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.