What School Didn’t Teach You About the Real World

What sort of a grade would you give your schools as far as how you were prepared for the “real world”? You may have been taught some unfortunate myths that might be holding back your success… and it’s time to unlearn those schoolyard myths.

Myth #1: Failure is bad. Many of us were brought up to fear failure. “What if I fail that test?” or “What if I fail that class?” Sure, fear can be a motivator to try harder, but it can paralyse you, too. Fear of failure perpetuates low self-esteem and keeps people from trying new things. In reality, failure is a great teacher. Failure is a good thing. If you had been taught to embrace the lessons inherent in failure – (how not to do things next time) – how different would your approach to business be? Would you be bolder in taking advantage of opportunities? Would you be frustrated and stopped by mistakes or would you be grateful for the lessons? Lesson: learn to fail intelligently.

Myth #2: There’s always an answer. Growing up with multiple choice questions, we may assume that an answer can be found among the choices. On paper, in school, yes. In real life, not so much. There may be several “right” answers. There may not be one. Having a mentor, doing your research and plenty of hands-on experience will help direct you to the best possible answers. Lesson: when you experiment, sometimes you’ll fail. Refer to #1.

Myth #3: Once you’re a “master” you have learnt all there is to know and you don’t need to keep learning. WRONG. Especially today, innovation is moving at the speed of the Internet and if you don’t stay sharp and curious, you will, without fail, be left behind. Business models and practices change constantly and there are always better and more efficient ways to run your business. Lesson: in the immortal words of the Dos Equis beer commercial, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

Myth #4: If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself. This is a hard one! It’s tough to relinquish control of your “baby” to someone who may not have the passion or knowledge you do. The reality is, you can’t be great at everything and you certainly can’t do it all unless you are willing to sacrifice energy, personal time, family, health and so on. The trick to allowing others to help you is to learn to give – and receive – constructive criticism; to be willing to learn from anyone (not just the “qualified” people); to give direction without micromanaging; and to have a staff where everyone is willing to take full ownership of their actions. Lesson: we are not meant to go it alone.

Myth #5: You can always ask someone for advice. While a mentor is invaluable, no one will have all the answers for your specific situation. Refer to #1. Embrace trying and failing. Take the initiative, over and over, and you’ll ultimately enjoy success!

School teaches us how to follow directions and take tests. However, it does not encourage the single most important life lesson: failure. That’s not to say that every time you try something you will have to endure yet another “learning experience.” You will have massive successes, as well as crushing failures. Consider them the spice of life, learn from them, get up and dust yourself off and keep going. It is about the journey and how you look at things that is more important than the end result of business success!


Inspired by a post by Daniel at http://celestinechua.com/


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