You can finish school and start your life earlier than you think

By Anshul Raja

Academic Underdogs are the pioneers of the StYLE (Start Your Life Early) movement.

StYLE is an alternative education strategy aimed at ambitious young people, who want to finish their secondary education early and take control of their lives.

Those who use the StYLE strategy intentionally obtain their GCSEs & A-Levels early by carefully selecting subjects and learning 2X faster than those around them.

Students, who successfully complete their exams, buy themselves 2-3 gap years before heading to university. During this time, they can dedicate more time to areas of interest and coordinate their own learning.

Many start businesses, work at start-ups, launch non-profits, learn new languages, engage in activism, play sport, learn how to code, build robots, travel and work on other creative ventures.

But, some just play Fortnight every day for 2 years. 

A two minute summary of our main claims

In our view, you have three obstacles that come between you and a satisfying life.

Firstly, the skills gap. Our current education system is built like a game, where you need to complete one level to get to the next.

Finish year 9? Move onto year 10 to do GCSEs. If your grades are good enough, you can then level up to BTEC, A-Levels or IB.

Pass that bit then you are off to university to do your degree.

Then finally you reach the last level with the big boss you need to get past until you ‘win’ i.e. get a job and have complete freedom.

Understandably, most students would rather focus on completing their current level of education than develop the skills to face the big boss they need to face in 6 years’ time.

The result?

Most students end up book smart not street smart. Hours spent doing homework and revising for exams cause a void. They lack the attributes they need to perform at work, and their i-skills compound faster than e-skills.

i-skills (introvert skills) are the skills you use on your own. These include numeracy, literacy and problem-solving.

e-skills (extrovert skills) are the skills you use when interacting with others. These include communication, empathy and persuasion.

In other countries where they don’t have standardised GCSE A-Level style exams, like Finland, students are more balanced…

Unsurprisingly, Finland not only scores highly in the international PISA scores for reading, maths and science, but people in the country record one of the highest life satisfaction ratings in the world. Is there a causal relationship? We think so.

Secondly, grade inflation. For the past two decades, examiners (team A) and teachers (team B) have been playing cat and mouse. Every so often, the government try to introduce new ways to make exams harder and differentiate between candidates (hence the GCSE 1-9 grading system). Teachers, schools and students then figure out how to tackle these issues.

Team B have become very good at their jobs, mainly because of technological advances. Most of the information you need to achieve top grades are out there. If you’re stuck on a question, you no longer have to wait till the next day to ask your teacher. YouTube or another website will probably have the answer.

Also, for the first time in history, some online learning platforms using artificial intelligence guarantee you an A* or your money back. Do you know any schools that guarantee an A*?

Grade inflation combined with increasing numbers of students graduating from university has created the third obstacle…employers don’t trust academic qualifications as much as they used to.

Google, Apple, E&Y and Netflix have removed all their academic requirements for graduate-level jobs. Others are following their lead.

Employers like these and Universities know that someone with good academic results, doesn’t necessarily have the skills necessary to perform well ‘on the job’.

As a result, technology entrepreneurs and behavioural psychologists have collaborated to produce aptitude tests like BMAT, GMAT, GAMSAT. These help organisations differentiate between ‘good and bad’ candidates.

With GCSEs and A-Levels, you can bury your head in books and past papers for hours and secure top marks. But, for these aptitude tests, it’s not that easy. You can’t practice for a few months to get good at them. To truly be better than your competition, you need to nurture these skills and compound them over a long period of time. So, you have to start thinking about them early, ideally right now.

How do you overcome these obstacles?

Five years ago, we asked ourselves this same question. From researching high performing education systems in countries like Finland and Singapore to studying students as young as 13 who have achieved top grades at A-Level, our answer is – StYLE.

