6 things to study for the well-rounded mind


What are the best subjects to learn for business – and life – success? If anyone sat down to identify the perfect secondary (and maybe college) education, I doubt they would come up with today’s average American curriculum. While there are plenty of courses in basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics, and so on) many other just as critical basic skills are overlooked (personal finance, homemaking, health/physical education). What are some of the critical components missing from our national curriculum?

From my own personal experience, I can suggest a few, but there are probably many more you can think of easily. I could also bash a few courses I took, but an argument can always be made for “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” I believe that sincerely. I have never, for example, “used” A Tale of Two Cities in my day-to-day life, but I’m glad I was forced to read it, stuck with it and finished it. Experiences like that created a love of reading for me. Other subjects I guess can be chalked up to “generally good to know although not terribly useful.” For me this included subjects like biology and mythology (one semester of “English” was actually spent studying mythology, which apparently means “Greek mythology” since we didn’t study anything else (not even the excellent D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths). While those subjects were sometimes interesting, I didn’t learn much from either except that I don’t like biology and that you shouldn’t steal fire from the gods.

Here are a few subjects that are very useful, and why:

1. Typing. Out of all of the courses I’ve taken in my life, this one has made the most profound difference in my daily life. I took a typing course in high school, back when it meant learning to pound out “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 500 times on a MANUAL typewriter. However, the experience taught me how to type, and very, very well, which means I can blaze away typing even while carrying on a conversation or reading something else. I doubt I have to explain to anyone who uses a computer why lightning-fast typing speed is useful.

2. Speech. I took a public speaking class that changed my life. Before that class, like everyone, I was nervous about speaking. After it, I was still nervous, but I learned that it was a temporary nervousness and that anything was possible. We had to give speeches to groups, recite monologues, debate, take questions and almost any type of “speaking in front of a crowd” activity you can think of. To this day I am relaxed and confident speaking to any group; I have addressed 2000 people or 10 board directors or 1 interviewer with equal calm.

3. Personal finance. I didn’t ever take a personal finance course, and I wish I had. Everything I learned about finance before college came from my parents, my grandparents about money, part 1 | brip blap or my own reading. A course that taught me things they weren’t as familiar with or not as proficient with – real estate dealings come to mind – would have been a great learning experience for me. That having been said, I’m sure personal finance would use textbooks sponsored by Capital One and tout the benefit of home equity loans to consolidate credit card debt.

4. Physical education. As a varsity athlete I was exempt from physical education, but I wish I hadn’t been. Learning to do some very basic “normal” training would have been helpful. I focused all of my energy on preparation for one sport (tennis) rather than general fitness. This had disastrous results later in life.

5. Homemaking. Don’t laugh. I think learning how to cook could save this country billions in health care costs. Imagine if people could actually prepare healthy food at home. My mother is a terrific cook, and I never had any motivation throughout high school to learn how to cook. I went straight from there to a fraternity house where meals were provided. When I finally started living on my own, my gourmet best was frozen pizza…

6. Civics. I took a civics course, but it was ridiculous. My wife, who is an immigrant, was required to undergo detailed testing before she obtained US citizenship on the Constitution, US history and civic life. Now, it may not be necessary for everyone in this country to know how many Congressmen there are or how many Supreme Court justices there are (although they should) but everyone should know the Bill of Rights and their civic duties (jury duty and so on).

Optional Bonus #7: A foreign language. Now, many people might disagree with me on this suggestion, and of course many people feel a certain nationalistic need to defend English as “America’s language” or French as “Belgium’s language” or whatever.  I don’t really think most people need to become fluent in a foreign language, and I’ve been a great proponent of the world agreeing on a true lingua franca – a second language everyone would learn.  As of today, that language might be English – it’s fairly easy to learn and already quite widespread.  But 100 years from now it might be Portuguese, or Spanish.  Who knows, who cares.  The point is that foreign languages open up your mind.  Studying a foreign language helps you understand that different people think differently.  That’s invaluable, in my opinion.  My life so far has taken a vastly different direction than it might have thanks to my study of foreign languages – especially Russian.  You can see why by reading an old post of mine, “boosting your career with an overseas stint“.

You could go on, but these are some basic courses that would make a big difference in the US population. They are not taught often enough, and it’s a shame they aren’t. I am amazed to this day when I see people hunt-and-peck on the keyboard – not because I blame them, but because that’s not a basic required course for graduation from high school today. The same goes for the other 5 subjects up there. It’s hard to say when they will be required – or if they ever will be – but we can hope.

The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Employed

Owning your own business can be both challenging and rewarding. There are some things that you will want to consider before taking the plunge and opening your own business, especially if you are new to working for yourself. Here are some of the basic rewards and concerns that most new business owners have experienced.

Becoming the Boss

Working as your own boss is one of the pros of owning your own business. You may find that you like going to work every day when you are the one in charge of running the operation. Being the boss is also challenging, no matter what the size or type of business you are working in. You will be the person that has to deal with any problems and will need to multi-task throughout the day to ensure all of the details are taken care of. It does take a lot of commitment to become the owner of a small business.

Business owners are among the busiest of all employees. You are the person that deals with customers, employees, production, and may be in charge or hiring and firing employees. If you are just beginning a small business, it does take a little time to adjust to all of the demands of owning a business. Of course, being your own boss and making all the decisions are also very rewarding, as well.

Work Ethic

Owning your own business can be very time consuming. As the boss, you may find that you need to spend more hours at work than ever before. being able to make most of the decisions does mean that you are responsible for the outcome, but it also means that you are able to enjoy the rewards, too. If you think that owning a business will allow you to just hire someone to do your work, the truth is that you will be disappointed. Working hard is the key to making your business successful.

Once you business has become successful, however, you may find you get to work less and enjoy more time away from work. Having a business that runs smoothly is the ultimate reward, since you have less to worry about and more time to enjoy the profits of your business.Since you are in charge, however, you also get to determine your earnings.


Along with being your own boss, you also get to decide how important profits are. While you may not get a traditional salary when you own your own business, you do get to determine how much money you make. With a successful business, the profits can quickly become surprisingly high. If you are committed to making your business successful, you can easily meet your goals to earn more profits than you have ever imagined. With the right business plan and some hard work, you can see a small business blossom into a booming enterprise.

The more profits that you earn, the more you have to enjoy. While you do have to pay the overhead for your business establishment and your employees, the profits are all yours to keep. You can decide where your profits go, too, whether you choose to expand your business or you want to begin saving for retirement. All of the responsibility are yours when you own your own business, but so are all the profits. You may decide that running a small business is something that pay off well in long-term rewards, despite the many challenges that you face.

Your Personal Beliefs

Another benefit of owning your own business is that you can meet and exceed your personal expectations for running a business. For example, if you are concerned about the environment you can begin selling eco-friendly alternatives to products that are popular on the market today or you can use Earth friendly manufacturing practices. Owning your own business is a wonderful way to ensure your personal expectations for quality and customer service are met. You also get to decide the type of business you own, with choices that range from service based to manufacturing.

Making all of the decisions takes some time to become accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t own your own business. After a few weeks of running your own business, you will find that it becomes much simpler and less time consuming than you may have expected. There are many benefits to owning your own business, so don’t be intimidated by the challenges that you will face along the way. You will eventually be able to relax and enjoy more profits for much less work than you could have ever anticipated.

Miles Walker is a freelance writer and blogger who usually compares car insurance deals over at CarinsuranceComparison.Org.