15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent

imageWith the impending GCSE results due out tomorrow, the topic was already trending in the early hours of this morning on Twitter with thousands of teenagers anxiously waiting to see how they had fared, many of them already dismayed at the fact that grade boundaries for certain subjects had been raised… again.

At school, I was a high achiever who enjoyed the process of learning. I worked hard with the belief that qualifications were the be all and end all to everything that would make my life successful and happy in the future, and even after doing my A levels and a degree, my GCSE exams still remain as one of the scariest and most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.

And yet, eighteen years of life after leaving school (and spending ten years working as a teacher) has made me realise that, while qualifications on paper are important, there is more to success than just being able to understand what the value of X is, or have a working knowledge of a meander, or knowing how many wives Henry VIII had.

Here are fifteen things that require no qualifications or talent:

1. Manners. There’s never an excuse not to use a basic ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ or wait until someone has finished speaking before you as a question. I’m still gobsmacked at the amount of adults who haven’t grasped this.

2. Being punctual. It’s not difficult to arrive somewhere on time.

3. A smile. Smile at someone and they’re more likely to smile back at you. A smile makes you appear more approachable and automatically creates a nicer atmosphere in a room.

4. Presenting yourself in a professional way. Keep yourself and your clothes clean, don’t be too garish with your make-up (yes, I’m including the boys in that too) and don’t litter your vocabulary with profanities.

5. A willingness to learn new things, even if you deem them unimportant or find it difficult. If I were given just a pound for every time I’ve had to battle with a student who has decided that they don’t want to learn something because they found it unnecessary for their future dream job I could have retired a long time ago. You never know where new information could lead you.

6. Self-respect. You’re the only person that you will spend the rest of your life with. Treat yourself with the respect you deserve – don’t put yourself down and proclaim that you are stupid if you don’t understand something first time round.

7. Self-motivation. It isn’t somebody else’s job to keep pushing you forward on a daily basis. If something needs doing then do it without being reminded or nagged.

8. An appreciation that the world does not exist just in your own little bubble. Empathy, sympathy and consideration for those around you will go a long way.

9. Doing your best. Nobody can ask more from you than that.

10. Accepting and learning from failure. I’ve failed many times. We all have, and every highly successful person can give a hundred examples of ways in which they’ve failed disastrously in their journey. Pick yourself back up, stop complaining and try again.

11. Being trustworthy. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Avoid gossip. Keep other people’s confidence.

12. Having a passion, even if it’s for a hobby. I write because I love it. Truly, it’s the one thing that I never get bored of doing. And because I love it, I’ve made a small success of it, which spurs me on to write even more. Being passionate about something will inspire you to learn more about it.

13. Working hard and putting in the hours. I have more traditional qualifications than both of my sisters, and both earn more money than I do, because they’ve put in the time and effort to deserve their salaries.

14. Being able to let go and move on. It took me thirty years to learn this, and I wish I had done it sooner – it would have saved me countless hours of anger and bitterness.

15. Understanding that money isn’t everything. Yes, lots of money makes life easier, but success is not defined by the size of your house or the name tags on your clothes. I’m happy to live on virtually nothing if I need to. For me, success is being surrounded by people who care for you and your well being. Success is being able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and know that you’re a good person. Success is a million memories of good times. Success is being truly happy.


What about you guys? Any ideas for being successful without needing qualifications?

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I’ve been particularly inspired by a graphic that I’ve seen floating around the Internet on a number of occasions titled ’10 Things That Require Zero Talent’ for this post, but I’d also like to thank Sacha for her input…

94 thoughts on “15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent

  1. I love this list and it motivates me for sure. I think anyone who is struggling with feeling fulfilled should have a look at this list. Thanks Suzie πŸ™‚

  2. All totally valid points!
    And lets be honest here…most of those things should be being taught at home by parents and reinforced by schools… it’s a shame that as teachers we have to pick up the flack of a lot of parents who aren’t giving their kids a good basis for life.
    So on top of the academia that kids are being sent to school for, it falls on teachers to teach basic life skills and manner too…
    No wonder teachers are so under pressure. They are expected to be parent as well as educator, but in a much bigger role than they used to have to play…

  3. One of your very best posts ever, Suzie. Great advice not just for young people starting out, but as reminders for all of us.