In a nutshell, StYLE is about…

…choosing the right subjects to study

…doing fewer subjects early rather than many late

…sacrificing time now to buy yourself freedom later

…learning smarter and faster

…taking risks and being creative

…focusing on life satisfaction above all else

At this moment in time, academic qualifications are still important, especially if you want to a job. They act as a safety net, if everything fails, and prevent you from slipping through the cracks in society. So, make no mistake, you should get good grades.

However, by getting them earlier than everyone else, you can buy yourself freedom to do, within reason, anything you want. Then, if you use that freedom to figure out what your strengths are and intensely focus on activities that enable you to use these strengths, you can become really really good.

What is our advice based on?

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Advice on how to read our advice

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How to become really really good

Being really good at something has its benefits.

Have you ever sat next to someone in class who was great at solving maths problems or writing essays, and wondered how they were so much better than you?

We’ve all encountered them at some point. Even if you were at the top of your class there’s a good chance you knew someone who always seemed to have the edge over you.

They must simply be smarter than you, right? Maybe they have some kind of innate ability they’ve had since early childhood? Maybe it’s down to genetics, or maybe they simply have very intelligent parents who have taught their child from an early age? 

All of these factors play a part, but there is one concept that, if you get your head around, will explain how people become really good at certain tasks. It’s called compounding.

What is compounding?

Think of a snowball rolling down a snowy hill. It starts off small, but then overtime it grows in size as it picks up more snow on its way done.

We asked a class of GCSE students to draw a graph that shows the weight of the snow ball vs time as it rolls down the hill. Most of them drew something like this…

However, the actual graph should look more like this…

Here’s another way of looking at it…

You’ve saved £1,000 and put it into a bank account that pays you an interest of 10% a month.

After month one, your bank balance shows £1,100 (£1,000 savings + £100 interest).

How much will you have after month 2?

The answer is £1,210

10% interest on £1,100 is £110

+ the £1100 in your savings

= £1,210

You’re not only earning 10% interest on the original £1000 you saved but also on the £100 you made in the previous month.

After several years, this £1,210 will turn into £12,000

Notice how the line isn’t straight. Over time the rate at which you accumulate money speeds up because you make gains on gains – that’s compounding.

Money and snow aren’t the only things that can compound, knowledge and skills can too.  

How do you become really good?

Your brain is more malleable than you realise. Researcher Nathan Fox conducted a study on Romanian orphans that showed how experiences during the first few years of our lives permanently change the structure of our brains.

Up until the 1990s, Romania’s orphanages were notorious for being overcrowded, with 40 children to every caregiver. Fox found that children who only spent 6 months or less in these institutions recovered from their neglect quickly and grew up with a ‘normal’ brain structure. Those who spent longer, however, had far higher rates of social, emotional and cognitive problems during their lives.

We don’t need to walk too far to understand how small environmental influences and habits we developed early in our lives can result in significant differences at a later age.

You are constantly nudged into activities by parents and siblings.  From the toys you reach for and the TV programs you choose to the conversations you have around the dinner table; all of these day-to-day activities shape your aptitude.

Us: “OK quick-fire round. Letters or numbers?

Shreena: “Letters

Genetics clearly play an important role in development and could dictate someone’s intelligence. Shreena popped out with a certain set of genetics inherited from her parents that made her slightly more inclined to words than numbers. This didn’t necessarily make her an instant wordsmith, but it instilled a proclivity towards words that ensured she developed literacy skills faster than numeracy ones.

At 8 months old, she reached for a book instead of playing with shapes. At school, she achieved better marks in her English test than she did in her maths test. Her English teacher praised her and, as a result, she paid more attention to him in class. On family holidays, instead of playing on her phone, Shreena opted for scrabble. She opted for word searches instead of Sudoku.

Shreena started her first day at school with a 4% edge over her peers in literacy. Her teachers noticed this, gave her more praise and harder work. This feedback loop continued throughout her entire education and as a result, she walked into university with a 30% edge over her peers in written communication.

