You went to a prominent school and graduated with honors. So you’re set for life. Right? Well … not so fast. Unfortunately, there may be a gaping hole in your education so large that you could drive a truck through it. The fact is, while you may have a diploma, a piece of paper doesn’t guarantee success. It’s time to get smart!
Let’s see … you took all the required courses in school, such as math, English, social studies, science, foreign language, the humanities, etc. Have we forgotten anything?
I don’t know how to break this to you, but your employer isn’t going to announce a pop quiz and hand you a blue book on your first day of work. You’ll be expected to solve real problems rather than answering multiple-choice questions. In fact, you’ll be asked to think critically, make tough decisions, and juggle several projects at the same time. The fact is, if you want to be successful, being book smart is only a start.
You Think You’re So Smart
It’s no secret that the first requirement for success is completing school. If you don’t finish school or learn a trade, you’ll be facing headwinds for the rest of your life.
The second requirement for success is obtaining a good skill set. Foundation Skills enable you to apply the knowledge that you’ve learned. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
Problem solving • Decision making • Interpersonal communication • Giving and receiving feedback • Critical/analytical thinking • Multitasking • Collaboration/teamwork • Written and oral communication • Interviewing • Networking • Cross-cultural sensitivity • Self-directed learning • Digital literacy • Time management • Negotiating
The third requirement for success is embracing sound beliefs and values. Core Values serve as guiding principles for your behavior. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
Be positive • Practice what you preach • Do yourself proud • Meet others halfway • Work hard, work smart • Sacrifice for the good of the team • Play fair • Make it win-win • Bring out the best in others • Remain loyal • Keep an open mind • Never quit • Do right by others • Be self-reliant • Tell the truth • Learn through life • Make a difference • Do the right thing • Live with honor • Be a good winner and loser
The fourth requirement for success is strong Moral Character. These qualities define you as a person. The truth is, nothing will propel or destroy a promising career faster than the presence or absence of moral character. Period! You are expected to be:
Honest and trustworthy • Straightforward and transparent • Ethical and principled • Authentic • Determined • Accountable • Self-sufficient • Fair and open-minded • Consistent and dependable • Passionate • Confident and optimistic • Empathetic and selfless • Humble • Proud • Courageous • Ambitious • Hardworking
The fifth requirement for success is being able to manage your personal life effectively — Living 101. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to compartmentalize your life –– your home life will affect your work life and vice versa. It’s important to acquire knowledge in the following areas:
Managing a home • Searching for a job • Stress management • Balancing a checkbook • Taking out a car loan • Purchasing insurance • Investing • Parenting • Work-life balance • Healthy living • Nutrition • Tax planning • Fitness • Basic car maintenance • Retirement planning • Manners and etiquette
Get Smart: Learn a Thing or Two (or Maybe Three)
The obvious question is: “Is a formal education everything it’s cracked up to be?” The simple answer is yes, BUT being book smart is only a start. If you’re greedy, ruthless, and lazy, you’re lost before you even begin. If you can’t communicate, play nice with people, or manage your time effectively, you’ll never get out of the starting gate. If you’re careless, unreliable, or dishonest, you’re cooked. And if your home life is inadequate, you’re in for a rude awakening if you think your work life won’t suffer as a result. The fact is, going to school teaches you some of what you need to know, but it’s your job to acquire the rest.
There are three requirements to achieve success in work. First, you must be qualified to secure a job. Second, you must have the knowledge, skills, personal values, and moral character to perform your job well. Last, but not least, while self-directed learning doesn’t come with a choking tuition bill, success does require desire and determination. As Andrew Carnegie said, “You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.”
After graduation, you determine what to learn, when the learning will take place, and how to tailor it to your personal needs. There will be no forced curriculum, no required exams, and no grades — except the ones you give yourself. Your only test will be how much you can learn and apply to your daily life. There won’t be a person cracking a whip. There won’t be a spotlight highlighting the life lesson. And if you decide this isn’t for you, no one may ever know –– but it will be your loss. So broaden your world, open your mind to new horizons, connect the dots, request feedback, question routines, break bad habits, learn from mistakes, critique your actions, mimic role models, and challenge yourself. You’ll find that every experience offers a life lesson. As Will Smith said, “The things that have been most valuable to me I did not learn in school.” So open your eyes to the world around you and set the world on fire. If you follow this path, the smart money will be on you.
Do You Have the Smarts to Succeed? Please Feel Free to Share Your Comments.
Live and Learn
Moral Character Matters
Follow Your Conscience
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I couldn’t agree more with this Frank. I’ve always said my education BEGAN when I finished school. If we plan to live full and productive lives we must continue to learn as long as we’re alive. So many of the interpersonal skills that are so important for getting on in the world aren’t taught in school. It takes living and engaging. There are great books: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a great example and would make a great text book, but compassionate, open hearted engagement is the best teacher of all.
Frank Sonnenberg says
I absolutely agree. “My education began when I finished school.” I like to say learning is K thru life. There are many ways to acquire the skills that we need to succeed. It’s important to determine what works best for us.
I am a BIG proponent of Dale Carnegie. I read several of his books when I was younger and ended up taking one of his courses. I also became an unpaid graduate assistant to pay it forward.
Have an awesome day!
Johnny Oye says
Great article! What we learn through our formal education is very important, but it’s just as important to continue learning. Most of what we learn after our formal education comes from life experiences. Unfortunately IQ does not prepare us for obstacles in life, for physical and mental illness, and for loss and disappointment. This is more a function of emotional intelligence (EQ). Fortunately we can improve our IQ and EQ at any time in life. And all that it requires is doing the work. Continuing to learn, including a new skill; exercising the physical body, including balanced nutrition and sufficient sleep and by improving our ability to deal with change through acceptance and gratitude. It’s never too late to live a balanced, healthy, productive life! Thanks for sharing Frank.
Frank Sonnenberg says
I absolutely agree. “What we learn through formal education is very important, but it’s just as important to continue learning.” The great thing about self-directed learning is that we own it. We must be willing and able to open our eyes and ears and take it all in. The truth is, learning is as much an attitude as it is an activity.
Have a great evening!
Jeannette Marshall @optioneerJM says
congratulations to @Pinterest for helping me discover this absolutely incredible, insightful and so so SO wise man. Neither Baby Boomers nor Millinnials, coloured or pale should be excluded from this meaty advice.
Member of your fan club,
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thank you for your kind words.
In order to achieve success, we must invest in our kids by providing them with a strong family structure and a world-class education. Additionally, we must instill in them solid values and a strong work ethic.
I hope to see you again soon.
I am in despair because of the comments of my colleagues and friends that I am only book smart. I began doubting myself if will I succeed only having this character? Upon searching for an answer I expected that many articles will bring me deeper fortunately this article gave me light and inspiration. I learned that my way of learning things is not wrong rather I can say that I am just starting. Thank you very much for emphasizing this matter. from now on I will not discourage myself anymore , I will continue learning instead.
Frank Sonnenberg says
A formal education teaches you some of what you need to know, but it’s your job to acquire the rest. After graduation, you determine what to learn, when the learning will take place, and how you’ll tailor it to your particular needs. The key is that learning is as much an attitude as it is an activity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an experienced old-timer, top executive, rising star, or master teacher, you always have something to learn.
Thanks for taking the time to write.