Personal Development

Why didn’t they teach us this sh*t at school?

I’ve just finished the most extraordinary book. It’s called The Game, by Neil Strauss, a shy and slightly introverted writer who goes from being an “AFC” (Average Frustrated Chump), the typical guy who’s terrified of meeting women, to the world’s most celebrated and successful “PUA” (pick up artist).

One of his editors asks him if he knows anything about the underground world of the art of seduction, and he decides that the best way to write about it is to learn it.

He immerses himself in the wisdom and teachings of every guru, guide and organised group he can find, soaks up all their teachings like a sponge and, by a third of the way into the book, he’s walking up to any group of girls anywhere (club, mall, restaruant) and coming out with the sexiest one’s phone number, or company, every time.

What’s more he tells you exactly how to do it. Damn, why didn’t anyone teach me that when I was 18?

But that isn’t what I wish they’d taught me at school. What I wish they’d taught me at school was how to get anywhere with anything. How to achieve stuff. How to be even mildly successful at getting where I wanted.

What I mean is this. We all have moments of great success in our life, where we set our mind to something, and we do achieve it. Normally, we don’t have a clue how this actually happens, we are just really proud to have got where we hoped to.

After thinking about it a lot though, I think what really happens is this:

Having a Goal + Educating Ourselves + Taking Action = Success!

I’ve experienced this phenomenon twice in the last 10 years, but only understood it the second, most recent time round. If only they’d taught me this stuff at school.

Goal + Education + Taking Action = Success

Breaking it down, it looks like this:

Goal: If you want to get anywhere, you have to know where it is you want to go.

You have to have goals, be they financial, personal, work, relationship, or health-related.

Examples might be: I want to be a great dad, I want to pay off my mortgage by such and such a date, I want to become a pick up artist… if you don’t set the goal, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know why you are doing any of this ‘stuff’ we do every day.

And just doing this everyday living/working stuff without knowing why eventually gets disconcerting.

Education: Once you know what your goal is you have to immerse yourself in material that will teach you how to get there. You have to find (out about) successful people who have got where you want to be and see how they did it. (This is also known as ‘modeling’).

Essentially, you have to find your way to the very best information.

I think an awful lot about this part of the equation. It fascinates me. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best skill one can develop, is knowing how to hone in on the right sources to learn the best possible information about a given subject.

It’s not about using google, it’s about knowing HOW to use google best. It’s not about asking on a forum, it’s about knowing which forum to ask on. It’s not about reading books, but knowing which books to read.

It’s about learning who, what, when and where to best ask about what you want to know.

How do you develop this skill? I think it’s all about the immersion. If you immerse yourself in enough sources it’s easy to see how they match up to each other, to set up a comparative scale that evenutally leads you upwards to the very very best sources.

The more you study and analyse, the quicker you develop a sense of which sources are ringing the right bells.

Read only one book and you never know whether it’s the right one or not. Read five (after making sure they are the best five to read through an exhaustive reading of Amazon book reviews) and you’re going to know which 2 or 3 of those five have really got the good stuff in.

So the more you learn about a subject, and the more you investigate, the closer you get to the best information. And once you immerse yourself in the best information, there’s only one thing left to do:

Take action. So you’ve got your goal, you’ve immersed yourself in the best information and opinion you can find that relates to it… what do you do next? One of 3 things.

a) You Do Nothing. Which means no goals reached.

b) You do a bit. Goals might get sort of reached. Probably not.

c) You Do Everything. Which means surprising yourself by reaching the goal, surprisingly successfully, sooner than you imagined. When I say ‘everything’, I mean that everything you learn in the ‘Education’ phase, you put into practice, (ideally massively and repeatedly).

Conclusion: you decide what you want to do, teach yourself everything you possibly can about it, and then relentlessly do something about it, until you succeed at it.


They taught me geography, history, maths and religion. They turned me into a walking talking pretty-average-score-in-a-pub-quiz, (and I really am grateful for all that knowledge) but they never told me how to get stuff done.

When I decided to come to Spain I basically followed the Goal + Education + Taking Action = Success! equation above, and it paid off. But I had no idea what I was doing.

So after my first wonderful year in Madrid, I found myself in a three year period where I slumped in a shitty teaching job that drove me mad and provided me with absolutley no fulfillment, and I had no idea at all what to do about it.

Even though I’d managed to apply this magic formula already to change a life I was unhappy with in London for a much better one in Spain, when I got lost again, I had no idea what to do. I became depressed, difficult, obsessive compulsive and a total hypercondriac. No goals. No idea what to do.

This was between years three and six in Spain. Not long ago. Then I discovered the internet and became obsessed with that. I set one goal after another: get myself out of teaching… get myself out of translating… get my wife out of her shitty 9-5 office job and her 90 minutes of commuting…. meanwhile obsessivly learning and applying.

Learning about how to write webpages, then writing them (and learning about uploading them and finding hosting for them). Learning how to make podcasts, then podcasting (which meant learning how to plan, record and edit audio). Learning about ecommerce websites, then setting up and customizing one…

But I still didn’t really understand why it was all working. I only worked that out recently when I decided that if we had set up a limited company, we better learn everything possible about running one.

And I found that these business gurus are always banging on about having goals and ‘taking massive action’ and I thought, hey, I did that! And so I came to work out this magic formula.

And now I know it, things are so much clearer.

I’ve spent the last three months enrolled in a fascinating Masters degree in running a business. It’s a Masters degree entirely of my own making.

I don’t think there’s a university or college on earth that could give me a better course right now than the one I’m constantly devising and refining for myself. I work out which sources I trust, and exactly what it is I want to learn, or who I want to learn from, next. It’s certainly a lot more fun that my philosophy degree was.

And as often as I can I put what I learn into practice, and so far the results have been remarkable. I’ve set some pretty lofty goals and I think I’m going to meet them, without killing myself or exploiting anyone in the process. (Hopefully it’s going to involve helping a LOT more people learn Spanish).

So here it is for the umpteenth and final time:

Having a Goal + Educating Ourselves + Taking Action = Reaching Those Goals

Did they teach us that at school? Maybe I just didn’t care then, or wasn’t listening.

Back to Pick Up Artists. Neil Strauss became fascinated by pick up artists. He knew he wanted to be one, to experience the success with women they enjoyed. So he nearly drowned himself in their world, in their beleifs, their knowledge, and their way of doing things.

He tirelessly tested and put into practice everything he learned from them, and he became the best Pick Up Artist in the world. Read the book, the guy is astonishing. Just your average-looking, short, shy guy, who set his mind to something, is good at learning, and took plenty of action. Do read the book. It’s fascinating.

Further Reading: That Tingling Sensation…