7 Life-Changing Skills You Didn’t Learn at School (and How to Actually Learn Them)

7 Life-Changing Skills You Didn’t Learn at School (and How to Actually Learn Them)

“Many of our schools are good schools if only this were 1965. “

— Louise Stoll and Dean Fink

Three years ago, I started my first business dedicated to helping students unleash their full potential and tap into personal development.

We’ve been a team of five who were all a little frustrated about the current education system. So we wanted to make a change and have an impact on the next generations.

Sadly, our startup failed quite soon. And looking back, it mainly failed because we lacked many skills.

We wanted to teach topics such as time management and confidence, but we didn’t realize that five 20-somethings still have lots to learn themselves.

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I always loved going to school. I loved studying and having a structured life. And most of the time, I had good grades. But what I didn’t realize for more than 15 years is that school didn’t teach me how to live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life.

All it did was training me to be a servant of the system — which I gladly refused at the age of 20.

Instead, I decided to build my own digital business.

Looking back, I wish I had invested in learning the following skills much earlier.

Money Management

“When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is.” — Oscar Wilde

Most people who deny the importance of money secretly desire to have more of it.

Money itself won’t make you happier or more satisfied, but without money, it’s pretty damn hard to live a great life.

Not only basic needs such as food and shelter are tied to your financial resources but also health services and experiences that make life worth living.

How to learn it:

While there’s lots to know about money, being aware of a few basics can be enough to improve your life significantly.

And the very first step is to be aware of your income and expenses.

People who are good with money know their numbers.

If you don’t even know how much you spend, you can’t properly manage your money.

I’ve been tracking my expenses with a free, simple app called Toshl for more than two years. I can scroll back until 2018 and tell you exactly how much I spend on clothing, groceries, or leisure ever since.

Here’s an example of July 2020:

At the end of each month, I check my expenses to see how I spent my money.

This takes me around 15 minutes per month and ensures that I’m always aware of my numbers.

The second most important thing to improve in terms of your financial life is your money mindset.

Money is nothing more than energy. Financial resources are available to all of us. And while some people are privileged, the primary reason why most people struggle with money is because of their limiting beliefs such as:

Money is dirty.

Rich people are evil.

Money changes one’s character.

If you don’t even believe that you can make more money, you’ll never be able to create that reality.

Doing the mindset work and viewing money as a source of neutral energy instead of being too stubborn about it can change your life.

Recommended resources:

Embracing Failure

“Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.” — Robert Kiyosaki

Making experiences, failing, and learning from our mistakes is the most powerful way of moving forward in life.

Yet, schools teach the contrary: Students get punished for mistakes but barely rewarded for wins.

Instead of viewing mistakes as a vital part of growth, we’re taught to avoid them at all costs.

And while this makes sense at exams, it’s not how real life works.

To succeed outside of school, you’ll probably need to fail a lot.

And most importantly, you’ll need to embrace these failures, learn from them, and get back up as soon as possible.

Some of the most successful people of our time failed tens or even hundreds of times until they succeeded.

Did you, for example, know that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected 12 times until it got accepted by publishers?

Or that Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he founded?

How to learn it:

To live a great life, you’ll need to embrace your mistakes, learn from them, and move forward instead of wasting too much time on failures.

Every time you face a challenging situation, remind yourself of all the obstacles you already overcame in your life.

The greatest rewards often come from perseverance and from working on your goals despite setbacks.

Instead of focusing on what might go wrong, remind yourself of your strengths and everything you already achieved in your life.

You can, for instance, keep a success journal and document your small wins every single day.

By doing so, you’ll remind yourself of your strengths and have an easier time dealing with setbacks if they occur.

Recommended resources:



“With the realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

Dalai Lama

If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will ever do so.

Unfortunately, schools cause the contrary: Many students feel uncomfortable in their classes, hate giving presentations, and feel less worthy because of the mistakes they make on exams.

Yet, the reality is that your performance at school or work has nothing to do with your worth.

You are worth so much more than your work or the results you produce. Your confidence should never depend on something you create.

You are worthy regardless of your grades, income, or business growth. But it’s up to you to cherish that worth and be proud of yourself.

How to learn it:

Building confidence is an ongoing journey that never stops.

And the most effective way to be more self-aware is by practicing self-reflection and taking some time to understand yourself.

One of the easiest yet most effective ways to practice self-reflection is through journaling.

I recommend doing a journaling session at least once per week and asking yourself the following questions:

What are you currently proud of?

What’s one thing you love about yourself?

What did go perfectly well during the past week?

What did you achieve during the past days?

What are three things you’re thankful for?

Recommended resources:

Entrepreneurial Thinking

“You are not your resume, you are your work.”

— Seth Godin

In the 21st century, entrepreneurial thinking is more relevant than ever before. And it’s not only crucial for those who want to start their own business but for anyone.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset means being solution-oriented and thinking for oneself. It also means wanting to make a change to the status quo instead of accepting things the way they’ve always been.

Yet, schools still teach the opposite: Students learn how to be the servant of the system instead of thinking creatively and coming up with new ideas.

The primary goal of our educational systems is to train students to be employees and follow the given rules.

But that’s not what the job market of the 21st century is looking for.

More and more jobs can be replaced through technological advancements. What matters now is thinking outside the box and being a problem-solver instead of just following the rules.

Thinking like an entrepreneur means taking responsibility for the outcomes you create and wanting your whole organization to move forward.

