I almost failed out of high school. But in my junior year, I decided to try Independent study: a homeschooling program facilitated by the school district.
At first, It was too unorthodox for my boomer parents to get around. But I made my case and got their buy-in.
In one year, I got my overall GPA from 1.9 to 2.9, transferred back to my high school for my last semester, and got the same diploma as everyone else. In the end, my genius was proven.
Independent study was much more my jam. I finished my daily school work in a couple of hours, smoked so much weed I was barely getting high anymore and was left with more free time than I knew what to do with.
I don’t remember why, but I decided to buy some books on Amazon and try reading them out. First was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It was interesting. But I wasn’t into the woo-woo manifest affirmation stuff at the end of the day.
Then Amazon made another recommendation. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. That book blew my fucking mind open.
Growing up, nobody took my dreams of being an entrepreneur seriously.
(Actually, I had one 7th-grade teacher who, unsolicited, told me that I would be a businessman… That moment still has an impact on me.)
Tim was the first person who encouraged me to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship and gave me a pathway to do it.
It was like discovering a new continent. I was immediately hooked.
That was the moment I realized I would learn more on my own than school could teach me. And that’s been the case.
Now, I’m 25. And In those eight years, I’ve read hundreds of books and started multiple businesses, some reaching that million-dollar mark. I’ve been published in various publications and quoted in books.
I didn’t get here because of what I learned in school but because of what I learned outside of school.
Ok, no more stories for now. Let’s get into these 15 important things you need to know but won’t learn in school.
1. The true power of knowledge
“Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” – Mark Twain.
My self-propelled education has skyrocketed me beyond my peers in terms of income and opportunity. I don’t say that to brag, although I don’t mind bragging. I say that to attribute.
The books, the online lectures, the courses, the articles, and the study are why I am successful. Not because I’m a genius but because the genius of the world is available to everyone for basically no cost.
Once you learn that knowledge is the key to doing great things and that knowledge is readily available to you – I mean, learn that not just know it in the back of your head, but experience it first hand – there is no longer a door that is closed for you. Only ones you haven’t figured out how to open yet.
2. How to argue
I knew a teacher would be brave if they let me disagree with them. But unfortunately, arguing outside of debate club is not encouraged in school. That’s a shame. And the result is a generation that thinks arguing is about screaming until you are heard.
But that’s not what real argument is. Forming an argument is taking your idea or plan and trying to make it impervious to attack. Then, of course, the next step is to find someone who will attack it so you can determine whether you can patch up the holes or abandon them altogether.
It’s a practical skill to have in your relationships and businesses when you have to sell something or just make sure you don’t have stupid ideas (which I guarantee you are because we all are).
3. What Strategy Is and How To Use It
The school system is designed to get you to abandon strategic thought in favor of tactical knowledge. Nothing against tactical knowledge. It’s important too.
In essence, tactical knowledge is how to get things done, and strategic thought is what should get done.
From what I can tell, strategic thinking is not approached in education until your get to your Masters in college. And that’s a shame because it leaves a huge majority of people untrained to make real strategic decisions in their life. Like what they should spend their time on, how to be successful in what they are doing, and frankly, how to be independent of the large bureaucracies that run the world.
Learning how to be your own strategist is the key to independence.
4. Money: How it’s Made
It’s obvious that most of the population knows very little about money. How to make it for yourself, let alone how it can be created and manipulated.
I don’t think I have to do much convincing to tell you how to make money would likely change your life forever.
But giving a different example, when Elon Musk tried to buy Twitter, I saw so many comments like “He could solve homelessness in America by giving every homeless person $XXX (the math was always different, which is a red flag) with that money.”
What they don’t understand is that Elon’s wealth is hardly liquid. If he tried to cash out, his company’s public value would likely collapse completely, rendering him more or less broke.
The lack of knowledge about money will cause you to make stupid assumptions about the world beyond ever being able to create it for yourself.
5. How to Learn
If someone asked you to teach them how to learn, would you know how to? Probably not. Which is strange, isn’t it?
Isn’t education a fundamental priority in our culture? Why, then, would we not give everyone the tools to pursue it? Learning is a skill you can acquire and practice, just like any other skill.
It’s probably the most valuable skill to acquire. Just think about how much it could save you financially. If you don’t acquire this skill for yourself, it’s likely that paying an organization to help you learn complicated skills will cost you nearly a hundred thousand dollars.
Instead, just learn how to learn. Then there are no limits to the knowledge available to you and the power associated with it.
6. How Your Habits Affect Your Life
As you probably gathered at the beginning of this article, I was not a child that appreciated people trying to instill unwanted discipline in me. They never gave me a reason I was aligned with.
