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 networkFor 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!
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 booksYes, 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.
Required reading: The Psychology of Achievement by Brian Tracey
How to set goals and manage timeWant 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 statementRobert 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.
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 ofIf 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 investAgain, 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
How to be successful in lifeSounds 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 marketingFinally, 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
ConclusionUntil 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!