11 Lessons They Didn’t Teach In School That Will Make Your Life Better

There are a lot of classes they should teach in school but don’t.

Checkbook Balancing 101, for instance.

Or, How to Properly Treat Serving Staff. I would open this class by mind-mapping all the imaginable reasons to NEVER BE RUDE to the people who *handle your food* *out of sight.*

The list goes on: How Not to Be Insufferable on Facebook. The Real Way to Make an Old Fashioned. How to Know When You’re Being Catfished.

As you can see, lots of lessons critical to navigating life without getting eaten by wolves go unlearned.

I blame this on an outdated school system that finds value in Calculus in the Fourth Dimension (a class I dropped in college) but not How to Live Within Your Means (a thing of which none of my exes seemed capable).

In truth, however, there’s a good chance that such valuable life lessons would bounce right off our arrogant little, invincible-feeling, adolescent selves. I believe a higher power would prefer we slog our way through 18 miles of shit and collapse into an exhausted heap in order to get the memo.

So here are a few wisdom nuggets from my own school of hard knocks (and one from my past life as a chef). Some of these gems are about mindset. Some are about being a good human. All are designed to spare you some shit-slogging.

Or let you spend that time learning different life hacks that you can one day share with me over dirty martinis.

I look forward to it.

So here goes…

1. What other people think of you is none of your business.

As humans, we share an irrational obsession with what other people think of us. This can be traced back to our primitive biology, when being socially ostracized and kicked out of the clan might have resulted in getting eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.

Nowadays, however, efforts to win approval cause more harm than good. For one, they seem insincere and off-putting to others. Second, they hold you back. Folks who march to the beat of their own drum are out there boldly living their lives, taking risks and having adventures. Meanwhile, the people-pleasers are doing what’s “expected” of them without questioning any of it, and waking up in a haze of disillusion on their 52nd birthdays thinking:

This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!!

Furthermore, people are drawn to those who don’t give a fuck. They are the brave, the creative, the inspiring — essentially, the natural-born leaders. Validation-seekers, on the other hand, are textbook followers. They have nothing to contribute because having unique ideas is far too risky. In other words, they’re basic.

And there’s more. Caring what others think is that old chestnut that keeps so many from pursuing their big ideas. But dream zappers are simply concerned with how it will “look” to others if they support you while you do something they (or society) consider crazy. Or they’re afraid that you might succeed while they stay stagnant. In either case, their opinion is of no use to you.

As Brene Brown says: if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback. If someone is standing where you want to someday stand, their advice is probably valid. This is very different, however, from folks in glass houses who think they know better than you how to live your own life.

And that’s because the people out there actually doing it — who believe in themselves and think they’re capable of anything they set their minds to — will never tell you that you’re not ready or that you should “be more realistic.”

In summary, caring what other people think makes you smarmy and boring and will kill your shot at creative fulfillment. So heed the advice of those who’ve gone before you and tell the rest of the world to, respectfully, suck it.

2. You think you need focus. What you really need is clarity.

The ability to concentrate long enough to complete even the simplest task is a skill few people have anymore. So the collective refrain has become, “I just need help focusing.”

But here’s a question: What’s your most important priority? Do you know? Are you looking to create income or impact – or both? Is there something you’ve been dying to do but can’t seem to find time for? Do you want to start making money from your passion? Which passion? Are you allowed to choose more than one?

If you feel overwhelmed by all the projects you wish you could do but can’t find time for, how on earth can you be expected to know what to work on first?

How can you resist getting pulled off course by every shiny object if you haven’t established a life compass yet?

Clarity is the answer to getting more done and to developing “focus.”

Clarity is the key to a life that is less stressful and more prolific.

Clarity is the secret to finding your million-dollar idea and building a business around it in 30 days.

And if you’re wondering about the exact process I teach my students to answer all these burning questions for themselves, you should check out The Dream Job Academy.