As an entrepreneur, you want to solve problems, no matter if it’s your own business or a huge company you’re part of.

How to learn it:

To think like an entrepreneur, you need to have a vision; an inner drive that forces you to go beyond the average.

This can be the vision of your company but also an individual goal you pursue within your organization, such as solving a specific problem.

Additionally, thinking like an entrepreneur means recognizing opportunities.

Sometimes, you need to think outside the box. And some other times, you need to question why there’s a box at all.

Again: This is relevant regardless of your current position. Even if you’re an employee, you can look for ways to optimize the results of your organization.

Recommended resources:

Managing Time and Stress

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.”

Simon Sinek

Your time is one of your most valuable resources, yet at school, you learn nothing about how to manage it properly.

When going to school, we don’t need to take much responsibility. The bell rings when a lesson is over and teachers tell us when to start studying for exams.

But once school’s over, students need to look after themselves.

Suddenly, nobody tells them what to do and how to do it. That’s why most people constantly feel stressed and overwhelmed once they step out of education.

How to learn it:

Managing your time correctly and being able to reduce your stress levels can significantly increase the quality of your life.

Your ability to say no to things that don’t contribute to your success, happiness, or wealth will allow you to have more time for things that truly matter.

There are hundreds of strategies on how to manage your time better and avoid being stressed. Yet, what matters is that you find out what works best for you and consistently apply those methods.

Recommended resources:

Personal Branding

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

— Jeff Bezos

Even though standing out from the masses is now more critical than ever before, schools teach the contrary: At school, you learn how to fit the system and do what everyone else is doing. There’s no space for individuality.

Yet, if you’re the same as anyone else, it’s going to be hard to stand out and get what you want.

Personal branding is nothing new. It’s been existing ever since humankind evolved, but with the rise of the internet, it has become more critical for everyone.

Today’s businesses are spending millions to strengthen their brands and ensure their message is clear and appealing to the right audience.

As an individual, you don’t need to spend much money on creating your personal brand, but you should indeed take a few hours to define it.

Having a strong personal brand means that people know what you stand for and how you’re different from anyone else.

If ten people apply for the same job and one of them has a memorable personal brand, this one person might have a considerable advantage.

Nowadays, you’re not only competing with those who graduate from similar schools, but with literally anyone across the globe.

Thanks to remote work models, a developer living in India can be hired to work for a company in Europe or vice versa.

While this is a massive advantage for people in third-world countries, it might be a threat to those in wealthier states. That’s why it’s essential to build your personal brand, regardless of your industry.

How to learn it:

Personal branding is a process that never stops. And it starts by defining your core values and unique skills compared to anyone else.

Once you defined your personal brand, you’ll be more confident in applying for jobs or building your own business because you’ll finally know why people should choose you over the competition.

Recommended resources:

Emotional Intelligence

“If you’re turned out of your own emotions, you’ll be poor at reading them in other people.”

— Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence defines our ability to recognize, interpret, and process emotions in ourselves and others.

Those with a lack of emotional intelligence often blame others, sabotage themselves, and experience more stress and anxiety.

Yet quite often, it’s our bad habits, such as criticizing others, which are holding us back from being more compassionate and emotionally intelligent.

How to learn it:

While genetics and our environment do play a role in our level of emotional intelligence, there’s lots you can do to improve it.

Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware: They know their strengths and weaknesses and use them appropriately.

One way to be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses is by asking your peers to tell you how they view you.

Additionally, emotionally intelligent people are more empathetic than others. They try to understand the values, beliefs, and struggles of their fellows and help them accordingly.

You can train to be more empathetic by merely asking your fellows how they are and how you could help them. If you’re genuinely interested and listen carefully without interrupting, each conversation can strengthen your ability to better understand those around you and maybe even yourself.

Also, pay more attention to your own emotions and learn how to listen to your body.

Being emotionally intelligent doesn’t mean suppressing your emotions and acting cool. Instead, it means that you’re able to identify and embrace those emotions at any given moment.

Recommended resources:

Final Thoughts:

Even though we’re living in the 21st century, schools mainly teach how to memorize and remember information.

Instead of learning information by heart, we should focus on just-in-time learning: Today’s graduates don’t need to remember data. What’s much more important is to know how to find specific pieces of information if we need them.

Today, we have access to more information than ever before.

But unfortunately, schools fail to teach critical skills that can truly make or break a student’s happiness, satisfaction, and wealth throughout their lives.

That’s why it’s essential to improve these skills yourself: Whenever you see a course, workshop, or resources that teach one of these skills, make sure to take the opportunity. Or at least spread the information to your fellows and particularly to students in your social circle.

  • Money Management: Creating and sticking to a budget is the foundation for managing your money. Once that is covered, focus on improving your money mindset.
  • Embracing Failure: In school, you learn to avoid mistakes. But in real life, mistakes are your biggest teachers.
  • Self-Awareness: Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and using them accordingly can make all the difference in life.
  • Entrepreneurial Thinking: Thinking like an entrepreneur means looking for solutions instead of focusing on problems.
  • Managing Time and Stress: Living a successful life means having time for the things you love. That’s why you need to know how to manage your time correctly.
  • Personal Branding: Defining and communicating your strengths and uniqueness will allow you to stand out from the masses.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Being emotionally aware will help you to better connect with others, but also to understand your own desires, hopes, and fears.

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