    The one I would add is to learn to forgive. This is extremely difficult to do, but the benefit is not to the person who has offended or injured you. It’s to yourself. When you truly learn to forgive, you’re able to move beyond the pain that’s eating out your own heart and soul. It isn’t just letting go and moving on – it’s actively forgiving, and the active part is what’s hard to do. But it can and should be done. A life long task.

    I’m still learning this.

    • Ooh me too Sharon. There’s still lots I need to do when it comes to forgiveness – I know that my life would be clearer if I forgave one person in particular, but he doesn’t deserve it…

  4. I’m a teacher (16+) and the one thing I try to instil in my students is that even if they don’t go on the practice graphic design, then I just want them to be a good person, who thinks of others, works hard, and stands up for themselves.

    But I always counsel them to be flexible. What they’re doing now won’t be what they’re always doing. Hell, I changed career to teaching at the age of 28 and it’s unlikely I’ll be doing it forever! Take what opportunities come your way!

  5. Couldn’t agree more with you and the career I had before moving to Australia was actually based on all that you have mentioned above. I did really well, even when I worked half time after having had our son. It was fun and whenever someone asked me about my qualifications I told them that the best qualification I had was being myself. Of course then moving to another country where my network no longer played into it made it hard to get back to what I did. But I finally managed to have one foot in again. And it is just as much as I want at this point. Just had a chat on the phone in regards to a job I had applied for. The phone call was to inform me that I unfortunately didn’t get the position. But after chatting a while, some giggles and some honest answers to honest questions I got offered another position that to be honest, actually suits me so much better πŸ™‚

  6. Most excellent advice! Just one thing to add, though it might be implied in your list: be proactive. In other words, do what needs to be done before anyone has to ask. This applies in everyday life as well. This summer, like many people, I’ve had house guests. The Good House Guest asks what she can do to help. The Great House Guest (who gets asked back time and time again) doesn’t ask. She just susses out the situation (plates to be cleared, etc.) and does what needs to be done.

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  8. Lovely and so very true. I struggle (more of a knock-down, drag-out fight) with being punctual and think that is a serious talent. πŸ™‚ But, wow, if more people could just have common courtesy, the world would be a better place. That may be cheesy or simplistic but I do believe it.

  9. Oh, I’m a little late to the party on this post, but I just wanted to say, I agree wholeheartedly! Especially about manners – I always say to my daughter ‘Manners will take you everywhere.’ Having courtesy for others will take you much further in life, I think. I also love the above comment about being proactive – and believing in yourself is another one that’s taken me a long time to master (not even sure I’m all the way there yet!)

      • So difficult. I always try and remember this quote – ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.’ It’s by Marianne Williamson, but was made more famous when Mandela included it in a speech, I believe.

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  11. Hi Suzie! Your post reminded me of Emily Dickinson’s quote, “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.You can gain greater control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.” Inspired by both Emily and you, I celebrated my wonderful co-worker, who practices the art of “taking care of the small things” in my most recent blog post. Thank you for this simple and lovely reminder that it costs nothing to be kind, well-mannered, and sincere in everything we do.

  12. Reblogged this on Teachezwell Blog and commented:
    The testing systems in the US and UK share some unfavorable effects. Suzi recalls the fear and dread they can evoke but focuses primarily on 15 life skills that seem more predictive of success in the Real World. They are in the realm of EQ, social skills, and character traits. It’s a list worth reading!

