1 Plus 1 Make Eight Hundred and Eighty Six Thousand – 3 Things Necessary For Success That The School System Neglected To Teach You

by Stephen Mills on November 2, 2009


Note from Stephen: This is a guest article from Jonny over at thelifething.com .  You should check out his blog.  It is a unique perspective and he has a different sense of humor that I really enjoy.

Ok, I have never really been one for math. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play the system to get high grades through school or bribe the class geek to help with the trickier bits of fluid dynamics at university, it was just that I couldn’t see the real life application of what we were learning and there-in lay the problem.

The School System Teaches You To Throw Up

The School system will teach you to regurgitate facts, life will teach you that this has very limited application in the real world and to get ahead you have to get creative and sometimes downright sneaky.

There are three key life skills that should be taught in school but are not because everyone is far too busy learning about Pythagoras theorem and the history of the Tudors.

You will forget Pythagoras and his theories and all about the Tudors 5 minutes after leaving your school gates for the last time and will probably only use what limited knowledge is left once more in your entire life….and that’s if you are really lucky.

If you are serious about getting out of the Rat Race then it is worth having an idea of the lessons that were swept under the educational rug during your time in school so that you can use them to your advantage and get finally make your break.

Neglected Lesson 1: Basic Finance

I say basic finance because I am not talking about being a stockbroker or investor or FSA. There are far too many complex systems made up by some seriously bored people in the financial game to worry about, and most of them cause serious problems down the line anyhow.

Good basic finance is understanding your Personal Cash flow, The Dangers of Debt, What Compound Interest Is, Good Saving Principles and How Pensions Really Work without being reduced to to a puddle of tears on the floor.

I am in no way the best person to speak at length about personal finance mainly because I have a monotone voice that will bore you to death, however there are two fundamental ideas I would like to illustrate, if you would allow me, which I hope will be very helpful to you and your financial life.

Dead Fish Economics:

It is handy and simple to think of your personal finances in terms of a fish. You will be either of three different types – A happy Fish, An Unhappy Fish or a Dead Fish.

This refers to whether you live inside your means, on your means, or outside of your means.

Living inside your means, or spending less than you earn makes you a Happy fish and is the best possible way to live. It is like a fish living IN water.

Living on your means, or spending as much as you earn, makes you an Unhappy Fish and is not the best way to live but you can survive as long as there is money coming in. This is like a fish living “ON” water. It can survive but it is not ideal. You just have no buffer zone of savings should circumstance change.

Living outside your means, or spending more than you earn, makes you a dead fish. I don’t think I need to point out that being a dead fish should be avoided. A fish is DEAD when it lives out of water just as living outside your means in pretty fatal. The happiness you achieve from the extra stuff you buy is short lived but the stress levels of compound interest and debt remain. Best to try and avoid if possible.

Compound Interest:

Compound interest is a sneaky little blighter as its math can get a little confusing. In laymen’s terms you are paying interest on interest so over the long time this can become very substantial, especially if you are paying interest monthly.

Before going into debt or getting that new credit card it might be worth remembering this little picture to remind you of the dangers of compound interest growth.

Compound interest is like a snowball rolling down a hill. It starts small but very quickly gets exponentially larger and very soon can get out of control causing serious damage to your neighbors greenhouse and prized vegetable patch, which is bad news for everyone involved.

Editor’s note from Stephen: On the other hand making compound interest work for you in your savings is like a snowball of money rolling down hill towards you.

Neglected Lesson 2: People Skills

Life is People. Business is People. Success is People. Hobbits are people.

The so called “soft skills” that are not taught in school are probably the most valuable lessons you can learn. Being able to get people to like you, to work with people effectively, to build teams and to communicate with people are essential to your personal success.

Here are a quick few starters for instant people skills.

Smile: Ridiculously easy and underrated but the results are drastic for breaking down barriers and engagement, just make sure you have brushed your teeth first, don’t want that bit of spinach on show.