When people asked Shreena how she became so good at writing, her answers were fairly generic and modest. She would tell them it was all down to practice or hard work, or insist that she simply had good teachers.

Deep down she couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason, because the reality is that there were multiple reasons that all combined to create the person she became. The real explanation would have gone something like this:

“I was born with a slightly above-average aptitude towards words which gradually compounded over time through the actions of my parents, siblings and teachers.

By the age of around 14, I figured out this was where my strengths were and invested my time into activities that required me to use them. For example, I chose to study History and English Language instead of maths, and worked hard to secure top grades.

The 80%+ marks you see me get now are a result of 19 years of compounding.

As a result of Shreena’s parents and her own collective choices, she developed a significant edge over those in her age group in literacy.

It's not all about study skills

Literacy and numeracy are examples of i-skills or introverted-skills, these are aptitudes you use when completing tasks on your own – like studying for an exam. Our current education system does a great job of building and compounding these skills for you.

However, e-skills or extroverted skills, even though they aren’t assessed in school are also important and, they too can compound over time. Persuasion, influence, empathy, verbal communication and humour are all examples of e-skills.

You know that really funny class clown who keeps getting told off for disturbing everyone? Every joke he makes and laugh he receives, compounds that skill.

Find your combinations

Now imagine that same joker, alongside his good sense of humour, is fairly decent writer. He’s not that good though. So becoming a successful author or journalist would be a bit of a stretch, and the same could be said for stand-up comedy.

However, he could combine these skills to become a comedy writer. He could write comedy articles, jokes—he could even learn scriptwriting and start penning scripts for TV or film.

The vast majority of successful people are rarely defined by a single skill. They fuse their skills, and while some of these skills are far from exceptional, they combine to create something that is truly extraordinary.

Steve Jobs was not the world’s greatest designer, engineer or businessman, for instance, but he did have a unique approach to all of these things, and wove them together into something outstanding.

If you don’t have one major outlier skill, take a holistic view of your smaller skills and combine them into something more valuable.

Instead of telling that class joker off, what if he was encouraged to join an afterschool stand-up comedy club? His skills would compound faster, he would have the potential to be in the top 10% and move towards a career that utilises one of his greatest strengths.

What are your outlier skills and combinations?

There are many factors that can influence your intelligence. In Shreena’s case, it wasn’t a case of “nature or nurture” but rather “nature and then nurture”.

Like Shreena, you had very little control over your ‘genetic edge’ or the level of compounding you received growing up, particularly in the first 8-10 years of your life. This means people are going to be better than you at certain tasks.

However, you also have skills which are far more advanced than your peers and those in your age group. It’s very easy to ignore or forget this because we have a nasty habit of obsessing over our shortcomings.

Just because you aren’t a Maths Olympiad or a grand master chess player, doesn’t mean all hope is lost. You have an edge somewhere. You just need to find it and compound it by investing your time in activities inside and outside of school.

With enough data points, you’ll eventually identify your circle of competence and learn that staying inside of it benefits you in many ways.

Up until now, you’ve had no control over what your genetic aptitudes are, but now you can choose what you can do with them.

How do you become really really good?

By first carefully selecting audacious but achievable goals…

‘I will achieve all A*s in my A-Levels by the age of 16’

‘I will create a website that helps Chinese parents name their babies’

‘I will create an online estate agents that only charges people £99 to sell their home’

‘I will design and sell a standing desk’

Then use the following 3-step process over and over again…

  1. Have a go…

‘Sorry I can’t talk right now…too busy working’

  1. Identify problems…

‘I struggle to revise consistently and get bored easily’

  1. Design a plan to eliminate problems…

‘Define what to revise so I stop second guessing myself, create a revision plan and try 12 study-hacks’

You should only focus on achieving your audacious goals using this 3-step process. If you pick the right goals and invest your time correctly, all these skills will develop and compound at a rapid rate without you even knowing about it.

