I just read this article: 10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything.

I think it’s a great list. At least for my career path, I can directly attribute a great deal of my effectiveness and successes to skills on this list. Being able to communicate clearly and articulate a point or argument, verbally or in writing, is critical in almost any career path. Being able to manage your time, tasks, and staying productive is a no-brainer. I won’t go through the whole list, but it’s all pretty key skills for many situations, both business and personal.

The thing that really struck me, is that most of these skills aren’t taught. Or at least aren’t taught well before college. I never finished college, so it’s entirely possible that many colleges cover many of these skills directly at some point in a four year bachelor program, I really don’t know. But these are all things that should be taught and expanded on during elementary school and high school.

When I was in high school for half a year at Manchester by the Sea, I joined the debate team. I did some policy debate, but mostly Lincoln-Douglas debate. I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it (I probably still have a trophy somewhere to prove it). My time on the debate team did amazing things for me in terms of enhancing my ability to research, analyze data, and create a comprehensive case based on a combination of raw data and what people care about and want. And of course lots and lots of public speaking under pressure.

I can directly attribute what I learned on that team with my being able to stand out among my peers in meetings, being able to push ideas for new projects or policies through, and otherwise make a difference (work-wise). This reaps two sorts of benefits: Firstly, I was more able to change my working environment, projects, etc… to be better/faster/more interesting/more efficient/etc… than most of my coworkers. This leads to more job satisfaction and less negative stress. Secondly, in part due to the first benefit and in part due to being visible to peers and those higher up the corporate food chain as someone who can communicate clearly and is remembered, I was more easily able to have my needs met by my employers. That can take the shape of a nicer computer in the office, or a promotion, or more money, or more interesting projects, or other things.

I think a mandatory high school debate class would have infinitely more positive impact on a person’s life and career than memorizing the dates of the formation and dissolution of African countries over the last 100 years. (Now part of that is probably my dislike of how History and Social Sciences in particular are taught in most high schools).

We should be teaching people how to think for themselves, how to analyze peices of information and come to a conclusion, how to do research, how to compose their thoughts and opinions into an ordered structure, how to communicate effectively in writing and verbally, how to manage time and tasks, how to prioritize, how to manage stress, how to handle a household’s finances, how to plan ahead, how to learn, etc… Yes, we still need to teach math, and english, and history, and all that, and frankly a lot of that could be tied together.

The number of people out there who lack those skills, who get all their news from one biased source, who can’t communicate clearly, who can’t manage their time/money/stress, who can’t think through a question or problem and come up with approaches to solving it, is scary. These people are voting, managing departments, and working on teams you deal with.

Ignoring the specialties of my field, I am still shocked at how much time I spent in school focused on things that I never use (directly or indirectly), and didn’t learn the vast amount of stuff that I use every day.