Listen: You have two ears and one mouth. This should say something about how much you should listen compared to speaking. Listening, really listening to someone and not just waiting for your chance to speak will open doors that you never imagined and will substantially increase your ability to make friends. Good listeners are very attractive people.

Use their name: A person’s name is the most beautiful sound to them in the world. Forgetting someone’s name is worse than dating their grandmother. If you are not good with names then now is the time to learn. Try association techniques or yoga, anything that will help you remember a person’s name. It will increase your social life considerably.

Neglected Lesson 3: Creativity

If success in life was based on how many Shakespeare plays you can recall then life would be a whole lot easier. As it happens this is not the case.

Life is fast paced, constantly changing, wildly unpredictable and constantly at the mercy of the whims of 8.6 billion people.

Thinking you can control life is like reaching for that itch right between your shoulder blades, it just isn’t going to happen.

What you can do though is get creative, get innovative. See a problem and solve it. Draw from multiple experiences and create a solution. The people that do this are the people those that get ahead in this world. The future is only going to get faster and more unpredictable so why not focus on being able to adapt and create just as quickly.

Thanks for reading and I hope it helps. If you are familiar with my blog then you will know that if I feel that a blog hasn’t been spiked with enough humor or I happen to have come across a particularly good joke I always end with one.

“A man and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course. He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer.

His friend says: “Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.”

The man then replies: “Yeah, well we were married 35 years.”

What do you think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


Get Free Updates to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or via a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you on board.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Guest Post | thelifething.com
November 9, 2009 at 8:12 pm
An Almost Comprehensive Guide To Knowing What You Want, Improving Yourself, Finding Success, Escaping The Rat Race And Becoming Rich In 2010. | thelifething.com
January 1, 2010 at 4:45 am

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Ideas With A Kick November 3, 2009 at 5:05 am

Hey Jonny and Stephen. I just posted a comment on you blog a couple of minutes ago Jonny, and here you are again 🙂

The phrase “the School system will teach you to regurgitate facts” caught my eye. I can’t believe how primitive school is from this perspective. Don’t these people realize that most of the stuff they teach can now be found on the Internet in a couple of seconds? Don’t they realize that as the information in our world is growing exponentially, just giving people information is becoming pointless?

This is why I believe skills and attitudes make the real difference. Information, only sometimes, and only if it’s the most valuable one.
.-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Enough with the mind reading: get a 360 feedback! =-.


Positively Present November 3, 2009 at 6:35 am

Jonny, thanks for sharing your perspective on schooling. I agree that those three lessons are definitely neglected and they are SO important!
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..inspired by the opposite of love =-.


Guillaume Besson November 3, 2009 at 7:31 am

I so agree on your view around school. To me it was an unbelievable waste of time for not learning the right things.


Robin Easton November 3, 2009 at 10:30 am

Hi Jonny,

I find this article exceedingly honest and refreshing. I felt SO much missing in school, really everything. Not only all that you mention missing but soooooooo much more. Where was the vitality, the curiosity, the ability to make mistakes, the sense of adventure, the mystery over the things we DON’T know and may NEVER know, and YES! especially thge creativity?!! Hells bells, I felt I was in a school of androids or the walking dead. Fortunatley one of my parents gifts was that they were both tremendously creative…and free thinking.

I walked away from school and never looked back. Instead I consciously chose to actively live an experiential life. I dove full bore into the “The Great School of Life” and I’ve never regretted it. That is not to say that school may not be right for some people, but for me it was about as boring and limited as it gets. For me, it was akin to being in prison, both in my mind and body. I left school and traveled the world and became self taught at pretty much everything I do. I’ve been a self taught performing pianist, glass artisan (pioneered a method which used recycled glass), a writer, an adventurer, a nature photographer, assisted in oral surgery, a writer (just signed a book contract), an environmentalist, a speaker and more….and man, has my life been one HUGE adventure. Even today I look back and am so glad I made the choices I did make. They were really right for me, and were FILLED and face-in-the-mud mistakes, gutsy learning and ultimately a “knowing” that is unforgettable. They forged my character and allowed me to grow into a free thinker, one who developed an intimate relationship with Life…and myself. I learned to be fearless and continually fascinated by Life. I love living.

