10 Skills You Should Have Learned in School and How to Learn Them as an Adult

Useful resources to help you win in life

Photo by Adrian RA on Unsplash

The other day, I was driving in my hometown when I saw someone on the floor who had just had an accident. People gathered around him, everyone looking, and nobody doing anything, just waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

And that’s when it hit me: nobody there, including me, knew how to help a person in desperate need. We were a hopeless group of full-grown adults who spent dozens of years at school and university without learning the most basic life skill: staying alive.

It got me thinking: what else should we have learned but we didn’t? And how can we go about learning those skills? The list below is my answer to these questions.

Emergency Response

The most important thing you should learn, before anything else, is to stay alive: dead people don’t need to pay taxes or start companies — other skills you should have learned in school. But do you know how to provide first aid to someone in need?

You won’t apply this to yourself, but maybe to your loved ones, or even strangers. If everyone had basic first aid skills, we would all be much safer.

How to Learn It:

Some companies offer first aid response courses to their employees. If this is the case where you work, take the opportunity.

Otherwise, check with your local emergency response unit. In the United States, the American Red Cross has First Aid Training Classes that you can complete in-person, online, or in a mixed scheme. The courses happen regularly and are the prices are below $100. Anyway, what is the price of a life?


On the topic of staying alive… If you grew up in a quiet neighborhood, in a quiet country, you might never have felt the need to learn self-defense. But you never know in which situation you might find yourself.

As a woman who often travels solo, I realized that, if I were ever in a life-threatening situation, I would have no idea about what I should do. Chances are that neither would you.

How to Learn It:

Learning krav maga can be a solid starting point to your journey on the topic. This self-defense system was developed by the Israel Defense Forces to train military personnel in hand-to-hand combat. We can look at it as a martial art without the conventional ceremonies of traditional martial arts, as it focuses on efficiency and survival.

Many gyms and institutes offer krav maga classes. If it is not possible for you to attend one, you can get some basic notions online. Here is a list of some online courses for you.

Survival Skills

Hopefully, you will never need such skills. But what if you ever do? Will you learn them when you are in the middle of a forest, lost, soaked, and hungry, while the sun begins to set for the day?

You might have watched plenty of episodes of Bear Grylls’ shows and learned useful tricks with him, but a more solid knowledge would only do you good.

How to Learn It:

If you are in the UK, Bear Grylls can teach you more than what you learned on his tv shows, through his Academy. In the US, Survival School could be your go-to. Anywhere else in the world, you will probably find local courses too. Otherwise, you can always watch tutorials on Youtube, like this one. Alternatively, consider joining the Scouts


Interestingly, in the mid-20th century, cooking used to be in the curriculum of most schools, at least in my home country of Portugal. But only girls learned how to cook at school, with the goal of becoming good housewives. Times have certainly changed, but we all still need to eat — men and women alike.

Yet, many of us get out of our parents’ household without being able to do much more than cooking up some basic dishes.

How to Learn It:

The Internet is your friend. There are millions of recipes online that you can follow, step by step, to learn how to prepare nutritious, mouth-watering dishes. If you are a beginner, your creation might not look like the one in the pictures, but practice makes perfect.

Personally, I recommend videos over text on this topic. For some reason, most food bloggers tend to tell their whole life story before getting to the point and teaching you how to create a certain recipe. Also, seeing how it is actually done helps, especially if you are new to cooking.

These are some Youtube channels on cooking that I find especially useful: Tasty, You Suck at Cooking, The Stay at Home Chef.

Home and Car Maintenance

If you were lucky growing up, your parents showed you precious lessons on how to fix problems around the house or with your car.

But maybe you weren’t lucky. Or maybe you were but, as a kid, you were more interested in watching TV than in hearing the boring things your parents were trying to teach you.

It is only when you get older and start living on your own that you realize how important those lessons were. The car breaks down, the fence gets broken, the pipes need fixing…And calling a handyman to repair every little thing that gets broken in the house might take a toll on your budget.

How to Learn It:

If you are lucky enough to still have your parents and grandparents around, pay attention to the lessons they tried to teach you before. Ask them to call you whenever they will fix something, so you can watch and learn.

If you live with someone who is more skilled than you, don’t rely on them to fix everything. Whenever they work on something, watch, ask questions, learn.

