Learning vs. Education: Three Important Skills You Can Learn Outside of the Classroom
Learn·ing: the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught
Learning is all around us. It is in the conversations we have with strangers, the mistakes we make day to day, and it is in the success we build over time. Learning can be difficult, fun, and if you’re doing something you love, downright addictive. School is a place designed for us to learn, yet there are far more lessons in the world than the classroom can accommodate. Let’s be clear, a good education is important. Good schools make all the difference in the lives of our students, but they can’t teach us everything. We must value our experiences outside of the classroom as well, because they also teach us useful skills
I would say I’m an ok student at best. I like to bend the rules, tests give me anxiety and at the end of the day, it’s hard for me to enjoy sitting in a classroom when there is an entire world full of knowledge just outside the walls that are confining me. I’m much better at seeking out, and learning from life experiences. Whether it's exploring, scaring myself or engaging people from other cultures, I think there is so much that we can learn from the world around us.
When it comes to being a functioning, successful adult, I think school misses teaching students a lot of important lessons and skills. Young people learn a number of life lessons in a lot of unexpected places. I’m ok with this, but it helps to have a little warning. So here is your warning!
Learning does not stop when the last school bell rings, and for many of us, that is when it begins. A lot of the most important content that I have learned in life was not in the classroom, which is why I want to share with you, some of the unexpected places I have learned some of my most valuable skills.
Here are three important skills I use on a regular basis that I was not taught in the classroom.
Performing under pressure
Pressure is something that either makes you or breaks you, and you will encounter pressure at some very pivotal times in your life. In middle school and high school, my dad used to offer my skills as a trumpet player to our local church for holidays. While I considered this to be a major inconvenience at the time, looking back, I know I learned so much from it. When I found myself standing in front of 100 people in my oversized blazer and stuffy loafers, I would get cotton mouth, be short of breath, and be completely unsure of whether I would hit my first note. When the time came for me to play, none of the discomfort I was feeling mattered because I had to play. Some performances went better than others, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter, because if I had flubbed every note, members of the congregation would have thanked me all the same. It taught me the importance of making an effort.
Standing up for yourself
As an only child that hates confrontation, learning how to stand up for myself was something I had to learn in a lot of random places. Most recently, I was volunteering at a music festival, and due to a shortage in security guards, my job was to prevent people from sneaking into the venue via the handicap entrance. Since the dawn of music festivals there have been people trying to sneak into them, and I found myself on the frontlines of this phenomenon. Working security is well outside of my comfort zone, and at first I was a pushover. People could see from my smile that I didn’t actually want to keep them out. Groupies with fake credentials, friends of vendors and “staff” that weren’t actually staff all tried their hand at breaching my gate. Finally, I was fed up. I put my sunglasses on, kept a straight face, and stood my ground. I learned from my mistakes early on and by the end of the weekend, no one was getting through that gate. I even went as far as not letting my favorite DJ through the entrance (some regret there). The sad reality of this world is that people will try to take advantage of you at times, and if you don’t have the wherewithal to assert yourself, it can set you back. Whether its a pickpocket, a bully or a boss, understanding how to protect yourself, your ideas, and your possessions is essential.
Getting from point A to point B
I did my semester abroad in Paris and I will never forget my experiences on “le metro”. Going from zero knowledge about public transportation to taking one of the world’s largest metro systems every day was quite the learning curve. Getting lost, narrowly avoiding pickpockets and getting lost in the rush were all part of my daily commute. Every trip was an adventure and put me well outside my comfort zone, but by the end of my semester I was navigating the city’s trains like Tarzan swings from trees in the jungle. We don’t have to worry about navigation in school because students must be constantly accounted for, but out in the world, getting to where you need to go is a very important aspect of daily life. Whether it is a business trip, visiting a friend or exploring a new city, navigation is an important skill that will save you time and money if you are good at it.
When it comes to learning, traditional schooling can leave much to be desired. A diploma is awarded for good grades, but what about life skills or street smarts? I think it’s important that we take stock in the lessons we learn day to day, because each piece of knowledge we acquire enhances all of our previous learning experiences.
Successfully forging a path in life is directly related to how we seek out the knowledge we need. If you want to work a trade, seek out an apprenticeship. If you want to be a doctor get started with medical school. If you want to be an entrepreneur then start hustling. All three avenues require learning, but they are in different formats. Formal education is important but it is only one of the many tools at your disposal for learning. There are other learning formats that we often overlook, the most significant being the lessons of everyday life.
All education is learning, but not all learning is education. Whether it’s your day-to-day life or a textbook, if you pay attention to the details, you will learn from each chapter.