What we learn in school & must unlearn in business & in life

Some people who succeed wildly in school don’t achieve their apparent potential in the business world. Some others who do okay (or worse) in school manage to build an extremely successful life. Why is that?

 

What we learn in school & must unlearn in business & in life:

 

In school:

Your teacher provides a rubric, you follow the rubric to a tee, you deserve an A.

 

In business & life:

There is rarely a rubric. Even if it exists, and you follow it to a tee, you often end up with average results, not outsized returns.

 

In school:

If X is true then the opposite of X must be false.

 

In business & life:

If X is a good idea, the opposite of X can also be a good idea.

 

In school:

Feedback cycle is short. If you do X amount of work, you’ll get clear feedback, i.e. a grade, in 3-6 months

 

In business & life:

The highest impact work requires YEARS of effort without any reward.

 

And then, once the work has compounded enough, BIG payoff (maybe).

 

In school:

Someone else structures your time (for the most part). You get rewarded for complying with that structure.

 

In business & life:

The higher the stakes, the looser the structure. You have the freedom AND the onus to use your time well. You must create your structure.

 

In school: Following rules is good. Breaking rules is bad and will get you in trouble. In business & life: There are no firm rules. Creativity often arises from breaking supposed “rules”. Creativity provides you outsized returns. There *are* laws. Don’t break those.

 

In school:

The main relationship to manage is the one with authority figures (teachers, the principal,..)

 

In business & life:

The main relationship to manage is with family, peers, friends,… Just fixating on authority figures will make many people unhappy (incl. yourself).

 

In school:

Relationships tend to be short-lived (a quarter, a semester, a year…) Fine to be transactional

 

In business & life:

You’ll run into the same people over & over again. Try not to burn bridges for the small stuff.

 

Be respectful, trustworthy, a person of integrity.

 

In school:

Education is viewed as a means to an end (need to get good grades→get into a good college→get a good job→..)

 

In business & life:

There is no end to education. Curiosity, love of learning, enjoying your chosen work is vital for success in business & joy in life.

 

In school:

Often you get one shot to do well. A small mistake can stay on your permanent record (e.g. making a couple of errors in the quant section of your GRE or similar).

 

In business & life:

Much greater tolerance for mistakes. Just be sure to avoid the fatal kind.

 

In school:

The words “simple” & “easy” are synonymous.

 

In business & life:

Simple is not always easy.

Life is simple & so is business.

But neither is easy.

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