Dave Kerpen | The Most Important Skills You Didn’t Learn In School
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The Most Important Skills You Didn’t Learn In School

The Most Important Skills You Didn’t Learn In School

As I went “back to school” shopping with my daughters the other day, I got to thinking: I love the public schools they attend in Port Washington, New York, but what skills are they not learning in school? What are the essential skills to learn for success in business and in life that my kids and so many others might be missing out on in school?

To answer these questions, I asked friends from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Here are the essential skills they said that you didn’t learn in school:

1. Resilience

School is almost too positive — they stress that you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it. While correct, they don’t tell you that you are going to get knocked down and kicked around several times. It’s the ability to keep getting up and fighting through all the down times that eventually leads you to success. You have to have thick skin and be able to take multiple punches.

Jonathan Long, Founder & CEO, Market Domination Media


2. Adaptability

The world and business landscape is always changing. If you want to continue to thrive, you need to be able to adapt and change as needed. In the business world, if you don’t adapt to your customers’ wants and needs, a competitor will come along and do it for you.


Diana Goodwin, Founder & President, AquaMobile Swim School


3. Decisiveness

In the classroom, there is generally a right answer. In startup life, there are multiple answers and you will not know if it’s a good idea until you see the result. As a business owner, you have to make dozens of important decisions each day, and the faster you make them, the faster you can fail or succeed. Sometimes it’s painful, so make sure to limit your risk and move forward.

Faraz Khan, COO, Go Direct Lead Generation


4. Relationship Building

A big part of success is your network. It’s often they who open doors for you, and it’s then your obligation to back them up with ability. Networking is a critical skill that involves cultivating and nurturing relationships as well as understanding the importance of having a giving mentality and looking for ways to create powerful connections for others.

Darrah Brustein, Founder, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids


5. Balancing Finances

Mortgages, 401(k)s and cash flow become front-and-center topics as we advance in our careers. Yet I don’t ever remember anyone teaching me why I shouldn’t apply for all those high-interest credit cards I was offered in college. If the basic principles of saving and compound interest were taught in schools, maybe “bailout” would fade from the headlines.

Michael Portman, Co-Founder, Birds Barbershop


6. Experience

Experience is the mother of learning. However, formal education most often focuses on theory and offers little-to-no direct experience in your profession. It’s not until after that you graduate and get into the real world that you start learning at a faster pace than ever. Put on your chin strap and get ready to rock and roll once you enter the real world. That’s when your education begins.

Obinna Ekezie, CEO, Wakanow.com


7. Risk Taking

School guides you along a fixed path that often leads to minimal risk taking. Yet, some of the most successful entrepreneurs ditched school, took huge risks, and made businesses that have changed the world. In order to make a big impact on the world, you need to think differently and take risks.

Jonny Simkin, Co-founder & CEO, Swyft


8. Communication

People with great interpersonal skills tend to run laps around everyone else. Being a good listener, communicator, and being fun to be around will contribute to your success when trying to differentiate your business. Your early customers are investing in you just as much as they are investing in your company.

Zachary Johnson, CEO, Syndio


9. Persuasion

I believe the most important skill not taught in school is persuasion. For example, entrepreneurs are always pitching (customers, partners and investors), but if they don’t know how to persuade others, they won’t get very far.


– Jason La, Co-founder / CEO, Merchant Service Group, LLC


10. Resourcefulness

Everything is constantly changing in the tech world and it is imperative to be adaptable to this. Use your resources to figure problems and solutions out on your own and get it done. If you utilize the endless resources available, it will take you far.

Jayna Cooke, CEO, EVENTup


11. Persistence

In school, we are taught how to study in order to pass exams. Once the exam is over the studying is over. Something we don’t learn in this environment is how to persist; how to continue past what is asked of you. Once you get the grade and have passed, the hard work is over. In the real world, those who get ahead must persist beyond the grade.

David Tomas, General Manager, Cyberclick


12. Empathy

 The ability of business leaders to influence clients, investors and employees is largely governed by the extent to which they can put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand their hopes, fears and aspirations. The ability to understand, inspire and motivate people is crucial for leaders.

Christopher Kelly, Co-Founder, President, Convene

Now it’s your turn. What are some important skills for success that you learned outside of the classroom? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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