Can anyone recall what Pythagoras’ Theorem actually is?
It’s a thought that bizarrely crosses my mind from time to time.
The name has stuck, but the actual maths has slipped deep into the recesses of my mind. Filed in the box Things You Learnt At School You’ll Probably Never Need.
And whilst there’s plenty in that box, I’ve discovered from running my business that some school-day lessons have stuck, and come in quite useful.
Lesson number one: You sometimes have to do things you don’t want to.
It’s a tough lesson to learn, and one that got drilled into me with endless homework and compulsory latin lessons through to GCSE. I did not want to know "Caecilius est in horto" (Caecilius is in the garden) but I had to learn it.
In business, you usually have to do things you don’t want to. Especially in the early days.
I didn’t want to call up prospective clients. But it landed me my billable work.
I didn’t want to do paperwork and accounting. But it kept me profitable.
I didn’t want to network a lot. But it is what built my business.
Talking of networking… I think one of the most valuable things I learnt at school was lesson number two: how to network. My 14-year-old self would dismiss chatting to her mates in the form room at lunch as anything other than hanging out. Looking back though, it’s where I learnt to listen, converse, sell myself and most importantly persuade.
Come to think of it, this also taught me lesson number three: resilience.
Another great skill that has helped me enormously in business. When I struggled to net my next client but belligerently kept on going, it was the resilience at play. Resilience I learnt from navigating the friendship dramas of high school.
Going to an all-girls school was a particularly ripe training ground. Arguments and fallings-outs were a weekly occurrence.
Making up may have started a "Hey, u there?" on MSN Messenger, but it taught me a certain kind of confidence in the face of adversity.
Lesson number four: I learnt how to pitch at school.
Yep, I learnt the wonderful business skill of pitching whilst persuading my teacher "This house believes that political correctness has gone mad" during debate society.
When debating, I had to develop structured arguments, not just claims. When pitching for work in my business, I have to prove why I’m the best choice.
When debating I had to anticipate the opposition. When pitching in business, I needed to know how to overcome likely objections and have an answer for them all.
When debating, I had to answer unexpected questions on the spot. When pitching, you rarely get through it without answering at least one tough question.
Finally, lesson number five: if you put in the hours, it’ll pay off. I didn’t want to do my homework and often left it to the last possible minute. But when I actually researched and studied, I performed best. Same goes for business. If you graft and put in the hours, it will (eventually) pay off. It’s probably the simplest lesson of all, but the one that will pay the most dividends. Just keep going and you’ll get there in the end.
Jen Smith is our resident email blogger. Sign up to our fortnightly newsletter to get more updates like this.
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