Thanks Jonathan for giving me the opportunity to write for your blog!

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Craig Thomas April 16, 2010 at 12:33 am

Hmmm same. If only I knew how good learning was back then I’d have saved so much time figuring it out for myself >.<

The only thing I didn't like about school was that everything was based on how well you remember and memorise yet we were never taught how to memorise correctly.

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Eduard @ People Skills Decoded April 16, 2010 at 2:58 am

Only 5? :)

Looking at the list, I realize that what school fails mostly to teach is attitude. And it’s a shame, as attitude will have the biggest impact on your results and your happiness in life.

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Mindful Mimi April 16, 2010 at 4:57 am

Hi there,
Number one I did figure out early. I did not go to university so learning as I went along was kind of a given.
For me number 2 is the most important. Failing was an absolute no go in school as well as at home. You had to succeed and failure was just ‘not done’. I did get the concept that you had to learn from your failures, but only recently have I learned that in order to get good ideas you have to have many bad ones too.
And yes, all change starts with yourself :-) That is the basic concept of life really.
I will definitely try my utmost to instill this early on in my kids so that school can do whatever they want :-)
Thanks for your openess.
Mimi

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Laura Cococcia April 17, 2010 at 7:45 am

Wonderful post – definitely got me thinking (and you picked areas that aren’t the typical “5 things” that others say!) I consider myself a self-learner too – I keep thinking about creating my own life curriculum – not necessarily things I need to take classes for, but just thinks I want to know more about and therefore, make sure I set time to experience them. Thanks for this!

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Lana - {Daring Clarity} April 18, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Failing truly is OK and there are truly no limits. Everything starts inside. Great post Oscar!

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Julius April 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I totally agree with your point about failure. Back in school, we were made to believe that failing on a test is such a big deal, hence the general negative feeling of students when they flunk a test. This is very different in the professional world. Successful people view failure as a part of their steps in achieving their goal.

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Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot April 18, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Learning new things is sexy. Lol. Go Oscar. I love it and I think you’re right, it certainly makes you more interesting and that’s definitely hot:)

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Mars Dorian April 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm

True words – failing is definitely overrated !

I personally always hated school and thought that real life experience was the real game changer here.

There’s no limit,
True true and double-true !

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Kent @ The Financial Philosopher April 20, 2010 at 9:38 am

I’ll add a sixth: Self-knowledge

If I had learned more about myself, in terms of unique personality and human behavior in general, I believe the path to where I am now would have been shorter and more enjoyable.

Discovering my learning style in grad school, for example, unleashed another realm of understanding that gave confidence and clarity to my learning. How can one learn well without first learning how one learns?

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Girl Startup April 21, 2010 at 3:03 am

I wish I figured this out too, when I was younger. You were lucky that you knew what was best for you, no matter what the consequences were.

But no regrets, just took me a bit longer to get to where I am :)

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Susan April 25, 2010 at 6:45 pm

For me, school taught me about life and how to transition, being prepared for something new and figuring out how to follow through. That’s about it. It taught me little about business or ‘real life’ so to speak.

I don’t really have regrets, but if I had to do it over again, I would have gone to a 2 year technical school and learned hands on video editing and graduated at 20. Instead of graduating, fumbling around Turner Broadcasting as a temp and living at home, eventually going to a 6 week editing school, moving to NY and clawing my way into a video editing position on the fly. I would have ended up in the same place, I think, (and now am a Multimedia Director by day and a freelance writer by night), but the road not taken probably would have been faster, less expensive, more hands on, and given me an intimate community of peers instead of a big, overwhelming, southern university I thought I needed.

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