School Teaches Us How To Be Employees Not Entrepreneurs

In school we learn all about maths but nothing about money. We can read and write but we reach adulthood financially illiterate. How is that? Because our outdated school system teaches us how to be employees not entrepreneurs.

Then we’re let loose to do whatever we like with our money without a clue how to effectively use it. We’re even let loose to do whatever we like with money we do not have in the form of debt. As a naive 18 year-old, I didn’t know when I started university and was offered an overdraft as a ‘bonus’ with my student bank account. And it took me until I was in my mid-thirties to learn not to rely on an overdraft to get through the month until my next pay cheque – the ‘buffer’ I’d constantly been told ‘everybody had’.

As children, our financial education comes from our parents who, in most cases, are themselves financially illiterate (sorry, Mum and Dad – it’s not a criticism), who were themselves raised by parents even less likely to have had a financial education. Like me and most of my friends, they had to figure it out and there were many lessons learned along the way. 

School Teaches Us How To Be Employees Not Entrepreneurs

I can’t speak for the whole of my generation, but in our social circle, money is a very private topic. And when it is discussed it’s only at a very superficial level. Conversations about money with friends and family rarely go beyond how expensive the next iPhone is or comments about the general economic situation. There would be less tumbleweed if we talked about our past sexual encounters with ex-boyfriends and -girlfriends.

Personal finance does not have to be a complex topic

It’s my belief that it should be a core part of the school curriculum. Which would go a long way in creating some financial literacy. It would have certainly helped me.

We don’t have kids (we have a fur child), but if we did I know I would get angry with the school system and curriculum A LOT and very likely end up home schooling. The system is one of the reasons I have chosen not to be a (human) parent.

There Are Many Other Income Streams Beyond The 9 To 5 

In my 30s, I occasionally met people who had done very well for themselves by running their own businesses. But their leg up for their start up must have been with the financial backing of an inheritance or rich parents, right?

Then came the rise of crowdfunding and seedfunding a decade ago – ahead of the curve but more about start ups as the way forward for entrepreneurs. But to me, this still meant somebody else having a stake in your business and the huge accountability that comes with that. And which never (and still doesn’t) sit right with me. Because there is another way.

The only other possibility in my mind was the ‘big money idea’

I spent a lot of time soul-searching in my late twenties, scouring the internet for online opportunities. Racking my brains for the next big business idea (and trying to do it with a dial up modem). But the big money idea I thought I needed never came and I resigned myself to the 9 to 5 and employeehood. Because school teaches us how to be employees not entrepreneurs.

Not that I’m in any way belittling the importance of a formal education. Particularly when this is critical in certain professions, this is obviously crucial. And I would not want to be operated on by a surgeon who has taught himself by reading WebMD and asking questions on Quora. 

The point I’m making is that kids should be taught that there are unlimited possibilities to earn a living. Had this been the case for me, I would have made a stab at the writing career I still hanker after right off the bat. I wouldn’t have let the debt I was saddled with on leaving university stop me, hell I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have the debt in the first place had I been financially educated.

But while all of this was happening, a book was in the planning. And when it was published back in the noughties, it shattered the illusory and flawed concept of working for decades until you can finally do the things you want to do with your life as you’ll have the time and freedom. Tim coined this the deferred life plan (retirement to you and me). In fact, Tim Ferriss blew the traditional concept of retirement out of the water. But now more than ever in the digital age, it’s relevant. Arguably more relevant than when it was first published. 

The Four-Hour Work Week

When I first read this book, my first thought was that this man had opened up my brain and read my thoughts. The way I’d always wanted to live my life but either didn’t exist or wasn’t ‘realistic’ for somebody ‘like me’. And hey, I’m not narcissistic enough to make it all about me – there are millions of us out there on the same wavelength, I just hadn’t found my tribe (except in my like-minded husband, that is). 

My next thought was, I wish I’d read The 4-Hour Work Week 10 years ago. But then again would I have been ready, willing and able to put it into action? I’ll never know although my guess is, probably not. And that the reason I’m reading it now is down to timing and opportunity. The opportunity to take action and in a digital economy that was in its infancy back then. 

Should have, would have, could have.

The Best Investment You Can Ever Make Is In Yourself

For a long time (decades, in fact), I assumed that successful entrepreneurs and other wealthy people like money so they can afford to buy luxury items and big houses. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

We are conditioned by society to think that the sole purpose of money is to pay for:

  • what we need, i.e. a roof over our heads and food on the table
  • what we want, e.g. a holiday in the Seychelles and a BMW 5 Series

The basic message being that if we’re poor we should focus on using the money to pay for what we really need. And if we’re wealthy, we afford to splash out on extravagant experiences or possessions. 

