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The Lesson of High School

41Everything you need to know to succeed in life you probably learned by the time you graduated high school. Do you remember your high school days? You probably couldn’t wait to graduate and begin the next chapter of your life. We were all in such a hurry. Many of us were looking forward to going to college. College, we thought, would be what real life was like. It would be a world where real talent is what counts.

Meryl Streep once told an interviewer that she thought life would be like the life she lived in college. Only it wasn’t. “Life,” Streep said, “is like high school.” Life, it turns out, is a popularity contest. The competent and likeable person will soar in life whereas the intelligent but socially inept won’t.

Real Life Doesn’t Give Written Tests

Education revolves around the test. Tests produce grades. Grades are compiled into GPAs. GPAs are part of the process to measure a person’s intelligence quotient or IQ. Not to burst your bubble, but the world’s most successful people are those that often finish in the bottom half of their class but were probably the best known and best loved.

What’s Your EI?

This begs the question, why don’t we measure what’s important? Or better yet, why don’t we teach it? Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at Yale says “we know from doing dozens of studies, that emotions can either enhance or hinder a person’s ability to learn.” Emotions impact our memory, our attention and our ability to focus. EI is Emotional Intelligence. EI is something we talk about in my broadcast sales class. Great media sales people score high in emotional intelligence skills.

We Are Controlled By Our Emotions

Whether you are in sales, a television/radio performer or running for political office, just like in high school, you will be judged by if people like you or feel good about you. The world works not by logic and reason, but on emotions and feelings. Radio and television are a people business. It is all based on relationships. Relations are all about feelings.

Academics & Success

Our educational system is built upon the premise that if a student achieves academically they will be employed, healthy and everything else in their lives will be a bowl of cherries. The reality is something quite different. Turns out academic success predicts very little about the future outcome in these metrics.

Talent Assessments

Can emotional intelligence be taught or do we all start out emotionally intelligent and have it beaten out of us by our home life, our friends – or most likely – the educational system? In my broadcast sales class, I have my students take a talent assessment. These tests give insight into how a person is wired. Unlike most tests students take, there is no pass or fail. The results give insight into a person’s emotional intelligence and make-up. These tests were developed from the research of people like Sigmund Freud. They came into widespread use during the Second World War. The goal was to quickly place people into jobs that they would naturally excel at doing. After the war ended, many companies continued to use these tests when hiring. They are another tool in the tool box for evaluating a person.

Can An Old Dog Be Taught New Tricks?

What is not known is at what ages these emotional intelligence skills can be taught and if there comes a point when the cake is baked and can no longer be changed. Few studies in this area have been conducted. Plus the deck is stacked against this area of education by people who take the “that’s not the way we’ve always done it” approach to anything new and different. At this point, it would appear these “emotional habits” get baked into a person’s personality early in life and it is a mixture of home-social-school environments.

Life Is Like High School

So maybe Meryl Streep is right. Success in high school and life is basically a question of one’s personality. Zig Ziglar put it this way, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” In a world that is wired for reciprocity, going first and showing you care is always good when it comes to building relationships.

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