Sunday Self-Scaler 14
6 crucial life-skills schools don't teach us, an excellent fantasy series I'm reading, and another 3 questions I want you to ask yourself.
Ever since we’re born, we are thrown into school for our “education,” which includes: sitting on a bench for hours memorizing “important” things such as the name of the capital city of some state on the other side of the globe or the atomic number of Boron.
But I am not really sure about their “importance.” Except for school exams where I had to regurgitate them on paper and was assigned a grade based on how well I did that, I don’t remember ever using them.
“They teach us what we’re apparently ‘supposed’ to know as opposed to what we need to know.”
Well, no hate to Chemistry or Geography — they are definitely important in their own right, but only to someone like a chemical engineer or a cartographer in my opinion.
I am neither of those, most of us are neither of those.
Most of us work salaried jobs, collect our paychecks, spend some of it, save some of it, pay taxes, face problems, solve problems and after a few decades, we retire and after a few more years or if lucky, a few more decades, we die.
And schools don’t teach what most of us, in fact, all of us need to thrive in the real world — they teach us what we are supposedly “supposed” to know as opposed to what we need to know. As Mark Twain rightly said:
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
I want to share six skills that aren’t taught in school but I found to be absolutely essential to thriving in the real world.
Growing up, being an inquisitive kid, I had a lot of “whys” and “hows” at my disposal. But at school, they were met with disapproval and I was taught to shut the f**k up.
That’s what schools primarily do —they dull our thinking, kill our inquisitiveness, and mold us into docile unquestioning beings.
“But at school, I was taught to shut the f**k up.”
It makes sense when you consider the fact that schools are modeled after factories and producing modern-day society compliant workers is their goal.
But thinking is everything in the real world — every step of our lives, we are faced with problems that need solving, decisions that need making, and all sorts of things that need thinking.
But the sad part is that thinking is a rarity. To quote Edison:
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
Now, as a thinker, most of my day, I am either thinking, doing activities that require thinking, or thinking about my thinking. And my life has never been better.
Moreover, thinking is like a muscle so the more you think, the stronger or better it gets.
“Most of my day, I am either thinking, doing activities that require thinking or thinking about my thinking.”
Read about and practice critical thinking. Perform activities that stimulate your thinking such as reading, writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, etc.
Engage in intellectual conversations and every day, spend time introspecting or thinking about your thinking.
After I joined college, the harsh reality of life started to become evident. I was no longer a kid and with a single mother, not only did I have a say in family decisions but I had to take them myself.
“One of the first things I realized about negotiation was that it was much more than just bargaining.”
When we shifted homes, I had to negotiate the rent and the terms of the agreement. When buying property, it was even harder. It wasn’t mere rupees anymore but thousands and even lakhs of rupees at stake.
And, one of the first things I realized about negotiation was that it was much more than just bargaining — it was a means to arrive at an acceptable middle ground for both parties in any kind of trade.
The trade could be as small as buying a kilogram of tomatoes from a vegetable hawker or as large as striking a billion-dollar business partnership.
Such an important skill and not even a reference to it is made in our “education”. Speaks volumes doesn’t it? Now, the important question — how do you learn this skill?
Well, there are books, blogs, videos, courses, and a host of other content on the internet. But at the end of the day, the best way to get better at negotiating is by negotiating.
Negotiate before making any purchase. Try to sell a used item. Try settling a dispute if you come across one. You just have to look intently, there are opportunities everywhere.
“The best way to get better at negotiating is by negotiating.”
A year or so ago, I knew nothing about anything when it came to the field of finance. All I knew was that I had to land a good job, then — collect my paycheck every month, spend most of it, save some of it, and repeat.
“Turns out, getting rich does NOT require a fat paycheck, big brains, or miserably living.”
To me, Finance was a complex subject limited to the “pros” — blazered men and women on their phones, shuffling in and out of meetings clutching their suitcases, and talking to CNBC reporters.
When the lockdown first started, I stumbled across Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It was reading it that lured me into the world of finance.
It was only random articles and YouTube videos at first. Then seeing a golden opportunity in the stock market crash, I dove in, bought, held, and reaped crazy profits as the markets recovered.
Excited, I dove into stock trading, then gravitated towards investing, and finally towards personal finance.
“Why teach us how to compute the nth root of unity but not about money, the root of our economy?”
All in all, the biggest thing I realized was just how ignorant my past self, probably you, and in fact, most of us are about money. Turns out, getting rich does NOT require a fat paycheck, big brains, or miserably living. All it requires is a basic understanding of basic finance.
Well, we aren’t to blame. Our education system is. Why teach us how to compute the nth root of unity but not money, the root of our economy?
In today’s world, being literate alone isn’t enough. You need to be financially literate as well.
Rich Dad Poor Dad is a good starting point. Investing For Dummies, The Intelligent Investor, Investopedia, The Financial Express, The Wall Street Journal, and Zerodha Varsity are excellent reading resources to look into.
