How school does not teach us to be entrepreneurs and what to do about it

Our current schooling systems leaves us exposed in a world that needs more entrepreneurs

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Schooling has many benefits but it does not provide a foundation for setting out on an entrepreneurship journey. Everything is structured, from kindergarten to college. For the first twenty plus years of our lives, we know of a stability and a well-defined (so we thought) future that supposedly prepares us to get into the jungle that is the working world. Except we suddenly find ourselves in an abyss, released in a chaotic world and perhaps disillusioned that we were absolutely not prepared for it. For some mavericks, who got out early and became successful on their own terms by forging their own path outside the system, they stood as our heroes.

In the current context, where the deep economic crisis triggered by the pandemic is causing redundancies and instigating furlough measures, it is apparent that a new wave of entrepreneurship and innovative businesses are crucial to enliven a weakening economy.

The merits of schooling cannot be argued, from the building of social skills outside the family to the discipline instilled by having to sit down and study. School teaches us important life skills such as delayed gratification; how to put out the necessary efforts, day in and day out, to achieve something worthwhile. That nothing comes easy, but nothing is impossible, with focus, disciple and intention. However, most of the technical material being taught at school can be accessed online, whether it is from a free website or a paid course. Or simply, through a book.

It is often said that not everybody has the capacity to be an entrepreneur as if one was either born with the gift of ‘entrepreneurship’ or not. I believe it is much more subtle and complicated than that. Granted, not everybody wakes up with a raging passion to drive change in the world. But it does not need to be a lifelong dream that you are fulfilling; it could also be a career change and you taking charge of your life. Employ people and give to others the opportunity to do the same.

Skills not taught at school

Acting when you do not think you are ready

If you want to sell a product and bring it to market, there is the concept of minimum viable product (MVP) which is popular in the tech world. Test your product using minimum resources and pursue trial and error strategies. Be 60–70% ready and go for it. Or else, retract, course correct and move again.

It is particularly hard to do that at school where you are trained to prepare for finals, i.e. you can only act once you are fully ready.

Second chances, third chances and failures

How many chances do you get at school? One or two, three? Then you need to move on, you cannot stay in school forever, or say they tell me. You either move on to the next grade or the next level which can be tertiary education or getting a job.

There is the fallacy, that you only get a few if not one, sole chance to get something right. In entrepreneurship, you might have to fail a hundred times before reaching success, provided you have the resilience and/or the finances to sustain yourself throughout the journey.

Dealing with failure is a necessary skill that is not learnt at school. Failing exams is akin to being tagged as an outcast or not good enough to succeed which is the opposite of entrepreneurs’ motto of fail fast and fail often.

Idea generation and creative thinking

Generating ideas is a muscle that needs to be practiced. The more you come up with ideas, the better you become at creating them. Start connecting the dots and the dots connect themselves. At school, where do you get the chance to generate ideas and nurture creativity. Maybe in home- economics or arts classes? But that is not enough. Innovation and creativity cannot exactly be taught, but they can be encouraged from an early age, in each and every subject, if we are given the opportunity to colour outside the lines and not get reprimanded for it.

Taking risks and dealing with uncertainty

Being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks. At school, the outcomes are very clear, you graduate, or you do not. You can increase the odds in your favour by doing the due diligence; study, study some more, do the assignments, chip in some extracurricular activities for some bonus points. There is a process to be followed.

In entrepreneurship, while there are guidelines, uncertainty is a daily part of life, will it work? Will my employee quit? Will they increase the rent? What will COVID bring? What do customers want in the future?

Unsystematic days

The bell rings, you go to class. Fast forward a few years, your alarm rings, it is time for lectures. Everything is set and planned.

In certain corporates, the dance continues. It becomes a comfort zone, having been conditioned to having a set structure that defines your day.

An entrepreneur’s schedule is messy, even if one has planned ahead, there are always things that are out of your control and sometimes require immediate attention.

What to do about it?

While school is necessary to build our foundation, it can also add to our limiting beliefs to not put ourselves out there and risk being shamed if things do not go our way. It is not that we are unable to do it, we are simply not prepared, either mentally or emotionally.

Build emotional intelligence

This takes time but Rome was not built in a day. I suggest Daniel Goleman’s book on emotional intelligence. The key is to start being self-aware of your own emotional reactions or absence of reactions and working on them when you start identifying your trigger points.

Build a rejection routine

If you struggle with rejection (as we all do), make it a daily habit to get rejected. They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit into your routine. So, take a 21 day to challenge to venture out of your comfort zone and seek one rejection a day. Notice how it gets easier.

Start small

Think big, Act small. It is ok to have big dreams, but it only starts with one small step. Entrepreneurship is not an exam that requires month or year-long studying in preparation for one sitting. Entrepreneurship is a journey where the learning is constant and where your grit is tested every day.

Surround yourself with like-minded people

This is probably obvious but also the most important. Being infused with the energy of people who have walked the path before is important, both for inspiration and for a morale boost.

If you are constantly surrounded by naysayers or people who like highly structured lives or shiver at the mention of risk taking, you need to seek people who can answer your burning questions.

There are also many entrepreneurs formed after graduation or intrapreneurs, changing the game inside corporations. However, the current schooling system is outdated with a world that is and need more people that can sustain risk, drive change and adapt to constantly evolving circumstances.

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Finance executive turned life coach. Top writer. Life lover, world explorer.

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Shev K

Shev K

Finance executive turned life coach. Top writer. Life lover, world explorer.

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