Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sept. 5: What has life taught that school did not

Today's blog challenge prompt is about school again--what did I learn that school didn't teach me?

I was raised by a father who quite often quoted Mark Twain with the famous words: "Don't let your schoolwork interfere with your education." So it will come as no surprise that this topic isn't a real head scratcher for me. I was raised in a family of entrepreneurs and achievers, competitive to the core. School can feed pieces of that, for sure, but there's nothing like the "school of hard knocks" to really show off what one can achieve.

But it really struck me when I saw the news that Diana Nyad finally made it from Cuba to the Florida Keys, swimming without flippers and sans shark cage, that there are things in her story that relate to this topic, for me. I was blown away, the more I read about her. And there are things to learn from her experience, too.

Her story--not like I'm comparing myself to her in any way, I don't think I could swim around the block currently, if you know what I mean--reminded me of some of the things I've learned since being in school, that school didn't teach me. (And, this isn't a diatribe against education. Many people might have learned these things in school; I just happened to learn them in the world.)

I look over that list below after writing them down and think, "Wow, Sher, you've really got it going on!" And then I laugh. I have learned a lot in my life, I know; but putting the attributes I value into practice day in and day out? Always a challenge. Being consistent and thorough in all areas of growth is a journey unto itself (see tenacity).

So I put this list out there not as a "look at me," but as a "come along with me."

Tenacity. Stick with it. If you say you're going to do something, do it. Diana may have said after each failure, "I'm done, not doing *that* again," she would return to her passion to achieve this goal, and try again. I have learned to pursue what I want with a bit of dogged persistence; this can be frustrating to those who may not want to come along with my plan du jour. As I've matured, I've also had to learn to accommodate other opinions, desires, priorities. But with tenacity, a lot can get done!

Resilience. While my failures may not have been as public (some of them felt a tad more public than I'd have liked) as Diana's, the ability to recover and move forward is something that I didn't learn in school. Pause, reflect, learn and keep moving. It's a great mantra.

Lean on your tribe. There have been times in my life where leaning on others has been key to my survival. Encouragement, support, shoulders to cry on--those are things I take value in paying forward too, to those at a point of need in their lives. Where was Diana's tribe? All around her, and they didn't give up on her. Some even went out ahead of her, busting up any jellyfish groups that might have obstructed her swim. A favorite quote that exemplifies this, by a philosopher named Martin Franzmann: "It is, after all, for one another that we are here." Yes. That.

What others see as limitations, choose to see as assets. Oh, you don't have a culinary degree? Yep, that could be a detriment. But I choose to see my home-grown culinary skills as an asset, and was able to parlay that into a personal chef/catering business that people enjoyed and I produced food that was easily accessible--definitely with a homemade flair, but for the people I served, it worked. For Diana, the most obvious obstacle was her age. Who swims for that many hours on end at the age of 64, with sharks and jellyfish and currents and storms? Seriously, she's a rock star.

Goal setting. This one was big in our house, growing up. There was the New Year's goal setting sessions as a family (kid you not) and subsequent reviews--which sometimes petered out by mid-year, but you always got to review again at the turn of the annual calendar. This ability to look out ahead and plot a course has helped me in my personal and professional life, many times. Look at Diana, who obviously knows how to set goals and work toward them. What a great example!

These last two I didn't pick up from Diana's story, but are things I learned outside the school setting:

Organizational skills. While some may learn these in school, I learned the value of list-making by doing errands with my mom. I still think of her when I'm making a detailed list with lots to accomplish, and tuck it all inside a little blank book that I will jot notes into along the way. Maybe it was passed on via genetics, but it definitely imprinted on me.

Detail orientation. This skill I learned in my first job post-college, as a copy editor. Before that job, I would never have thought of myself as someone who cared greatly about where the comma goes, if a spelling error doesn't get caught, proofreading menus at every restaurant one goes to. Yep, those are the afflictions of a copy editor, and apparently it lasts a few decades, as I haven't officially been a copy editor since sometime mid-'90s, and here I am still proofreading everything in sight (which is not to say errors don't slip through on the blog, if you know what I mean).

What did you learn, outside the classroom? Am I the only one who heeded my father's words and didn't let my schoolwork interfere with my education? Ha.

Jen and I (and now my mom and Lisa too!) are blog challenging throughout September. You can catch her blog over at Stuff Jen Says. If you want to write along with us, give me a shout and I'll send you the blog prompts.


  1. Lovely blog you have, thanks for sharing!

  2. So often I think of you when I am out and about 'running errands' and wish that you were with me. Wonderful days!


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