Fast forward a few years, when you are up against 5 other candidates in an assessment centre, you will wipe the floor with them. Then when one of them asks you – how did you get so good? What will you say?

What audacious goals should I set?

Let’s say you had a blank canvas – what should you do every day to become really really good?

Should you go to school? Is that a good use of your time? If any, what ‘extra-curricular’ should you choose? Should you learn other languages? If so, which ones? Is doing the Duke of Edinburgh award worth it?

What’s a good strategy?

What does a good strategy look like?

“Xièxiè nǐ de jiàoxùn”

Danyal said to his mandarin (Chinese) language teach over Skype, before heading out to meet a friend. It means “thank you for the lesson”.

It was a Tuesday, and Danyal spent the earlier part of the day playing squash with his dad Asim, reading, playing Fortnight and a few hours learning how to code in Python (a software language). His sister Maryam had a similar day, only she also spent some time preparing for a debating competition.

Having achieved A’s and B’s in their A-Levels a year earlier, both of them had ample time to explore their interests; one of which was entrepreneurship.

Asim’s dad was a businessman himself and encouraged them both to use their knowledge of coding to start a new company. After brain storming a few ideas, they settled on building a tool that helps schools track attendance.

Maryam will be the CEO, initially focusing her work on coding and marketing, Danyal will do most of the coding and accounting. 

I forgot to mention, they are both 13 years old.

Does intelligence have anything to do with success?

Despite learning about the Qureshi’s, most students were convinced that they were super geniuses, and that they would never be able to replicate their success.

Full disclosure. Even though Maryam and Danial’s previous teachers never highlighted above average intelligence, both their parents went to the University of Oxford. So, there are probably some good genes in their somewhere and nature did play a part. 

However, there are plenty of kids that have accomplished parents who haven’t achieved As and Bs in their A-levels by age 18 let alone 13. So, nurture played a much bigger part and the Qureshi’s made several strategic decisions that lead to their remarkable success.

How did the Qureshi's achieve this?

Firstly, they noticed that the current education system in most countries is sub-optimal. Maryam explains this in one of her Quora posts…

“There is one major problem with schools, and that problem is that the pace and content of each subject is set for the average child. A child might be behind in physics because he finds the concepts hard to understand but finds history easy because he’s good at memorising.

If he were homeschooled, that child could do both subjects at his own pace. While at school, he would be getting bad grades in his physics exams because he can’t keep up, and would be held back in history because he would have to wait for the rest of the class to finish memorising the names of Henry VIII’s six wives.”

So instead of following this model…

The Qureshi’s decided to take matters into their own hands, start home-schooling and move at their own pace, which happened to be much faster than everyone else…

Secondly, they realised that many subjects taught in school have little to no practical application in the real word. Subjects like religious studies, english literature, classics and media studies.

Instead, they chose to learn core subjects like English, Maths and Science. And also languages like Mandarin, Hindi and coding in programming languages like Python.

Thirdly, they recognised that e-skills like persuasion, public speaking, empathy, getting along with others etc. were just as important as i-skills like coding.

So, Danyal and Maryam used the additional time they gained from scrapping those subjects to do whatever they wanted, as long as it involved interacting with other people.

As a result, they spent lots of time with friends, enrolled onto multiple programmes like public speaking, long distance running, football, debating and many more. In fact, Danyal became one of the fastest long-distance runners in his local age group.

Finally, as an entrepreneur himself, Asim knew how important creativity was. Both siblings were too young to go to university. So instead, their dad helped them start a business. Each had 50% ownership and received a £5,000 investment from Asim’s friend and business partner.

Their plan is to spend the next 3-4 years taking creative risks (Maryam wants to write a book and publish it) and secure work experience at early stage companies. By the age of 17, both of them can go to university, if they choose to. 

Why is StYLE better than traditional schooling

Danyal and Mariam’s parents have taken great care to help them choose the right goals. By choosing highly practical subjects and spending more time doing ‘extra-circulars’, they focused on building the right skills.