Otherwise, google it. You will find tutorials for everything online.

Start a Company

Most people will never start a company in their life. But one of the reasons for that might be the way education is structured: in most schools, students are taught skills that make them employable, not employers.

Yet, entrepreneurship is on the rise. People are motivated to solve problems through their work — and that’s exactly what they should be focusing on. But many will find themselves tangled in a web of constraints to legally establish a company.

This will greatly depend on the country. Some, like Estonia, allow people to open a company online in a matter of minutes. Others still have long and troublesome procedures.

How to Learn It:

It depends on your country. If you are a digital entrepreneur, especially if you are location-independent, you might want to check Estonia’s e-residency and establish your company there. You can learn more about it here.

If you are located in the United States, this official page will help you get the answer to some critical questions.

Personal Finance

Money is one of the fundamental pillars where modern societies are built, and yet so little financial education is taught at schools. Most of us sacrifice 40 hours of our freedom every week, just to get a paycheck at the end of the month. Wouldn’t it be logical that we all knew exactly how and where to spend our precious funds?

Saving, investing, financial protection, or retirement planning are just some of the basic notions every person should have.

How to Learn It:

Even though traditional education overlooks this topic, it is immensely explored in books and articles.

Start by reading some of the best books written on personal finance, such as:

  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
  • Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? by Cary Siegel

These will give you a solid foundation and an advantage when compared to most people. If you want to step up your game, keep your information updated. Read articles online about current trends and specific topics.

Here are some of the best websites to follow to stay informed on personal finance:


Related to the previous topic, but worth a mention on its own.

“Taxes make the ignorant poor and the knowledgeable rich”— Edgar Faure

Especially if your working situation is anything other than being employed by a company, having some knowledge of finances is something that can save you thousands of dollars over your life.

How to Learn It:

“My father was fond of saying you need three things in life — a good doctor, a forgiving priest, and a clever accountant.”— Schindler’s List (1993)

A “clever accountant” can make a world of difference in your personal finance. Even if you don’t want to pay one on a recurring basis, it’s worth it to hire their services for a while and learn from them. From then on, you’ll be better equipped to handle taxes on your own — granted you work for others. If you have your own company, a good accountant always pays for himself.

Communication and Sales

They might seem like two different skills but they are closely connected. Everything in life is a negotiation and the only thing standing in the way from where you are to where you want to be is a few people you need to convince. And how do you convince them? With great communication skills.

Communication is also the most valuable skill in your personal life and interaction with others. Imagine all the relationships that wouldn’t have ended if people knew how to communicate properly. All the achievements people could have reached if they made themselves understood and got their point across. Communication is so easy and yet very few people truly master it.

How to Learn It:

Some people seem to be naturals when it comes to communicating effectively. But holding on to the idea that you weren’t given this gift from birth is only going to set you back. Communication can be learned.

Start with some of the best books written about this:

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Words That Work by Dr. Franz Luntz
  • Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

And then put into practice what you learned. You get better at communicating by practicing it. And once you start being aware of the theory you will find countless ways to apply it to your daily life.


Meditation is not even a practical skill, you could argue. Wrong. Meditation is one of the most useful skills anyone can have.

The good news is that it is already being taught at some schools. And the benefits are clear. Studies show that “students who were taught meditation at school reported higher optimism, more positive emotions, stronger self-identity, greater self-acceptance and took better care of their health as well as experiencing reduced anxiety, stress, and depression”.

What is more important than your mental health to be able to live life on your own terms?

How to Learn It:

There is not much to learn when it comes to meditation, you learn by practicing. The only thing you need is to be consistent and hold yourself accountable, making sure you show up day after day.

If you prefer to do it with others, on this website you can find retreats all over the world.


If you keep an open mind and a humble heart, you will soon see the truth in Socrates’ famous words, “I know that I know nothing”. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you still don’t know.

Therefore, this is a dynamic list. It is also highly dependent on your own life and circumstances. Maybe you already have some of this knowledge and skills.

Either way, the way to go about this list is slowly, one skill at a time. You should have learned all this in school, years ago, a few more months of delay won’t make a difference. And that’s a lesson most of us learned in school, with the fable of the turtle and the hare:

“Slow and steady wins the race.”— Aesop

Categories Articles, Lifestyle

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