Thank you for a remarkable post. Your site is one I will DEFINITELY check out. I already skimmed some of your titles and felt my ears prick up at the sense of keen animal knowing and cutting edge thinking on your page. It’s outside the box, fresh and filled with vitality. I LOVE that. Good for you! And glad to meet you. Robin Easton
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..When I Die I Want… =-.


Miche - Serenity Hacker November 3, 2009 at 10:51 am

This is a superb post, really! As someone who works in higher ed I could rail for hours about what’s wrong with our education system, what’s missing, and all the things that required schooling don’t teach our young. But you’ve summed up three very essential things right here, in terms of personal finance, people skills, and creativity… basic life skills that everyone needs, regardless of whether one chooses to pursue a degree afterwards or not. Very poignant, and certainly a resounding call for change. Well done!
.-= Miche – Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Accepting Suffering and A Call for Compassion =-.


Jonny November 3, 2009 at 11:52 am

First, some thankyou’s. Thanks Steven for giving me the opportunity to post on your excellent site and thanks to all the readers that have so far read it and especially to those that have commented. I hope that it has been helpful.

@Eduard: Good to see you again. It is truely amazing how the general focus still seems to be on learning facts when, as you way, the internet hasn’t so much change the way the game is played as completely destroyed and re-modeled the board and pieces.

@ Dani: Thanks for the comment. Always appreciated.

@ Robin: WOW what a post and thank you for your amazingly kind words. You sound like you have led and are leading a fanatically varied life. I would very much like to have you as a reader and get to know you better. Also, I would love to hear about how you went about getting signed a book deal as I have 3 books in the works at the moment and will need to look into it sometime early next year. Thanks again.

@Miche: Thankyou and I hope that maybe this post will inspire you to continue to push for the basic life skills to be taught in our schools.

Again thankyou for all the great, great comments.
.-= Jonny´s last blog ..Structure Is Like A Strong Wind…Flow is Like A Frikin’ Hurricane So Unleash The Beast =-.


Robin Easton November 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Hey Jonny,

Thought of you when I was watched this. I watched it in stages as it’s long. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

If the link doesn’t work just go to YouTube and do a search for: Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

I think you will resonate with it. They guy is very funny as well. —Thank you again for connecting. When I get some time I’ll fill you in more on how to get your books out there. If they are anything like your writing on your site they will undoubtedly rock. Just keep in touch and if I forget or get to busy drop me a line on facebook or go to to my website: http://www.nakedineden.com and to the contact page. Thanks again Jonny and keep kickin’ butt!! 🙂
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..When I Die I Want… =-.


Tristan Lee November 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Nice post. Basic finance, people skills, and creatively are definitely things we all ought to learn in order to do well financially in the future.
.-= Tristan Lee´s last blog ..The Illusion of Success =-.


Trey - Swollen Thumb Entertainment November 3, 2009 at 10:19 pm

This is a very well written article, and I am going to retweet it as soon as I get done writing this comment.

I had always balked at the fact that “Checkbook 101” wasn’t a required class to graduate high school. Balancing a checkbook is one of the few things that EVERYONE needs to know how to do, and yet they don’t teach it in school. (Unless you had a really cool teacher)

I remember in Geometry when one of my classmates asked the teacher “Why do we need to know how to do this?” regarding some off the wall math equation, and her answer was simply “Do me a favor and don’t ask me that question”. I mean, what does it say for a teacher when she can’t even come up with a reason for why she’s teaching something? Can someone say “Waste of time”?