Students report a 180-degree improvement in their ability to cross goals off their list. And it’s digestible and actionable for everyone from busy moms to ADHD entrepreneurs looking to stack another passion onto their portfolio.

3. A person’s hurt feelings are not your problem.

This one needs some explanation.

If you’re running around being King of the Douchebags, folks’ hurt feelings are your fault, which makes them your problem.

But I’m referring to those of us with semi-normal emotional development who, every day, do weird passive-aggressive things to avoid the discomfort of hurting someone’s feelings. Even though the end result is usually a lot more awkward and disingenuous.

I’ve learned that if you apply these three questions to whatever comes out of your mouth, you can speak your truth and still get into heaven.

Ask yourself:

  1. Is what I’m about to say true? (True “for you” is still true).
  2. Is what I’m about to say necessary? (Is this about respecting yourself or about fixing the other person)?
  3. Is what I’m about to say kind? (There’s a kind way to say just about anything).

If it checks all the boxes, say it.

You’re not a bad person for being who your heart says you are. Or for honoring your boundaries and speaking your truth. And if it disappoints or offends someone else, that guilt does not belong to you.

4. You don’t have to “pay your dues.”

If something makes you miserable, stop doing it.

It’s a bit scary to say this in the era of entitlement because I do think a strong work ethic is a thing of infinite value. And quitting, as a way of life, doesn’t exactly build fortitude.

However, too many of us were taught that it’s “responsible” to stay in jobs we hate because:

  • the money’s too good to give up
  • we’ll never make this kind of money doing something else
  • we’d be a fool to let it go
  • we’re lucky to be employed (barf).

And, GASP, what would your sister-in-law think if you quit your high-paying corporate job to make handmade greeting cards? (If this last one still plagues you, re-read Lesson One until your eyes bleed).

There’s a surprisingly simple way out of this predicament. And it’s to ask yourself this:

How much money could I make doing something I actually like?

5. Don’t refrigerate tomatoes.

Like, NO ONE does this correctly.

Refrigeration makes tomatoes mealy.

Nobody likes mealy tomatoes.

Stop it right now.

6. Never assume.

As my best friend says, “assumption makes an ass out of ‘u’ and me.” (He actually also calls assumption the “mother of all fuck ups.” He has two adages for this topic, that’s how friggin’ important it is).

All of us are guilty of believing we know what others are thinking. In some cases, we assume they know what we know. In other cases, we suspect they’re thinking about us as much as we are thinking about ourselves. Sometimes we are so arrogant as to guess at how they will act in a given situation.

Knowing these things with certainty is a physical impossibility and yet, how often do we say statements like the following?

I would’ve asked for a raise but I already know what she’s going to say.

I’d love to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she’s always been that way.

I thought of getting him XYZ but he wouldn’t have appreciated it.

If I stand up for myself, he’ll think I’m high-maintenance and break up with me.

Can you possibly know these statements are true?


Can they keep you trapped and unwilling to take steps forward and do things that might improve your life?


Can they cause you to misgauge situations and put people in boxes where they may not belong?


So, all together class:

What is speculation?

A pointless exercise that keeps you stuck and creates false judgments of others.


7. No one cares.

That you tripped, that you had spinach in your teeth, that you got drunk at the party and said something weird, that you didn’t see that pedestrian until four seconds too late and kept driving instead of stopping to let them cross. No. one. cares.

In high school, I gave the most embarrassing speech in a bid for a seat in student government. For the longest time, it haunted me. Then one day my therapist said, no one cares about you. They are far too worried about what everybody thinks of them.

It’s so funny to look back now and think that an instant so indelibly stamped on my memory has been absolutely forgotten by everyone else that was there. Probably even my opponent — who just remembers her own speech and the fact that she won the election.

The fact is people are self-absorbed.

You can argue, but what’s the first thing you do when someone shows you a group photo that you’re in? Assess how you look, right? And then probably deem the photo great or terrible, depending.

