If an academic qualification is all it takes to succeed in life, then more people would be rich, happy and successful in the world today. You and I know this is not the case. Success in the real world requires much more than the things we were taught in school.

The purpose of education is to provide enlightenment and equip us with the knowledge and skills we need to make a living and succeed in the real world. This is why most parents would sacrifice anything to give their children the best education so they can have a fighting chance in the real world.

The evidence around us suggests that MBAs and PhDs are not ultimate guarantees to success. In fact, most of the world’s founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs are less known for their academic success. A few interesting examples that come to mind are Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Aliko Dangote and a mouthful more.

In this article, I’d like to share ten of the most important life skills that most successful people around the world have learned. And they didn’t learn these in school. Since these skills are critical to success in life, how come they aren’t taught as part of a compulsory curriculum in our schools?

Here they are…

1. Negotiation

1.1.10 Life Skills for success 2In my opinion, negotiation should be given the same importance as Mathematics, and should be taught from as early as primary school. Negotiation is such an important skill in life that I just do not understand why we’re leaving our children to learn this skill the hard way.

Humans are social animals, and negotiation is a vital skill you must have to succeed in human society. We all negotiate every day with our parents, friends, neighbours, siblings, colleagues and spouses. We use negotiation techniques everyday when we buy stuff at the mall, in the market or on the street. (photo credit: ecornell.com)

If ordinary people need negotiation skills to survive, then you must be out of your mind if you think you can become an entrepreneur without being an ‘A’ student in the science and art of negotiation.

You’ll need negotiation skills to sell your business ideas to potential partners, investors and customers. You’ll need negotiation skills to get the best deal from the landlord for that office space you want to lease. You’ll most importantly need negotiation skills when you’re dealing with employees who will ask for a higher salary than you can afford to pay.

Negotiation skills are an absolute must for every entrepreneur!

I have been learning negotiation skills for more than a decade now and I’m still not very good at it yet. Although negotiation is both an art and a science; it can be learned. My dad is my role model when it comes to negotiation. I’ve seen him get away with deals that are just impossible, and I hope I can be that good someday.

I have read some of the best books on negotiation and I highly recommend that you read them too. You’ll be amazed at the things you’ll learn and may hate yourself for all the deals you’ve been missing all your life.

2. Money

1.1.10 Life Skills for success 3I hate to admit it, but I think money is the real reason why most people do everything they can to get the best education. With top quality education, your prospects of getting a well-paid job look much brighter. It’s no wonder people would take out student loans and even sell their property to raise tuition for a Bachelor’s degree or MBA at an Ivy League institution.

And all this education is for what exactly? To earn a living that can afford you the lifestyle of your dreams and put food on the table, right?

Education on its own does not put food on the table. An MBA or PhD degree will not pay your children’s school fees. Only money has the power to do these things.

So, if our very existence depends so much on money, why is it not a compulsory subject in our schools, and prioritised far above Maths, Languages and Sciences?

Don’t get it twisted; understanding money and the way it works is totally different from that Accounting or Business Management degree that you have. I’m actually referring to ‘basic financial intelligence’. It’s more about common sense, diligence and delayed gratification in the way we treat money.

Have you ever wondered why young people these days will rather buy a car, ‘pop champagne’, and spend lavishly on ‘liabilities’ and things they don’t need? It’s not just young people, some older people are ‘money stupid’ too. I’m talking about those one who buy private jets and acquire more houses than they can live in over multiple lifetimes!

Have you noticed that the world’s top wealthiest people aren’t extravagant, like most of us would expect? They don’t ‘waste’ money on ‘bling bling’ and all the irrelevant stuff. The top wealthy people in the world spend money to make money.

If you want to learn some basic financial common sense, there’s just one book I’ll recommend.

  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. This book is an all-time bestseller and my personal favourite for financial literacy. If you haven’t read it, you should as a matter of urgency. It’s a book that could save your life!

3. Positive Thinking

Research shows that positive-minded people are more likely to succeed in life than negative people. I’m not surprised about this at all. I often find that the way I feel always affects the way I act. Optimistic people have a great attitude, are more confident and likely to identify and exploit opportunities around them.

