In my last post I talked about money and the changing landscape of business and how that affects things like getting a job and a lifelong income. I don’t think that the money skills that we learned in the past are adequate to help people develop and succeed in the current economic climate, even though they are still taught.
Don’t get me wrong, I think living frugally, spending less than you earn, saving and investing are all still relevant, but there needs to be a broader application of how these things apply in today’s economic system.
So what things should be taught at school? I think a few things:
Be a creator rather than a consumer: The whole online environment has changed and opened up the world of individual entrepreneurship to everyone. This means that people growing up in this economy have to be more proactive in chasing opportunities. We can’t just teach people to find a job, we have to teach people how to create one.
I think that it’s good to find work that you find personally meaningful, but it is far better to find work that others find meaningful. I need to learn how to create value for others, rather than look to create value for myself. The good thing is that if I seek to create value for others first, then I will generally create value for myself as a consequence. However that is not necessarily true the other way around, if I first seek after my own desires I often don’t necessarily end up helping others as a result, and as a result I won’t end up supporting myself either. Everyone wants to make a video that goes viral, but mostly because it’s good for me and my likes and reputation, not because it’s something that is valuable for others.
Not just one job: Over the course of their lifetime the average person will change their career around 5-7 times. That’s not changing jobs, that’s changing careers (The average number of job changes is around 12). I need to focus on multiple streams of income rather than a single job that will support me and my family because I can’t rely on just having a job. I need to continually seek out what areas are useful for myself and how I can be a part of them to learn, and to grow, and ultimately to gain more income.
I need to learn how to navigate the digital world and find my ‘niche’ (or ‘tribe’ if you like). The world is an amazing, fantastic place. It’s full of incredible things, but it’s also full of awful, terrible things. All the internet does is magnify it so that we can see all of it. People talk about how terrible the world is getting. It’s not getting terrible, it already was, all the internet is doing is showing what us humans are like and we are finally seeing it up close and personal. Before, most of those things were generally hidden but now they are easy to find and unsurprisingly some of the things are shockingly awful, and some are inspirationally beautiful.
Having more than one stream of income also helps me to see how different areas of society interact and work together, and how they each rely on the other for their income. It helps me to understand how their contributions affect others directly and understand what they value, since I may actually be involved in the same business.
It’s all about the learning: The world is changing and we need to change just to keep up with it. The shear pace of change is staggering and the ability to cope with the speed of it is a unique skill that needs to be developed over time. How do you learn best? Do you learn by following examples? Do you learn by listening to podcasts? By reading books and articles? By discussing it in groups? By teaching it to others? By being on your own to think and ponder? By creating situations where you need to use the skill or knowledge in a practical way? Each of these are good ways of learning and are just as valid as each other.
The sheer amount of change though means that we need to keep unlearning the skills that may have succeeded in the past and relearning new ones to cope with the different situations. It’s a case of trying to always be aware of where we may be missing things and then filling in the gaps in our knowledge or skills.
The problem is that this is really hard work! And coming out of a schooling system with a dislike of learning and especially any kind of formal studying puts most people at an enormous disadvantage. This is why we need to figure out how we learn best and then play to our strengths in using that method to learn the new skills that we need.
Learn to deal well with criticism: Anytime you put yourself out into the public sphere, even to try to help others you will be criticised. Sometimes it will be helpful and creative, and sometimes dangerous and destructive, but it will happen.
If we are raising a generation of people who cannot cope with criticism or rejection, then we are raising a generation who cannot cope with risk or failure. It means we won’t want to try something new unless we first see it proven successful by someone else first. Raising a generation like that is doing all of us an enormous disservice. It means it’s much easier to be the critic yourself than to be the one who creates, because I don’t want to cope with the risk.
Not everyone who criticizes you will be correct, but you cannot assume that they aren’t just because you disagree with them. Remember that everyone’s the hero of their own story, and in their own story you may be cast as the villain.
Becoming financially literate: This sounds obvious but it actually isn’t. As I’ve said before the old ways of knowing how to handle money don’t work now, or at least they don’t work in the same way, and financial literacy is a full time occupation. How do people talk about monetary systems? What kind of language do they use? What do they look for in a good investment, or a good business, or a good deal? It’s getting more and more common that people are becoming independent businesses people, using online communities to create their own products and services, but having a passion doesn’t mean that you can necessarily benefit from it. Being able to know how to leverage your time, automate processes, outsource where necessary, and to stop using the word “Innovation” as a catch all phrase that means “I don’t know what the answer is” are important skills to learn. These are not just knowledge but skills that can really only be developed through practice, which means failing and learning and trying again. This also means being knowledgeable about our own failings and knowing where our personal blind spots could potentially be.
These skills usually are learned after graduating school and usually through a number of painful years outside of trying and failing. It could instead be taught in a safer enclosed environment in which people can learn how they can develop their skills in the easiest way possible to create things of value in the real world.
That’s something I wish I was taught at school.