10 Smart Things I've Learned from People Who Never Went to College

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10 Smart Things I've Learned from People Who Never Went to College


10 Smart Things I've Learned from People Who Never Went to CollegeComment Now Follow Comments I grew up in an extended family of folks who for the most part didnt attend college. Many of them were working full time before they left high school, and a few (like my father) went to night school after theyd already been working for a long time. From an early age my perspective was steeped in wisdom from those who never went to college, but managed to live fulfilling lives just the same. Here are ten things they and others Ive encountered along the way have taught me.1. You can learn something useful from anyone.Whenever we find ourselves ignoring someone because weve already determined that they arent smart enough to say something meaningful, weve made a big mistake. Besides being presumptuous and arrogant, this mindset blocks out every useful thing the other person might pass along. Instead of just listening and mining the conversation for nuggets of wisdom, we allow our pre-existing bias to brand everything as not smart enough for me. Incredibly bad idea. Ive yet to meet someone who couldnt teach me something.2. If quality slips, it really doesnt matter how good your ideas were.This one I learned from a couple of my uncles who worked as quality control specialists on assembly lines. The most ingenious design plans, no matter how many brains contributed to them, can fatally falter in the execution phase if quality slips. This is equally true for intangible plans. Imparting greatness requires a continuum of effort and attention, not just an initial brain-fueled flurry to get exemplary ideas on paper.

3. Dont ever let a bully intimidate you not even once.

Now, some might say this one is too dogmatic because its possible to allow a bully to intimidate you in the short term so you can get the upper hand in the long term. But the best advice I ever received about this came from a retired truck driver who said, paraphrasing, When you let a bully intimidate you, the bully doesnt necessarily win, but you definitely lose. What he meant was, you lose upstairs where the loss takes a progressively worse toll on your psyche. Yes you can recover from that, but its going to take a lot more effort to bring your self-esteem up to par again than if youd stood your ground to begin with. Reasonable people can differ on this, of course, but I think its sound advice.

4. Reciprocity is the name of the relationship game and always will be.

If you cant find it in yourself to return a favor, or give back more than you got when someone helped you out of a bind, then you are relationship handicapped. While this may seem like basic intuitive logic (and it is), its amazing how often its ignored. While relationships shouldnt be tit for tat arrangements, the underlying willingness to reciprocateeven if its really hard to domust be there for the relationship to grow and flourish. None of us are one-way streets.

5. Learning is good; Doing is better.

Well, ok, this one is a little bit on the nose. Learning is more than good its essential. Learning is the elixir that makes the human brain the most powerful organic decision-making and problem-solving tool on the planet. The main point here (passed on to me by a former co-worker) is that theres a certain magic in doing that many people simply miss out on. You can learn a lot about car engines, but until you get under the hood and work on one, you cant see just how remarkable an invention these machines we take for granted truly are. Thats one example of thousands, but the same principle applies.6. Kindness isnt optional.

Kurt Vonnegut famously said, Theres only one rule that I know of youve got to be kind. Why do some people just get this while others find being kind a chore? Personally, I think it has a lot to do with our need to feel right, and an attendant unwillingness to consider that maybe we really arent right, and its not worth treating another person unkindly to prove whatever point is on the table. Besides that, being unkind is illogical because it only incites unkindness aimed at you, and who wants that?

7. You can survive anything (assuming it doesnt physically kill you).

More than one person has said something like this to me, and I think its dead on right. Often its rumination about how we wont survive this or that calamity that really gets us. But usually we can find the inner reserves to overcome just about anything, and will probably surprise ourselves that we pulled it off. Im not saying it wont hurt like hell, or bring us to our very brink, but we usually give ourselves far too little credit for being able to overcome difficulty. I wont quote Nietzsche here, but you get the point.

8. Get a dog.

I suppose this one could also be get a cat or a fish for that matter, but as someone once told me, theres something about a dog that brings out the best in its owners. Companionship with a beast brimming with unconditional love does a body good especially when hard times hit.

9. Money is important, but experience is invaluable.

I honestly cant recall where I first heard this but Im putting it on this list anyway because I think its really important. When you buy something, youll enjoy that thing for awhile, but our in-built tendency toward habituation will eventually assert itself and the thing will become yet another thing we own. When we invest in experience, however, we are buying memories, and new learning, and new ways of thinking, and a whole lot more. Those are things that become part of who we are, and no physical item can touch that dollar for dollar.

10. Just be ready.

Well end with a nice bit of simple logic. Just be readyfor anything. Quoting that inestimable philosopher, Mike Tyson, Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Exactly. So be ready to get punched in the face, and then refer back to #7 on this list.