1.1.10 Life Skills for success 4

It’s difficult to survive in today’s world without a positive mindset.

Life can be tough, with all the personal and societal problems that stare us in the face everyday; unemployment, terrorism, crime, economic recession, political turmoil and too many more to mention.

Everytime you watch television, there’s always an endless stream of bad and horrible news.

It’s nigh impossible to succeed as an entrepreneur if you don’t have a positive mindset. Entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems. We see potential where others see uselessness. We are risk takers and innovators. All of these would be impossible to achieve if you don’t live on the bright side of life.

The good thing is, the ability to think positively can be learned. However, I’m still very confused why it’s not an integral part of our school curriculum. Children should be taught from a tender age how to always see their world in a positive light. If we can forge their character on the foundation of positive thinking, I’m positive our world would have fewer cases of low self-esteem, depression, suicides and crime.

As a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in Africa, I believe positive thinking holds immense benefits for the continent if more people can learn how to apply it in their daily lives. Doing business in Africa can be tough, and only the optimists can survive here.

Like I said, optimism can be learned. You just need to know the techniques that will help you adjust your perspective. Here are the top books that have had the biggest impact on my life and ability to think and stay positive:

4. Failure

1.1.10 Life Skills for success 5Don’t be surprised, failure is a life skill, and a very important one too. It is the least appreciated and most misunderstood of all life skills. However, it’s one of the biggest contributors to success. Almost every successful person in the world has learned some invaluable lessons from failure which helped them to succeed later on.

It’s impossible to be creative or original if you’re not prepared to fail. In schools, failure is demonized rather than be accepted as the ‘springboard to success’ that it really is. In the workplace, employees are penalized for failure. As a result, most people prefer to play it safe and not apply their creativity to their work.

This is very sad indeed.

It is often said that great inventors, like Thomas Edison, failed up to 1,000 times to invent the light bulb before he got it right. These great minds understand that failure is not an end, but part of a process that ultimately leads to success.

Failure is the best friend of every entrepreneur because it teaches you very important lessons. Unlike success which teaches very little, the lessons we learn from failure can save fortunes and last a lifetime.

A few months ago, I wrote a very revealing article about Failure. That article has been shared by hundreds of people and definitely hit the right nerve.

5. Decision Making

1.1.10 Life Skills for success 6In the real world, it doesn’t really matter how much you know or what you can do. The people who become successful in the real world are those who take action. It doesn’t matter how much you know, think, dream, plan or analyze, nothing will be achieved except you actually take action.

I have found that the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to overanalyze a problem or situation. Most times, this ‘over analysis’ often leads to paralysis. In spite of all the information they have, it’s difficult or impossible for them to make a decision.

This condition is often referred to as ‘the curse of knowledge’. It’s the tendency for people, despite the information at their disposal, to delay or avoid action because they are unable to make a decision.

I’ve often wondered why most MBAs don’t start their own businesses, rather they end up working for other people. After all, they’re equipped with critical business and market insights, and should succeed at their own enterprise.

In my opinion, the ability to make decisions even when you don’t have all the information you need is a distinctive skill that most successful entrepreneurs have. They are willing to take a risk and do something rather than wait until they are 100 percent certain, like most of us would.

For me, I think my background in engineering and consulting can often interfere with my decision process. I was trained to ‘think critically’ and reduce the margin of error. Sometimes, this makes it difficult for me to make decisive decisions as there’s often the temptation to procrastinate.

Effective decision making is one skill I really want to master. I’ll keep working on it until I get it right.

To be Continued…

I didn’t want this article to read for too long, so I decided to split it into two parts.

In the follow up article, I’ll share the other five most important life skills you’ll need to succeed as an entrepreneur. And yes, those too are not taught in school. I seriously wonder why not!

Want to know what the other five important life skills for entrepreneurs are? Click here to go to Part 2

What do you think about the life skills I’ve shared with you in this article?

Do you agree or disagree with any one of them?

What’s your experience with these skills in the real world?

Have your say in the Comments section below. Let’s rub minds. 🙂

It would also be a great idea to share this article with anyone you care about who will find this information valuable. You can share this article using the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ buttons below.

To your success!

Click here to go to Part 2 of this article.