It’s funny to think about what kind of things you learned in school that you actually use later in life.

Of course, all teachers have an incentive to say, “every single lesson is important.” After all, they’re competing with other teachers (not to mention countless other distractions) for student time and attention. What’s the advantage in saying, “the following is in no way useful. Please ignore me as I waste my precious breath”?

But it’s learning to weed out all the bullshit that can put someone on the path to being a successful adult.

My sister and I were just talking about an old English teacher spotted on Facebook. That hag made us write a one page journal entry every night. Blah blah blah about our hopes and dreams…then she would read and grade them. My sister and I were notorious for never completing the journal assignment.

Aside: for those of you without the pleasure of an older sibling, you must fully understand that your brother or sister has the incredible power to set up expectations of you. Like… my big sister’s actual performance = my potential performance + e. If my sister set a good example years prior, I could basically take a dump and hand it in as an assignment. But…she also burned some bridges (Thanks a million, Sis). Some teachers acted as though they had been seriously wronged ...and torturing me would somehow even out the universe.

Needless to say…that old English teacher managed to call all of my bluffs and accepted none of my excuses.

But I still didn’t write that stupid, sucky-ass journal.

Why? Because that, my friends, is a bullshit assignment.

Prioritizing and identifying the bullshit is such an important life lesson. If I had the task of writing a journal in my current job…I’d delegate that shit out to an admin assistant, or a grad student…

“I want a detailed summary of my hopes and dreams on my desk by 5. And can we get it without passive voice this time?!”

Every teacher I knew swore up and down that I’d NEED my knowledge of trigonometry…or proper paper mache and diorama making…or a perfect translation of Don Quixote.

…and they were totally right about the dioramas.

What I really meant to write in this post was something that I was TAUGHT…IN SCHOOL… that has proven so useful in my life.

And it’s simply about professionalism. Now, perhaps the Illini bobblehead on my desk doesn’t scream “PROFESSIONAL!” …And that time that I sent my potential new boss a picture of a flying monkey as a follow-up to a job interview? …maybe not the most mature thing to do (but I got an offer…so take that, social norms).

Professionalism for me is more about courtesy and respect.

Quickly follow-up with people. Learn their names. Be sure to thank them when they help (even when you don’t think a thank you is needed). Address them formally until they give you an indication to do otherwise.

And you’re going to run across people who take it a step too far. You’ll find people who demand way more respect than you think they deserve…

…and while you’d love to politely suggest that they take professional development classes in “getting over themselves…”


Little sprinkles of tact can make your life so much easier.

These things alone can set you apart. Isn't that insane!? Imagine if you have half a brain and an ounce of motivation to add to that package.

Thank you, University of Illinois College of Business. Teaching those simple lessons over and over again is the best money that was ever spent on my education.


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