4 Things Life Teaches You That Education Can’t

By AAwosika07 | Books

Oct 18

I’m not going to do what you think I’m going to do.

That would be too easy.

I’m not just going to rail against the education system and make some vague and empty statements about the education system being broken. I’m not going to devalue the idea of education in and of itself either.

Education has value. You can’t separate the success you have in life completely away from school. You have to learn how to read and write, do math, understand the basics of history, etc.

Sure, maybe you didn’t technically need to go to a school to learn all of those things, but your parents had to put you somewhere while they work going to work.

You get valuable experiences from education, too. College is too expensive, but it does provide a great incubating period for young adults to be on their own and develop social skills.

And for those who say college doesn’t offer the tools you need for success beyond school, there are a bunch of empty career counseling and financial literacy classes on campus that would beg to differ.

I just wanted to get the idea the this would be another useless formal education bashing article. The point is that you can only gain certain lessons from the real world, those lessons are valuable, and some if not all of them take a lifetime to learn.

Also, I want you to regain your identity as a student. You spent so much time studying the rules of the education systems —  years and decades of work. Don’t, then, abandon education altogether because you’re in the real world. Your study of life itself should be much more intense than your studies were in school.

Yes, most of us leave school and just…see what happens next. Apply to 47 jobs indiscriminately, land one, marry the person we met at work, call it a day.

I’m writing this to get you to think of your entire life as an opportunity to learn. Let life teach you instead of passively living it. Take a look at these skills you can only learn from the school of life and use them to your advantage.

The Two Things You Love and Fear Most

Are there real-life consequences to your success and failure in the education system? Yes. Getting certain grades and going to certain schools can increase your job prospects, network, income, etc.

But you can’t recreate most of the real-life success and failure scenarios in a classroom and the consequences are bounded. You can get a bad grade, but that consequence is known. The consequences for your decisions in real life, both good and bad, are infinite.

Again, the education system isn’t entirely to blame, but many students go through the system and learn to live through the success and failure lens they developed in school.

In real life, there is no binary right or wrong answer to a decision. In real life, you can make the right decision based on the information you have in the present, only to fail to get the outcome you want in the future. You can also make bad decisions and still get good outcomes.

The education system has a much higher standard for success than the real world does. You need to get the most answers right to pass a test, but you only need to get a few decisions out of thousands right to be successful.

It’s impossible to recreate all the different variables that lead to success or failure in the real world. Things like the combination of luck and skill, your environment, network, timing in decision making, instant vs. delayed gratification, etc.

The moral of the story? Focus on defining success and failure based on what matters to you. Not me, not your friends, nor the powers that frame our culture. Also, don’t judge yourself based solely on an educational system view of those words.

Allow yourself to be ‘wrong’ as many times as it takes until you get it ‘right.’

One of the Most Overlooked Factors in Success and Happiness

There’s no class for getting over a heartbreak. There’s no exact rubric for choosing friends, romantic partners, spouses.

You can’t recreate the experiences that shape your personal relationships in a classroom environment. You can get guidance, yes. There are tons of different resources that can teach you about things like social skills, maintaining healthy relationships, building a network, etc.

Some say we should have more classes on these topics. And I agree. But you’ll ultimately learn those lessons from going through social and relationship situations in your real life.

The question is, what lessons will you take away from these situations? Will you actively learn from them? Will you proactively prepare for them?

I don’t have any exact prescriptions here. I’ve just been thinking about this topic lately. Your relationships and your ability to successfully interact with other humans have a huge impact on your life. These subjects should be taken more seriously than pretty much all others, right?

Yet, we have a tendency to haphazardly fall into these situations rather than consciously planning for them.

When’s the last time you sat down to really think about what you want in a partner, in a friend, in a colleague? Do you have this written down somewhere? I do. It seems weird to do at first, but articulating what you want helps you spot it when you see it.

Are you actively working on making yourself a better partner, a better friend, a better colleague? Do you have the same traits you’re looking for in other people?

Having gone through several relationship up and downs in the past few years, I’m focused on being way more intentional about them in the future.

That’s the general theme of this post — take the same level of effort and rigor you used in school and apply it to your real life. Also, understand that real life is different from school. A bit confusing, I know.

It’s funny, we spent decades taking notes, studying, reading, and preparing for tests. And then we reach real-life and abandon all those habits when it comes to the situations that, you know, will shape our lives forever.

A Skill That’s Difficult to Teach but Worthwhile to Lean

Back to that financial literacy point, I made earlier. I recently finished a book called The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. It’s not so much a book about personal finance and investing tips as it is a case study on emotions.

He opens the book with a story about a janitor who retired with millions of dollars and a fancy hedge fund manager who lost all his money. One knew very little about finance but behaved the right way — made small deposits and let compounding to the work. The other knew a ton more about finance but couldn’t reign in his hubris.

The lesson isn’t about finance. The lesson is that your education can’t teach you how to behave. There are plenty of educated people who make poor decisions. There are plenty of uneducated, which is a loaded word to begin with, people who make great decisions and succeed because of them.

No class can teach you valuable skills like:

  • Managing risk and reward – You can know all the odds up front, but you still have to decide whether or not to pull the trigger
  • Delayed gratification – Finance is the perfect microcosm for this. You can look at the results of compound interest on a chart, but few people want to invest small sums of money for decades in a row without pulling the money out
  • Dealing with social pressure – Can you deal with looking foolish at first so you can win down the road?

I can go on here, but you get the point.

You can learn about these behavioral concepts, but dealing with them in real life is much harder than understanding them in theory. What’s the answer? There is no perfect answer. You learn as you go and try to make the best decisions in real-time, never quite getting it right.

Again here is to take the same level of rigor and apply it to your decision making. I keep journals with future goals and analysis of past decisions. I try to make a conscious effort to regulate my emotions and behavior even though I know it’s futile.

In your case, you want to learn the ultimate lesson.

Your behavior shows you who you really are.

What you say doesn’t matter as much as what you actually do. Your future intentions don’t matter as much as your current behavior. You’re showing the world what you really care about by the way you behave.

The Most Valuable Lessons You Can Learn

In general, life teaches you the wisdom you can’t gain from education alone. And by education, I mean all forms of education.

You can read all the self-improvement books you want, but the lessons only become real to you when you learn them in a real-life setting.

You can study and learn valuable skills about careers and business from a classroom, a book, a video, etc, but you still have to navigate your career and business, dealing with all the behavioral skills and variables I mentioned above.

Use both.

That’s the moral of the story. Both education and experience, the things life teaches you, are valuable. You can’t fully separate them from one another. Just try to give them more equal weight.

Stop letting your life just unfold on its own without taking the lessons seriously. Don’t take life’s lessons less seriously than you take something as trivial as a grade. Such a weird phenomenon seeing people bust their ass in school for so long, only to go on auto-pilot for the rest of their lives.

You’re not done with education once you’re done with your formal education.

You’re at the beginning of your real education. You’ll learn much more in the remaining 50 plus years of your life than the first 22. Well, you’ll learn if you make it a point to learn.

You can easily take the situations in your life and learn the wrong lessons from them, or no lessons at all. This is what many people do. Don’t be one of them.


About the Author

Ayodeji is the Author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement and two other Amazon best-selling titles. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, exercising, eating chicken wings, and occasionally drinking old-fashioned's.