Here’s a quick list of subjects I wish I’d understood would be useful to me in my adult life:
If you are helping your kids decide what matters to their education, please consider the following. If YOU are wondering how else to grow your capabilities, take a look for you.
The #1 thing I learned from Freakonomics by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner is that motivations matter. Incentives matter. The idea is simple: people do what they are incented to do. Why do you pay taxes? So you won’t go to jail. In the US at least, the government attempts to “sweeten” your incentives to get married, buy a house, have kids. They do this by setting up taxes such that any of those details give you back more of the money you earn in a year to do with what you want.
Calculus and Geometry
I wish someone had done a better job in school explaining that math in general wasn’t just numbers, equations, etc. I wish they’d helped me understand that it was notation, a method for communicating, a toolbox to help people better understand the world around us. Boy, of all subjects, math is probably the area where so few teachers and parents impart the REAL value, and the real understanding of what it’s going to do for you. I was bad at math. But I could’ve tried harder, had I understood how often I’d use it.
Isn’t this obvious?
I wish I’d had more training in this. Anthropology, too. After reading Tom Kelley’s The Ten Faces of Innovation, I realized that there were many more dimensions to what I do, and what I like to do, and these disciplines would’ve helped.
This would have given me some vocabulary that I could use. I think it’d help me understand the nature of cities, as well as the nature of design. I don’t know that I’d want to become a draftsperson or anything, but a general understanding would be useful.
Journalism & Law
These disciplines allow skills for communication, an understanding of how to collect information, process it, and perform analysis and response. Logic, especially practical logic, comes from this (as well as math).
So What Now?
The basic premise here is that it would’ve been easier to have taken courses and learning around the topics above while I was still attending grade school and high school. Obviously, I can still learn more about those topics, but with kids and a full time job, and all the other things I’m doing, it’s a bit hackneyed to learn in a fully-engaged way. Here’s what I’m doing in the interim.
I’m reading popular nonfiction books based on the topics I mentioned. I already cited Freakonomics. I have some books on finances and accounting (nothing that’s a favorite). I’m learning a bit about science through learning about Isaac Newton. Currently, I’m learning about graph theory through a book called Linked, by Gilbert-Laszlo Barabasi.
I’m studying via online resources. Check out my links on that here:
And I’m engaging folks who are well-versed in the things I wish I knew, and I’m asking them for advice, tutorials, and understanding of some of the basic topics that hung me up in the first place.
I think lifelong learning is a REQUIREMENT for all knowledge workers. What are YOU doing to stay engaged? What topics do you wish you’d learned that I missed? How are you finding your way through it?