And by moving faster than traditional schools, they have compounded those skills faster than other kids their age.

Remember the snowball rolling down a hill analogy? This is the path a student in a traditional school would take…

Compounding path of a Qureshi…

By spending 3-4 years between the ages of 13 and 18 to exercise creativity and explore areas of interest, both siblings will figure out what they are truly good at.

Then by the age of 21 when they are mature enough to make an impact in society, they will be really really really good. So good in fact, that it would very difficult for employers, investors, colleagues, or whoever else to ignore them.

Can you StYLE without home-schooling?

Securing A-Levels by the age of 13 will be difficult unless you are home-schooled or at a specialist school. However, there is no reason why you can’t use our learning methods to secure your A-Levels by the age of 15 or 16…

Even if you only manage this…

You’ll still be far better off than a student who does this…

In the next section we’re going to focus on an alternative strategy you can use if home-schooling isn’t an option.

You have a bunch of tools at your disposal. Teachers, parents, mentors, textbooks, adaptive learning platforms, after school clubs etc. How do you piece them together to StYLE? That’s what we’ll answer next.

How to achieve top grades in your GCSE & A-Levels

What if I gave you a deal? 

Cover 5 pages of your textbook (or other equivalent learning material) every day for the next 12 months, and I’ll guarantee you an average grade of 7 across your GCSEs – what would you say?

You’re awake for about 16 hours a day and 5 pages will take you about 1.5 hours. So that’s 9% of your day. Would you take the deal? It’s a sacrifice, but a tiny sacrifice compared with the hours of homework and lessons you’d have to attend on a daily basis. 

If your answer is yes, read on…

When do you revise?

What’s the point of revising now when I’ll forget everything before the exam anyway?”

This is the most damaging assumption you can have as a student, and it has to go if you want to use our strategy.

When you learn a piece of information for the first time, it doesn’t disappear after a few weeks. It just becomes lost.

The next time you revisit that same piece of information, it will come back to you quicker and stay around for longer. This improves with every repetition.

Scientists call this spaced repetition. It is the 2nd most popular concept mentioned in learning and memory research, and is the key to achieving top grades.

The principles are simple. Start learning early and revisit the same concepts more than once.

What subjects should you choose?

In our view, core subjects, Maths and English, have to be included for two reasons:

1. Universities and some employers still require them.
2. Most subject areas require both good numeracy and literacy skills. They will be needed for the rest of your life.

What skills will be most valuable?

Technology is having the biggest impact on our world. Hardware and software design and engineering are highly sought after now and probably will be well into the future. Computer science and graphic design are our top picks.

Even though translation technology is improving, due to globalisation, language skills are still highly valuable. You should include your native tongue (if you have one). Then prioritise English, Mandarin, Spanish and Hindi.

Are your parents strong in any subjects?

One of the reasons Danyal and Mariam chose Physics was because Asim did a Physics degree. If your parents have some expert knowledge and time to teach you, then choosing that subject might be a good move.

What skills will be most valuable?

Technology is having the biggest impact on our world. Hardware and software design and engineering are highly sought after now and probably will be well into the future. Computer science and graphic design are our top picks.

Even though translation technology is improving, due to globalisation, language skills are still highly valuable. You should include your native tongue (if you have one). Then prioritise English, Mandarin, Spanish and Hindi.

What learning resources to use?

90% of the information you need to succeed in exams is available to you. For most subjects, if I stuck you on a desert island with relevant textbooks and past papers, you will have everything you need to achieve As-A*s.

Add in a laptop, internet connection, some YouTube videos and an experienced online tutor who can help you with ad hoc problems, you then move deeper into A* territory.

Finding learning material isn’t the problem. Learning it well enough to achieve top grades is the tricky part.

How to revise?