Coming to YouTube channels, Graham Stephan, The Swedish Investor, The Motley Fool, Financial Education, and Andrei Jikh are my go-to's.
One of my classmates, arguably one of the most technically skilled in my class, is still looking for a job while another with barely any technical skills managed to bag one of the best job offers.
The former struggles to put together a simple sentence while the latter can explain rocket science to a kid.
You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world but if you can’t communicate well, the point becomes moot.
A lifetime of devouring books, years of being a thinker, and hundreds of hours of intellectual conversations have really honed my communication skills. And since I’ve started writing on Medium, they have gotten even better.
Communication, like any other skill, can be honed only through one thing — practice. Converse with people, engage in debates, read books, watch Ted talks and write.
You don’t have to write online or for others, writing for yourself is enough. And if the traditional communication advice doesn’t cut it, the five unconventional will.
The funny thing about this skill is that we tend to think it’s only about giving effective slide presentations but I have come to realize that it’s much more than that.
Take the process of how I landed my first job offer — I interned and was then offered a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO). Presenting was a huge part of it.
Presenting my skills. Reading tons of articles, spending hours crafting my resume, having a few of my seniors review it, and spending many more hours trying to improve it.
Presenting myself. Shuttling between my wardrobe and the mirror, adjusting, readjusting my tie, retucking my shirt, smoothing it out. Then before walking into the interview room, taking a few deep breaths, smiling my best smile, and walking in.
Presenting my work. Watching Steve Job’s presentations, reading articles on how to create effective slide presentations, and rehearsing a few times before presenting my work at the end of my internship.
“Life is show biz and the best showman is more likely to receive attention.”
From first dates to political speeches, presentation is everywhere. You know yourself, your skills, and the kind of person you are but others don’t. They can only rely on how you present yourself.
A good presenter with good skills can outshine a bad one with excellent skills. Seems unfair right?
But life is show biz and the best showman is more likely to receive attention. You don’t have to be super skilled, confident, or capable, you just have to look like you are.
Dress better and for the occasion. Take care of your health and hygiene. Communicate audibly and clearly. Wear a warm smile. Have a strong handshake. Walk with confidence.
“You don’t have to be super skilled, confident, or capable, you just have to look like you are.”
The Skill of Learning New Skills
The world is moving at a mind-boggling pace. Just a few decades ago, the internet didn’t exist and smartphones a.k.a the touch screen fingerprint enabled computers we carry around in our pockets were 5 kg briefcases.
What was relevant yesterday isn’t today. What is today won’t be tomorrow. It’s the same with skills. As Peter Drucker said:
“The only skill that will be relevant in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.”
We are in a race with a high-speed train and the key to winning is keeping up with the train — mastering the skill of learning new skills or improving your learning ability.
Devour books. Explore different subjects. Pick up new skills. Practice critical thinking. Engage in intellectual conversations. Listen to Podcasts. Watch documentaries. Whatever you do, just keep learning.
Your learning ability is a muscle and like with any other muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
We live in a world that needs skills but values degrees. Quite the irony I must say. Go to school, then college, enter the real world, learn the necessary skills, and slave away at a job to pay back the student debt.
“We live in a world that needs skills but values degrees.”
How much simpler things would be if we were taught what we actually needed in college itself. But no, we like to do things in a convoluted manner.
The world is progressing at a rapid pace but our education system refuses to change. It’s a modern world with an ancient education system that we are living in.
Changes are slowly creeping in and it might take a couple of years to see anything promising. Until then, all we can do is skill up and not merely survive but thrive.
“It’s a modern world with an ancient education system that we are living in.
The Fantasy Series I’m Reading
As you must’ve seen in the last scaler, I had been reading Seven Eves and I finished it a couple of days ago. Again, I URGE you to read it. With a heavy science-fiction book done, I decided to read some fantasy.
And after some digging, I chose The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. I am around 40% into the first book, The Assassin’s Apprentice and it’s been a pure delight so far.
I HAVE read better fantasy books than this but it’s still a good one. I’ll update more in the next scaler.
Another 3 Questions I Want You to Ask Yourself
In the last scaler, I gave you 3 questions. Now, I want to give you 3 more. While the previous ones were aimed at long and short-term goals, these three are aimed towards your overall self-improvement.
The questions are:
Where and what am I right now?
Where and what do I want to be?
How do I bridge the gap between these two?
Now, before you accuse me of dumping all the work on you, lemme tell you - THAT is the intent. Self-improvement comes from WITHIN.
As trivial as the exercise might sound, actually trying to answer those questions can reveal quite a lot about yourself. So try it. Also, as always, feel free to share the answers with me and the rest of the community.
That’s it! Hope you enjoy this. As always, drop any suggestions/feedback/ criticisms you might have. Have a great week ahead!
Good one today, brother! Excellent questions.