Because our outdated school system teaches us how to be employees not entrepreneurs. Ironically however, successful entrepreneurs spend money on improving themselves. Wealthy people hire life coaches, business coaches and mentors more experienced than themselves. They pay consultants to iron out their weak spots and they read inspirational books to broaden their minds. I even know of wealthy entrepreneurs who’ve hired love coaches. Because they recognise that the best investment you can ever make is in yourself

Trade Your Time For Freedom Not Money

When your net worth reaches a certain level, you don’t have to stand in line at the bank. If your car won’t start, the garage will send somebody over to collect it from your home. You pay somebody to clean the dirty kitchen and scrub the toilet(s) and clean the swimming pool. (Feel free to insert whatever other cliches you like here).

Such privileges might seem ostentatious to most at first sight and I’m not making this point to demean the people they pay to carry out these tasks for them. But are you seriously saying that you’d carry on scrubbing the toilet if you no longer had to?

They haven’t (in most cases) outsourced these tasks because they’re now beneath them, but because they can. Because outsourcing is one of the activities that got them to where they are today. Focussing on their strengths instead of trying to eliminate their weaknesses. 

But that aside, the truth is that wealthy entrepreneurs recognise that it goes beyond the very obvious advantage of saving time. This mindset also frees up your headspace, so that you can focus on activities that you care more about and enjoy doing. Or that you’re just better at. And that to me is the ultimate definition of financial freedom because it paves the way for time freedom. 

In other words, you work smarter not harder. Imagine if our schools taught the next generation that money can be used to save time so that you can work smarter and live freer? We’re at our most fearless and creative in childhood. Before society and the system has knocked it out of most of us and we start to ascend the career ladder. Because our outdated system means that school teaches us how to be employees not entrepreneurs.

The Correlation Between Our Emotions And Money

As adults, we know that our emotions and our relationship with money are heavily intertwined. And the way we feel can affect our financial  decisions. On the other hand, changes in our financial situation will affect our emotions.

We also make purchases based on emotions. I’ve lost count of the detritus I’ve bought online at the end of a shitty day to feel better about myself (it doesn’t work, by the way). And I did occasionally browse online shops out of sheer boredom when I worked 9 to 5 in an office.

But in terms of emotional responses amongst the general population, the best recent example has to be what happened earlier this month. The stock markets surged after Pfizer announced a breakthrough with the Covid vaccine. At one point in early trading in the UK, the index jumped 5.5% which increased the valuations of Britain’s largest companies by £84bn. By close of trading, the FTSE was up 4.67%, an increase of 276 points and a rise in stock valuation of £70bn.

In 2010, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio conducted research into the part of the brain that creates emotions (the amygdala). The patients with brain damage he recruited for the study could function normally in their daily lives in all but one area – the decision-making process. They could provide logical pros and cons for each option but were simply unable to choose one.

A 2019 study further supported the amygdala’s role in complex decision-making. In the more recent study, the neuroscientists’ findings reveal that the amygdala and ventral striatum, two interconnected areas of the brain, are important in determining when we should seek new opportunities to achieve a brighter future.

Unrefuted scientific proof that we are driven by our emotions to make decisions, surely? 

Wouldn’t it be amazing to instill such awareness in school-age children the influence of our emotions in money-related decisions? Imagine the kind of adults they would become? Instead of conditioning them to believe that money is for buying the toys that make them happy. Because our outdated school system teaches us how to be employees not entrepreneurs.

As Robert Kiyosaki states in Rich Dad Poor Dad

“the school system and what it teaches supports graduates moving into jobs versus life as an entrepreneur. It trains them for specific roles as specialists versus generalists, who will work for someone else’s business”. 

It’s no coincidence that in the digital age there are so many teenage entrepreneurs. And so many millennials are shunning the 9 to 5, or swapping working life in a stifling office for remote working from the beach. Or are they just fatalistic and don’t believe they can rely on the security of 9 to 5/future/pension/job for life? 

But whatever the reasons, the next generation are always going to be (seen to be) more intrepid than the last, right? In an ideal world, children would be taught holistically for life, not just the job market. But they aren’t. So despite what children are currently taught in school, as a society we just need to learn to meet them where they’re at.

And I’m confident that things will change. But what about us adults? What about our financial futures? Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that if you think like the masses, you will earn like the masses. 

But there’s also no getting away from the fact that the pandemic and resultant recession has changed the landscape. Forever in many cases. It  will force millions of people around the world to reinvent themselves and be more creative in their income-producing choices.

Today More Than Ever There Are So Many Ways To Earn Money

At one end of the spectrum is a full-time career and at the other, entrepreneurship. But most of us still stick with the career/wrongly-perceived ‘safe’ option, because we aren’t aware of the other possibilities. That’s because our outdated school system teaches us how to be employees not entrepreneurs

But guess what? The digital revolution has changed everything and it’s our mission to wake people up to that fact. When you leverage the power of digital marketing, you don’t need an office, a product or capital to start an online business and change your life path.

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich is a famous book written by Leo Tolstoy. On his deathbed, Ivan asks “what if my whole life has been wrong?”

 There are so many questions within that one simple question. But for me, what he’s actually asking is “did I follow my passion and fulfill my purpose in life?”

If you can’t answer that question for yourself, isn’t it time you got started?

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