It sounds bleak, but when everyone has their heads up their own asses, it lets you off the hook for spinach in your teeth and embarrassing speeches. In fact, it makes everything a lot less scary. Because in order to see you fall on your face, people would have to look up from their smartphones.

8. Never make someone else comfortable at your own expense.

I think of all the moments in my life when I’ve done this.

When I’ve desperately had to pee but someone just won’t. stop. talking. And won’t take a breath to let me interject that I’m about to friggin’ DIE!

When I’ve been too shy to tell someone important that they got my name wrong.

When I stayed at a job that was killing me because they swore they couldn’t do it without me.

When an acquaintance has said something “inappropriate” just out of earshot of his girlfriend, and I’ve awkwardly laughed it off.

When a bar patron has said something WAY out of line, and I’ve awkwardly laughed it off.

When a man has put his hands on me, unsolicited, and I’ve awkwardly laughed it off.

Then I came across a question that put an end to all this irrational self-sacrifice.

Does doing this feel like self-respect?

If ever the answer to that question is anything but a resounding yes, put your fucking foot down. Would you rather your legacy be that you were honest and direct, or that you awkwardly laughed things off? Yeeeeugh.

9. You get to Fantasia your life.

And by that I mean we create our realities, so I invite you to start with a blank canvas and add only the beautiful things, the luminescent things, the stuff that lights you up. Only a small amount of what your brain “sees” represents reality. The rest is made up of your memories, beliefs and perceptions.

If you grew up around negative people who reinforced the idea that the world is a dangerous place, all the decoration that your brain is adding to your view of reality (essentially your virtual reality) is serving to make your world a bleak and scary one. And your brain can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t, so now your future will be just as bleak as your past, because it’s all you know.

So if reality truly is that subjective, why not create something awesome? Why not practice gratitude for what you already have, and stop to notice beauty every day, and look for the good in people and ignore Facebook during election years?

10. You don’t actually have to have an ID to fly.

I’m sure I’ll go on a list for releasing this information into the wild.

But it’s true.

I know because I had my wallet stolen last time I was in New Orleans, the night before I was scheduled to fly home. By stolen, I mean, I got drunk — New Orleans drunk — and left it somewhere. Probably on a pool table. But to everyone who had to listen to my panicked play-by-play told while simultaneously hyperventilating . . . it was stolen.

Turns out you can call the airline and warn them you’re coming in hot. They’ll probably suggest you show up several hours early (I chose three), and then they’ll lay out what you can expect. I basically had to be extra nice to everybody and explain the situation, and then I got taken out of the security line and led to a separate area, where I was questioned for about 10 minutes by a TSA agent, who then made a single call “to verify” me (for what? To whom? Are the Illuminati real?).

And that was that.

Pretty painless except for the final three hours of frolicking I missed out on and the 20 or so hours of crippling anxiety. I truly thought I would be trapped in New Orleans until the Massachusetts DMV could get their act together and mail me a new driver’s license. (And mail it where)?

And by that time, I knew New Orleans would have killed me.

11. You can never love someone more than you love yourself.

Ditto for respect.

The reverse is also true. A person can never love you more than they love themselves.

So if you’re in relationship with someone who constantly complains about the people closest to them, run for the hills. That behavior smacks of low self-worth. And because it’s far too terrifying to put you on a pedestal above themselves (imagine the vulnerability!), the most they will ever love or respect you is with that same 2-on-a-scale-of-10 they grant to themselves.

Then there are the people who are so damn comfortable with who they are that they never have an ill word to say about anybody. They exist in a space of total acceptance. Their own self-acceptance is so complete and all-encompassing that it spills over onto everyone with whom they come into contact.

That’s not to say their patience isn’t occasionally tested. It’s just that they know how to escape the dumbfuckery better than the rest of us. They honor their boundaries and themselves. For a happy life, seek affection from these people.

And on that note, strive to be someone so full of self-acceptance that your cup runneth over into the cups of your loved ones too. Be the person other happy people seek affection from.

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