Have you ever heard a song on the radio which you liked the sound of, but when you returned home to search for it on YouTube you forgot the name? It’s on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t get hold of it. You keep trying to remember and wait, wait some more… then …POP! 

The name appears out of nowhere and you experience that brief pointless moment of joy! Chances are that song name will be stuck in your memory from that point onwards.  

Effective memory retention is all about creating those pointless moments of joy after challenging yourself to remember or figure something out. It might sound silly, but the more ‘pops’ you can produce the more you will remember.

This method of pulling information out of your brain is called active recall. Read any research paper from the past decade on learning and memorisation, and you’ll probably find that phrase. 

Scientists have figured out that other common study techniques like note-taking or reading, aren’t as effective as techniques that use active recall.

Learning technique vs subject

For learning written content, our personal favourite technique is called the Scribble Technique. This is a variation of ‘write-cover-repeat’, where you read a page close the book and jot down what you can remember.

Our mentees, like Emma, are tasked with learning information from their textbooks using the scribble technique then are asked to explain what they learnt back to us. By the end of our programme, each student will have pulled information out of their brain over 8 times.

Learning numerical problem-solving subjects, like Math and Physics is much simpler. To achieve a top grade, you need to attempt and complete as many practice questions as possible without peaking at answers too much.

Progress will be slow initially as you figure out how to tackle problems. You’ll probably have to peak at the answers a lot and work backwards from each answer to figure out how to solve each problem. Gradually you will peak less and less, until you barely have to at all – then you’ll be at A-A* level.

Performing well in languages requires a different approach. To an extent you can use the Scribble Technique to learn any content that you may need to use in an exam. However, most of the marks from these subjects are earned from the analysis or opinions you give. This is where a highly-skilled teacher or tutor comes in handy.

Getting good at these subjects requires a feedback loop. You need to analyse a text on your own, have a teacher look at it and see what you could have done better. The more times you do this, the better you’ll get.

Similar strategies should be used for niche and creative subjects like art, music, drama and photography.

Adaptive learning platforms

For the first time in history, education technology companies are able to guarantee As and A*s to students who complete their online programmes. UpLearn, an adaptive learning platform that uses artificial intelligence, can guarantee you an A-A* in A-Level Economics in 10-15 weeks. This is twice as fast as your school.

How to achieve top grades in your GCSEs & A-Levels early

There is no reason to go at the same pace as everyone else, especially if you are a fast learner. So, firstly, decide to take matters into your own hands.

Secondly, use self-study to learn faster than your school. Most (not all) of the information you need to achieve top grades are either in a textbook or on the internet.

Teachers and private tutors come in handy when you can’t figure something out on your own.

Thirdly, use adaptive learning platforms that use artificial intelligence like Up Learn and Seneca that can help you learn entire A-levels in 10-15 weeks and guarantee an A*.

Lastly, find mentors outside of school that you are accountable to and who can keep you motivated. These can be parents, older siblings, older friends or us.

What should you do with all your free time?

If you follow the StYLE strategy and finish your A-Levels early, you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. Two years to be exact. That’s because your A-Levels have an expiry date as most universities only accept grades that are 3 years old.

After the two years are up, you may not even want to go to university and continue with whatever you’re doing. But, trust us when we say, you’ll still want the choice.

Even if you don’t follow the Qureshi strategy, you still have a lot of free time outside of school – over 1000 hours a year.

How should you spend that time? What will yield the best return on investment? We’ve listed 5 of the best activities to spend your time on.


What if I told you there was a way to make more money than your teachers? Here’s what you do…

Step 1: Put on some decent clothes, grab your best friend (not the lazy one) and head out to your local charity shops. 

Go to each shop and ask to become a volunteer.

For those who agree, work there for a week or so and do a cracking job. Turn up on time, go above and beyond what your manager says and add value wherever you can.

Step 2: Ask the store managers the following question:

“We noticed that you don’t sell online. Can we start and run your eBay store?”

If they refuse, find out why – physically list out all their objections and figure out how you will deal with them.

