Listening to Naval Ravikant on The Tim Ferris Show podcast, I couldn't help but wonder what would be my own response to the question of what should be taught in school today, instead of what's currently being taught.
This is the context - a question asked by a listener and Naval's response:
Resputin89 says, “In the first episode Naval talked about a few topics that should be taught in school rather than learning the capital of Montana. He brought up topics like teaching what he knows worked for him, happiness, nutrition, et cetera. Can you elaborate on some of these, particularly happiness?”
Naval: Yeah, if I’m running a grade school curriculum for children, I would probably optimize happiness, nutrition, diet, exercise, “How do you build good habits?” “How do you break bad habits?” “How do you have good relationships?” “How do you find your spouse?” Meditation, “How do you build basic skills, not memorize lots of facts?”......If I step back for a second and answer the question properly, the most important trick to be happy is to realize that happiness is a skill that you develop and a choice that you make. You choose to be happy, and then you work at it. It’s just like building muscles. It’s just like losing weight. It’s just like succeeding at your job. It’s just like learning calculus. You decide it’s important to you.
So, knowing what I know about the world, and after years of work, what do I think should be taught in school now? What kind of skills would I have preferred to have learn back when I was in school decades ago, in order to prepare myself for the world of work that is today?
- Happiness - inspired by Naval. What an a-ha moment to realize it is a skill I can learn and get better at!
- Luck - reading How Luck Happens brought another a-ha moment that luck is part skill too. We can make our own luck and get better at it.
- Habit formation - imagine if you know how to develop any good habit you want, or break any bad habit you have. No success would elude you.
- Learning how to learn - this is probably a base meta-skill that ranks above all the other skills here. If I knew how to learn anything, be it physical or intellectual, then I can learn the skills listed here easily, or adapt to any new field that the rapidly changing world needs me to in my career.
- Health, fitness & diet - health is wealth. This is severely under-rated in our current education system. Knowing how to be healthy through exercise and diet means we know how to counter the modern ills of fast food and sedentary lifestyle.
- Creativity - creativity is not a talent we are born with, or without. Everyone has creative capacities, we just get educated out of it. This is one skill that's key in differentiating yourself in the sea of sameness in the field of work.
- Consciousness, mindfulness - this is another meta-skill that's foundational to learning other skills. Knowing how your mind works for and against you is critical to using it to its full potential. Without self-awareness, it's hard to change habits, know your strengths/weaknesses, concentrate for doing deep work, or regulate your mental/emotional wellbeing.
- Persuasion/facilitation - speaking/writing, and convening conversations to convince others to do something is an age-old leverage, but nonetheless important.
- Mythology, ancient culture & wisdom - this is a bit left field but I always felt that there's a lot to learn from mythology and the various ancient wisdom lineages. Recently I heard that myths are really just memories and lessons from the past, encoded as stories because storytelling is how our culture gets passed down. It would be awesome to do field trips to ancient sites and learn about myths around a campfire, just as it had been done through the ages.
- Wilderness survival, hunting-gathering - again left field, but I like that I can just walk away from civilization and survive in the wild. And it's not about being doomsday preppers or anything. Any major natural catastrophe can disable your city/country for weeks to months. With climate change, it's just when, not if.
Notice that the conventional fields like sciences, math, humanities, the arts aren't included in my list. Not that they are not important. Perhaps there can be an education system that teaches these foundational skills before moving on to specialising in specific subjects. Or perhaps these subjects can form the context from which to learn the skills listed above, where for example, I can be studying psychology but the outcome is to learn how to build good habits instead of building good grades or paper credentials. Or learning to draw and paint in art class not just to draw and paint but to learn about how to be creative in other fields too.
In fact, if there's a school for adults that teach all these, I'm in!