  13. Pingback: 15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent « Teach2Know

  14. Love this post! I remember after I’d gotten unexpectedly low GCSE grades and then utterly failed my A-levels (I got an N for one of them, no one knew what that even meant?!) I felt utterly useless (I now realise it was because of my undiagnosed dyspraxia). My Mum said she was still really proud of me and when I asked why she said “because you are a wonderful young woman and I’m proud of who you are.” I guess that’s the point isn’t it.

  15. I agree with you except for #2. Our society puts a lot of value on being punctual and that is difficult for some of us. I strive for all of the things you mentioned as should we all. I do my best to be on time but as a person with Adhd I more often than not fail. In this country where if you are not 10 minutes early, than you are late this has been an area of contention for me and has affected my self-esteem and confidence. I think some empathy should be extended to those of us that are time-challenged. I am not talking about people who just don’t show up or have their priorites mixed up, but people who do understand and value their time as well as others, but continually arrive 10-15 minutes late with apologies. Please try to understand that time is fluid and we are not all capable of keeping time.

  16. Yup. True true and true. No one in my class is allowed to do anything or go anywhere unless they start their sentence with “please may I…”
    I agree with all of your statements. It’s amazing how many strangers will smile back if you smile first. It’s funny how we are not able to live life in reverse. We’d know all the right things from the word go!. Saying that, I’m sure there will always be people who forget their manners and turn up late.

  17. A great list Suzie, and I found myself nodding at many, if not all, of them! I’d like to add a bonus one to your list…being a celebrity. Talent is most definitely not necessary for fame 😁

  18. I love this! My husband and I were having a conversation the other day about a co-worker that was obviously very intelligent, but so grating on everyone’s nerves that people didn’t want to work with him. I don’t think he even understands how much he sabotages himself. It’s the little things that are so important.

  19. Yes, manners! Why do so many people walk around thinking that they get to demand and take without showing the basic respect they walk around thinking they deserve. This is huge for me and my husband and he often will yell, “you’re welcome!” after someone he holds the door for walks right by without a thank you. lol Working for what you earn is something I was taught from a young age and is certainly not something that seems to be taught to our youth anymore. And never underestimate the power of a smile. In the newest job that I hold I stop, smile and say “hello” and “have a good day” to everyone who walks through the door. To me, it seemed like a given but in my small town I quickly became the talk of the town as, “The nice girl who is always smiling and so nice when you walk in.” I’m glad that people enjoy it but a little sad that it’s such a rare quality that it became such a big conversation piece in my town. :-/ Great points that are too rarely forgotten these days. Thanks Suzie!

  20. I’m afraid I got rather disenchanted with the education system as my children went through it. Eventually (although I didn’t say so in front of them), I concluded that I couldn’t wait for them to leave school so they could get an education.
    My daughter was very academically inclined, but I’ve always felt my son would be the more successful in life because he is a people person. As you’ve identified, there are vital skills our young people should learn, and none of them come from the education system. We’ve gone too far down the route of targets, and too far away from actually educating.
    Just as important, though, in a world where time is in short supply, too few parents provide role models for their children. There’s too much focus on acquiring things, and not enough on spending time with the kids. And I’ve been as guilty as most.

    • I think the leaving school so they can get an education is one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a while, Graeme! Couldn’t agree more with everything you have said!

  21. My two daughters are very different in terms of academic success, but they both have so much to offer in their individual, unique ways. Lovely post Suzie. I get very upset when people, (even relatives!!!! ) put down my youngest daughter because her GCSE’s weren’t all A’s and B’s – she tried so hard and for me that is what really mattered. Moreover, she is studying Photography, and is an A now in her creative subjects. At the time she passed Maths, and English which was a huge challenge for her, and even excelled in one of her English exams. I am so proud. πŸ™‚

    • What a supportive mom! As a former music teacher I get really annoyed that intelligence and success is measured solely on academia rather than creativity – just because someone (like myself) finds maths hard doesn’t mean that they’re unintelligent…

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