They always aligned it with things I didn’t care about, “like if you don’t start doing your homework, you won’t get into college.” But 10-year-old me literally couldn’t have cared less about college.
They should have said that if you don’t straighten out your habits, you will hate yourself as an adult. The people who are good for your life won’t want to be around you because you will be aiming downhill. Even if you have some things going for you, you will constantly be holding yourself back from achieving your goals.
On the other hand, if you carefully watch your habits to make sure they are all aimed upwards, your life will improve at a rate you never knew possible. People will desperately want to be around you. You’ll have an amazing relationship. You’ll make more and more money as time goes on and be more and more valuable to the world around you.
Your habits compound. The result of your actions over time is not linear. They are exponential, and they will either take you to mediocrity or infinity and beyond.
7. The Benefit of Non-Conformity
It is much easier to be something unique than it is to be something generic but better. And generic but better is often what is requested of us.
For example, 56% of small business owners in the US don’t have a college degree. The reason? Well, it’s hard to say exactly, but there is a good chance that once you’ve gone down the road of paying a lot for an education to get a better job, trading that job to start a business doesn’t look as appealing.
The road with the most traffic, regardless of how many lanes it has, often moves the slowest. The societally approved paths often have the most competition on them. Being a small fish in a huge pond is difficult. Instead, find a smaller pond that you can manage.
This isn’t to say you should be the opposite of everything conformative. That’s a recipe for a socially difficult life. But, again, this is an opportunity to think strategically. The path of least resistance is often conforming to society for the most part and being ruthlessly non-conforming in key areas.
8. Why You Should Pursue Failure
The structure of school achievement teaches us that our failures stay with us for the rest of our lives or are at least very hard to wash away.
If you want an F on a test to go away, you have to convince a teacher to bend the rules and allow you to retake a test. Or your second best bet is to have mommy come in and make a scene. I tried to make the latter happen, but mom wasn’t down.
But the reality is much different. The truth of the real world is that you fail at everything. Then eventually, you fail a little less but still fail. Eventually, you are getting metaphorical Ds, then Cs, then Bs, then As in whatever it is you are doing.
In other words, you suck at something until you don’t. Your first job interviews are going to be rough and awkward. You will feel stupid on your first-ever sales calls. You are bad at accounting until you practice the rules. You’re writing is awful until you find your voice.
Take pride in your failings. It’s not a game of fail or pass. It’s a game of taking your punches and moving on. Those who can move on the fastest win the earliest.
9. How to Use Leverage
Leverage can be defined as something you bring to the table to make an outcome, otherwise unachievable, achievable. In physics, it’s the law that explains why you can hit a nail in wood with a hammer but not your hands. The hammer is leverage.
For physical builders, leverage is exactly that, tools that help you build something. But those tools allow for leverage in more ways than one. Those tools cost money. Other builders might not have tools. So you could rent those tools out to other builders for a fee. Now you are leveraging your original investment in those tools to make money while you are not working.
But even further, maybe you use those tools as leverage to build a reputation as the guy who has the tools needed to get the job done. Also, the list of people who have rented tools from you is a form of leverage. You use that leverage as credibility to get customers who need something built to hire you. You use your tools and your connections to labor to do the work. Making a larger margin on the whole project.
Even further, maybe there is a big project, like building an apartment complex. You can use all the prior leverage, plus go to a bank and get financial leverage to take on jobs you otherwise didn’t have the capital to take. In that case, you are using leverage to the maximum degree. Profiting on selling $1M (or whatever) worth of services you otherwise would not have been able to provide without the financial leverage.
Leverage is the number one way people build wealth. But it is also dangerous because you carry the liability of everything you leverage. The power and the risk make this a force that should be necessary to teach in school, yet it’s not.
10. How to Take Good Risks
Along with leverage, a super valuable concept to understand is a risk. If you take a hard look at the behavior of young adults, you aren’t hard-pressed to find that we are not that good and understanding and analyzing risk.
To better understand, it’s useful to think of consequences as a synonym for risk. The difference is you can’t see the future, so the consequence of your actions is unknown. Easy, of course, to see with hindsight, but extremely difficult to project into the future.
Risk is the probability that the consequences of a particular action are worse than you are aiming them to be.
The key to taking good risks is making sure the worst possible outcome is still manageable and doesn’t kill you. If you were to lose your entire investment, would you still have enough to take another risk? If not, the risk is likely not worth taking.
On the other hand, if the worst-case scenario is easily survivable, the best-case scenario is a long-term net positive, and the middle-case scenario is still desirable, the risk is likely worth taking.