I think it’s important to learn a variety of things in school, and not just day to day things, because that’s how we expand our minds. However, there is a serious imbalance to the equation in what teachers are teaching our children, and it’s time that we start voicing our opinions about it.
.-= Trey – Swollen Thumb Entertainment´s last blog ..You Need A Business Plan… Right Now! =-.


meatlessmama November 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Loved this post. Listening is a skill most people I’ve come into contact with lack.
.-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Quinoa Stuffed Squash =-.


Jonny November 4, 2009 at 10:49 pm

@ Tristan: Thanks for the comment.

@ Trey: I believed I asked my maths teacher the same thing and got the same answer. I made it a thing to ask him every single lesson. Eventually he threw me out the class.
I’m voting for Checkbook 101

@ Meatlessmamma. What a name and what a site. When I get back to the Uk and actually start cooking for myself again I will have to follow. Thanks for the comment.
.-= Jonny´s last blog ..Structure Is Like A Strong Wind…Flow is Like A Frikin’ Hurricane So Unleash The Beast =-.


Marj | TheWayofMoney.com November 15, 2009 at 7:17 pm

I agree with your sentiments here, and I’m on the same page about the inadequacy of our educational systems. I took my studies seriously and so when I graduated from Uni I thought I had everything I needed only to realize that I knew absolutely nothing.
I didn’t know anything about managing my finances. I didn’t know how to really listen and express my needs and wants without making another feel bad. I didn’t know how to get in touch with my own needs and reflect on where some of my behaviours were stemming from.
Most schools teach children what to think, rather than HOW to think critically. We were told to obey, and not question authorities. We were trained to follow, not lead. We were conditioned to compete and try to be better than other people, rather than ourselves.


Steve Hart November 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I think items 2 & 3 are skills parents should be instilling from an early age. Compound interest? I don’t know of anyone really get this until they have a 401K.


Gerlaine December 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Honestly, I believe that what you say about school is true. My parents are always upset, because my son doesn’t get the best grades. I’m not too hard about it. I only care that he learns the basics.

Honestly, I don’t see him as ever entering the rat race, so why does he need to know facts and figures that he will never use. Don’t get me wrong. I want him to learn, but I know what it takes to run a business and learning why the Patriots are Patriots and the Loyalists are loyalists won’t land him a wonderful business necessarily.

He is learning how to handle his finances. He’s saving 50% giving 10% and living off of 40%. I think he’s got it made. He is a master at dealing with people, and he’s ultra creative. I would say that the young man has got it made!
.-= Gerlaine´s last blog ..What the H@&# are you Waiting for? =-.


Vision33r July 25, 2010 at 11:33 pm

The point of school is to teach people how to follow directions and authority. To create obedient workers and law-abiding citizens.


Vision33r July 25, 2010 at 11:38 pm

The reason personal finance isn’t taught in schools because it would wipe out our economy. We are a consumers based economy. Our economy is all setup for spending.

If kids in school were taught how to save money and stop spending on stupid needless things. Then all the products advertised to the youths would stop and jobs would be gone.

Teenagers today all have to have the latest iPhone, coolest outfits, go out and get Starbucks, etc.

If teenagers learned to manage their personal finances the economy would tank for sure.


R June 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

Man, once I finished my studies in University, I kept wondering why it was never taught in school how to manage the simplest things in life, in this case personal finance. I had to learn the hard way and eventually save my way out of debt.
My other friends weren’t so lucky. As long as they can pay the minimum on credit card, they thought they were financially sound..yikes! =(
I agree with points 1 and 3 but point 2 I see it in another way. There is one thing I do owe my school experience though…that would be the group of friends I met through the studies. IMO, I learned to interact with people since you have to interact in order to meet friends, hang out and have fun. Its not for everyone though since some people tend to be more introverted but at the end of the day, its pretty much the only hands on experience that I got from schooling.

Just my thought, great post though!


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