June 10, 2022

What I wish I learned at school - Fernando Bordallo

Fernando Bordallo
What I wish I learned at school - Fernando Bordallo

Have you ever heard someone say “If only I had known … but you are going to be better off! Learn from my mistakes!”? 🤪 Well, I have. I recall my grandparents saying it, my parents, some teachers, a random person I crossed paths with one day, and more recently I start to hear myself too. There is a saying in Spain that goes, “the devil knows more for being old than for being the devil”, nicely aligned with wisdom coming from experience. Let me share with you something I really really wish someone had shared with me when I was in my teens instead of in my thirties 😄

For context, let me share that I was a fairly standard student during my school and university years. I was entertained by some subjects, in my case sports, science, and math, and managed for better or for worse the languages, history, geography and such. I was never a particularly good writer, nor a good reader. I was pretty slow at the latter actually, which made reading any text a real bore, be it for leisure or study. This was true all the way through my academic years and it was only when I started working that I was taught some game-changing techniques.

If I were to go back to school next year and could pick a couple of extra topics to be taught they would be:

  • 🗣 communication tricks
  • how to communicate ideas
  • how to give and request feedback
  • 📚 speed reading, memory, and study techniques
  • learning to scan texts and build mind maps
  • what makes the brain tick and remember things

🗣 Communication - Tips & Tricks

There are a couple of truths that you won’t be able to escape, no matter what field your end up working in:

  • You are going to work and collaborate with other humans
  • Good human communication is one of the biggest sources of joy and wonder
  • Bad human communication is one of the biggest sources of pain and frustration

100% Inescapable truths! So acknowledge them and use that to your advantage. Ready yourself to interact with others and to take the time needed to listen to others and get your ideas across. Now, we could go very deep into this topic, discussing how to handle differences such as cultural backgrounds or mother-tongues. To avoid the rabbit hole, and keep it short and sweet, I’ll share with you tricks for two common scenarios you’ll find yourself facing in life, both personal and professional. You can continue digging from there.

💡 Sharing an idea

All-time classic moment, when you suddenly say to yourself “Aha!” and the next thing you want to do is share what just came to you with someone 😃. Here is a quick tip to avoid others frowning early in your sharing recital. Consider first talking about what problem you’ve been thinking about and why it’s important for you to solve it. Ease into the idea that you are building by sharing the context and the story that builds up to it, helping others to stand in your shoes.

One of my mentors used to always say, “Ok … but what problem are we trying to solve here?”. It’s a great reminder for you to ground yourself and those that you are working with (or want to convince to work with you) and focus on what is really at hand.

💪 Feedback - Two-way road

Every time you do something or feel in a particular way after someone has done something, there is an opportunity for candid feedback sharing. The first thing I want to get out there is that giving feedback is not something negative 🙂, quite the opposite. Feedback is a gift. If someone has done something awesome, tell them! You’d like it if you were in their shoes, right? It will reinforce the good actions others do and make it more pleasant to do them again. If someone has made a mistake, tell them! Be candid and empathetic about it and help them better understand the impact of their actions for them to reflect and grow. It really is a gift.

Here are my simple tips that I wish I had been taught many years ago and had practiced along the way:

  • ❓ Ask for feedback after doing something. It can be anything really. A show, an essay, reading out loud, playing with your cousins, cooking, … you name it.
  • 🎁 When you receive feedback, listen and just say “Thank you”. Resist any urge to defend yourself. Remember you’ve just been granted a gift
  • 👥 When someone can benefit from understanding how their actions have impacted you, for good or ill, let them know by framing your feedback in an SBI statement. (you can find examples by Googling “SBI feedback examples”)
  • S = Situation → Be objective. Just state the facts of what the context was.
  • B = Behavior → Again, be objective. Simply describe the actions the other person has done.
  • I = Impact → Here focus on how you have felt and been impacted by the other person’s actions.

⚡️ Speed reading and memory training

Here are another couple of inescapable truths:

  • You are going to be reading for the rest of your life. Some of you have HEAPS of reading ahead of you!
  • The sharper your memory is the better. You’ll have to go back on things much less

So, train yourself! And start today! It’s very achievable for anyone who puts their mind to it and with the correct tools and support, it can be heaps of fun. But what’s really fun is the results. Consider improving your reading skills with the following numbers in mind: An average student will spend ~200 hours reading each year when attending university. Now increase that same student’s reading speed by 3x and they’ll be able to read the content of 3 years worth of studies within the same time! And if they increase their memorizing abilities, well … 🥳!

My personal experience had me spending nearly 3 hours of every working day reading content. Articles, internal blogs, tutorials, study books, … Cutting that down by nearly 3x with 2 months of 15-minute daily practice was a real game-changer, giving me back more than a full day of work 🚀.

🏋️‍♂️ References

There is little gain in knowing these things if you don’t put them into practice. To help you, here are two of the best resources I’ve enjoyed and grown with during my adult years and that I wish I had been given when I was younger:

  • $67 will get you 5 user accounts for a whole year. Peanuts for what you get in return if you ask me
  • The Idea Shapers - Brilliant book that teaches you how to brainstorm, facilitate group thinking, and structure your ideas

I had a blast with these, hope you do too!

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