11. Why Lying is Bad
When we are young, we are told that lying is bad. But, and maybe this isn’t true for you, we are never given an articulated reason for why. Maybe we are told it hurts people or damages our character. I don’t know about you, but I was a testy child. Vague reasonings were not enough for me. If you told me not to do something, I needed a pretty powerful reason not to do it before I changed my own opinion about it.
Beyond that, as we become adolescents we begin to notice that although lying is bad, it’s extremely common. It’s pretty likely we catch the very people who told us lying is bad lying. We see people who we are told have authority lies. People accuse politicians elected to lead us of lying. If people in positions of authority lie, seemingly as a profession, why is it bad?
The simple answer, although the answer is not simple, is that lying is degenerative. It picks apart your world until there is nothing real about it. Little lies grow like a parasite eating away at the reality of your world. If it sounds dramatic, it is. Lying is not just, or even necessarily, bad for the people around you. It’s bad for you. Before you know it, you will have no idea how your life became something you have to hide from.
That’s a hard thing to describe or convince a teenager who sees lying as a tool to make their life a little easier. But it is the truth, and the truth is the greatest gift we can give anyone.
12. Asking Questions is More Important Than Having Answers
In more ancient times, Socrates was considered the wisest man alive. But the more you learn about him, the more you find he prized ignorance as a virtue above all else. How could the wisest man pride himself on his own ignorance?
Because knowing is superficial. We are tiny humans in a big world. The idea that we know how something works or that we understand much of anything is arrogant if you are being nice. But more delusional and insane if you’re being realistic.
What Socrates understood (as if I know) is that only by asking questions could we know a bit more. To have an answer is to be closed off to information, but having a question opens you up to possibilities.
The thing is, for all of history before the internet, answers were rare. It’s understandable why people who had them were, and probably should have been, prized. They had books and other ways of storing information (read answers), but most people couldn’t read, so that didn’t matter.
Now we have all the world’s information at our fingertips, and all we need to unlock the information that will help us the most for the circumstance we are in is the right question. The skill of forming good questions has more power now than it ever has in human history.
13. People aren’t Good or Evil – But Choices Turn The Person One Way or Another
The philosophical debate about whether or not people are inherently good or evil is bound to go on forever. The more you look, the more you can find evidence for each claim.
But people aren’t good or bad. They are just people. It’s no different than calling a lion evil because it’s dangerous. It’s just a lion doing what lions do. But if a lion eats your baby, you’re likely to see it as evil. Even though lions eat things. It’s what they do.
The difference between a lion and people is that people have this little thing called consciousness, and that means we have more control over our choices than a lion does.
Our choices turn into actions, actions replayed over time turn into habits, and our habits turn into our identity. It is once someone’s identity is assembled via their habits made up of regular actions from bad choices that one begins to take the mantel of being evil.
But the same person, and by that, I potentially mean you and me, can start to make good choices. And though they have to deal with the consequences of bad choices in the past, they can begin to repair themselves and their identity.
14. Anybody Can Change The World. But They Have to Try.
Ben Franklin, George Washington, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., Napolean Bonapart, Ghengis Khan, Mao Zedong, Andrew Carnegie, Karl Marx, Jordan Peterson, John D. Rockefeller, The Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Allen Turing, Albert Einstein, Olaf Tryggvason, Emmeline Pankhurst, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher.
This is just a small sample of the unexpectedly long list of people who have changed the world forever in some way or another. Not everybody on that list did good things. But their effect was certainly everlasting and still affects the people alive today.
None of these people came from royalty, and their childhood status was seemingly insignificant. Most of them did it during a time when societal class systems ruled whether or not people on the bottom rungs of the ladder were even allowed to do anything significant.
They should ring as a lesson that regardless of your circumstances, you too can do something so valuable and innovative that it becomes a part of everyday life for generations to come.
15. You don’t have an opinion. You form one.
Forming an opinion is a process, not a decision. It may seem like today, there is painful pressure to have an opinion about things. But the truth is that pressure has always existed. What is rare in history is having an understanding and curiosity about other people’s beliefs.
Forming an opinion is an extremely difficult task. If you have tried to do it before, you might have found that it upsets the people around you to have questions about values. Beyond that, it is tricky to reassess the values that create our own opinions.
And frankly, there are too many things to form opinions on. For those reasons, it is much easier to latch onto an existing opinion than to form one for yourself. But that’s not your opinion then. It’s just a cop-out you use because not having an opinion is unsettling. It exposes the uncertainty that you might not share the same values as them.
But claiming to have an opinion that is not yours is just lying. And as we’ve talked about before, lying is bad. It eats away at your reality until reality no longer exists in your life.