Schools teach two sets of lessons, one useful, one problematic.
The (generally) useful lessons are the ones that teach us the things that schools are meant to teach – reading, writing and arithmetic, progressing to critical thinking and deep domain expertise.
The second, silent, unspoken lesson is that schools are in the business of teaching us (defining for us) what we’re supposed to learn and master (they give out the grades after all). And then more silently still they hand over this role to our employers who define the rules of the game with evaluation matrices that tell us if we “did not meet” “met” or “exceeded” expectations.
Whose expectations, exactly?
It takes a while (sometimes forever) to figure out that the most powerful levers for one’s personal development aren’t the skeleton keys that teach us how to be great __________ (speakers / analysts / bloggers / designers / teachers / coders / investors / whatever). That’s just skill mastery.
The most powerful lever is is figuring out what configuration of skills matter the most to what we hope to accomplish. This is why we can’t outsource this process of discovery (it is discovery, it’s not a set playbook) to our teachers and employers and parents and friends.
Our job, first and foremost, is to figure out what it takes to be great, and then to have the courage and conviction to go out and do those things that will get us there.
The figuring out part is the messy, quiet bit that people mostly don’t talk about, even though it’s really the most important thing.