10 Lessons I Never Learned in School


I left high school at 17 years old. Once I finished the final exam and walk on the streets, I realised that I know virtually nothing – how to negotiate a deal, how to take a public transport, how to apply for a driver’s licence. I am now 30 years old, and have grown wiser along the years. Though school gave me a solid foundation in vocabulary and facts, it is the lessons I learned outside of school that are helping me to battle and survive better.

1) Lifelong learning

In order to ‘treat’ my ignorance, I realised that I need to embark on a journey of non-stop learning. This motivates me to be constantly curious and striving to answer every question that popped into my mind. Over the years, I have amassed more than normal amount of practical and impractical knowledge, wishing they maybe helpful in the future.

This is different from what I have practiced in the school for twelve years – study and memorise to get the top marks. Though I was a top achiever, it only proved that I had great memory, nothing more.

2) Avoid toxic people

To be honest, I have been avoiding people who are wasting my effort and time for almost all my life. It all started when I realised that the world has too much to be done and I have accomplished yet so little. It is very annoying to deal with people who are unwilling to help themselves or selfishly discharging their responsibilities to others. Here is an article for you in regards 7 Types of Toxic People and How to Spot Them. Most of time, I am a Tank described in the article.

Even though Christianity teaches me to love my ‘enemies’, I am still struggling to ‘love’ those annoying people. I have unreasonable patients and incompetent drivers testing my patience every single day.

3) Create your own opportunities

I knew I need to work hard to achieve higher, but later I also learned that I should never stand still with open palms asking for subsidy or assistance. Everything has a price, therefore I should always offer something in return to access to what I want. Though a lot of times I will publicly voice my opinion of displeasure, but more importantly I am working hard to solve problems to move forward.

When I am unable to create stepping stones, I watch closely for any open opportunities that will enable me to step up my game. Over the years, I have some regrets but enduring the pain is part of the growing process.

4) Define success at your own terms

This is very important, as it can go both ways (by do try to avoid the extremes). I am constantly discontent about my accomplishments, which leads to my persistent chase for the next milestone. The side effect is, when I failed, I can feel extremely defeated and depressed. However, I have never jealous on anyone’s success, as I am confident that I might even do better if I put in enough efforts.

Setting high goals for yourself is the best way to intrinsically motivating you to work for progress. You can set short term goals along the way to push your progress, and make sure you are celebrating the success reaching each milestone. Those small milestones are keeping you in the game while the end goal may not seem so far anymore.

5) How to manage your finance

In Malaysian school, there is a general perception where best students should study sciences and mathematics, average students should study finances and accountancy, while below average students should study agriculture and arts. I did very well in sciences, but I realised that I love and appreciate arts as well. At the same time, my academics never prepare me in finances, entrepreneurship and accountancy.

When I left high school, I do not know how much a loaf of bread should cost, I do not know how to start and run a business, I do not know how to spend limited amount of money wisely, and I do not know how to earn money if not working full time. Once I started to earn a financial income, I need to learn about documentation and taxation. When I started a small business since three years ago, I have to learn the numbers, learning accountancy for the first time since I left school. When I ran into financial difficulties, I have to find all the available solutions, read the fine prints and negotiate the best way out from the sticky situations.

6) How to get paid by offering your services

I would say that this is an extension from Lesson Three (3). On top of the ‘pay-by-hours’ method that is preached in school, there are multiple ways that we can get paid for offering our services or products. Due to the rigidity of our education system, I was surprised by the ways companies asking money from me, and the creativity behind different systems. Now I have learned quite a few, I have to match (or even create new ways) the payment method to each business idea that crosses my mind.

7) How to survive in the world of politics

When I mentioned about politics, I do not mean national politics that will impact our lives greatly, but the small politics within your family, friends and colleague. Office politics has frequently pops up as one of the main contributing factors for workplace stress. People are easily insulted by the slightest criticism and might act by partisanship. When the better opportunities are limited and favouritism takes place, people tend to fight by hook and by crook to turn into one another. and only the fittest will survive. It takes so much brain and brawn that should have push civilisation forward.

My way of dealing is to show a strong character upfront and do not care about all the gossips floating around. More importantly, I need to make sure that I am fulfilling the responsibilities given to me, without leaving much to fuel the plots against me.

8) Learning from failure

In order to progress, researching each failure and gaining knowledge from each setback are part of the daily learning. Though breaking from tradition and old habits are laborious, persistence might prove your efforts worthy some days – better, more practical and appropriate measures might surface eventually. So being adaptive is a strength for the bests (look back at Lesson 1).

Honestly, to leave behind the pain and to lower the ego is the hardest part in learning from mistakes. If we are repeating the same mistakes knowingly, it is an ultimate wastage of time and resources – resources can be replenished but time is a finite commodity. I am consciously cutting a lot of time-wasting activities in my life.

9) How to excel in interviews

In order to get enrolled in any jobs, how to nail an interview is a crucial survival skill. However, bear in mind that you need a combination of skills to impress the interviewer. I am not a bad public speaker, but I do have to pick up a lot of general and professional knowledge to be able to strike a conversation with the interviewer. Besides, you need to train your mind to think objectively and critically in order to analyse a given issue and put your view into effective words.

The good news is, this is a survival skill that can be trained. Start by reading this: Interview tips: 10 tips to improve interview performance.

10) How to love and parent your children

I was living constantly in the bubble provided by my parents. I was pampered and shielded from various failures. Therefore I missed a lot of opportunities to learn and prepare for adult life. As a result of it, I suffer prolonged period of depression and distortion of my personality. Besides I have to spend a large amount of time to catch up with skills that I should have pick up early in my childhood. Despite my best efforts, I still fail to swim and cycle.

Even though we have the Bible as guidance, I still find myself very hard to stay patient. When I am angered, I think my children will find me traumatic. Please pray for us.


I wrote this piece on and off over a period of about four weeks. I find it difficult to be open about my life lessons, especially when I am trying hard to throw them behind me. Anyhow, I wish you can pray for me and my family in our growth process. Lets hope this piece is going to help you in some ways, even at the slightest. God bless Malaysia.

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