Once you’ve found answers for all their objections, call the regional manager of the stores an ask them the same exact question.

If they are still reluctant, ask for their objections again and try one more time.

No luck? Go to another set of charity shops and go back to step 1.

If they say yes, move on to step 3.

Step 3: Open up an eBay account, take pictures of the 10 best-selling items in store and create listings.

Price them at 20-30% higher price than they are in store.

Keep listing products until you have 10 or so sales under your belt.

Step 4: Propose an ongoing arrangement with the store manager…

“We would like to build on the success we’ve had so far, hire some of our friends and increase sales. Can we keep 20% of the profits from each sale?”

If they say no, find out their objections and try again with the regional manager.

If they say no, take your track record on eBay and go back to step 2.

If they say yes, step up your efforts and list as many items on eBay as you can.

Keep track of how much time you are spending running the eBay store. Calculate your ‘day rate’ by multiplying your hours worked by £10.

Example: 6 hours worked per day X £10 = £60 a day

If you make it this far, you are already miles ahead of those in your age group. If you want to become really good, this is what you do next…

Step 5: Optimise your profit by reducing costs and increasing revenue…

Once the money coming in is higher than the money going out, you now have a business that’s ready to scale.

If you want to become really really good, this is what you do next…

Step 6: Create your own website on ShareTribe.com

Every item you list on eBay, also list on your own website.

Use your income to hire smart hardworking friends or freelancers on UpWork.com to market the website for you using various digital marketing strategies like SEO, paid ads and influencer marketing.

Keep tweaking your website to increase conversions and testing new marketing strategies until you find a formula that works.

When the money you have coming in equals or exceeds the money you have going out, approach new charity shops with your offering.

Gateway businesses

Selling second-hand goods on eBay, providing digital marketing services to small businesses, white labelling products on Amazon and setting up a food stall in your local town centre. These are all examples of gateway businesses.

These are business ideas that are easy but overcrowded…

You probably won’t become a multi-millionaire by starting a gateway business, but you will start to:

1. Learn about what you are good at
2. Develop practical skills
3. Have a unique experience that can be shared on personal statements, cover letters and CVs

Gateway businesses are perfect for those who have never started their own businesses before because you don’t need that much money to start. Also, if you take the right steps, your first paycheque can come within a few short weeks of starting the venture.

From experience, the sooner you start earning money the less likely you’ll give up.

Start with gateway businesses especially if you don’t have a business mentor or aren’t entrepreneurially inclined.

Why entrepreneurship wins above all

90% of students won’t get past step 1 because of the following excuses…

  • I don’t have enough money
  • My business plan isn’t perfect
  • The timing just isn’t right
  • There’s too much competition
  • I don’t have the skills needed
  • It’s too difficult
  • My parents won’t support me
  • I don’t have time
  • Someone else has already done it or doing it

If you can get rid of the excuses from your brain and actually get out and start selling your service (even if you don’t fully know what all the details are yet), you are half way there.

The moment you get your first payment for a service or product you provide, you will be HOOKED.

Welcome to one of the most stimulating and fun experiences of your life. This is up there with losing your virginity and sky diving.

If you do it right, starting your own business at a young age can help you become really really good. It is the one activity that kills multiple birds with one stone.

  1. Helps you figure out what you are good at
  2. Develops practical skills that help you figure things out as you go along. Making good predictions
  3. PR – when we asked 100 employers what they would be more impressed by – a student who achieved straight A grades or one who built a business who generated £50k a year. 80% chose the latter

Four out of five people go work in the private sector – i.e. for companies that build products or services to make money.

Learning how to build products or services on your own will help you perform well in a company. There is nothing more impressive than an individual who is brave enough to take creative risks.

Building a business is one of many ways you could spend your free time to figure out what you’re good at and compound your skills FAST.

If you’re not entrepreneurially inclined, there are other ways you can develop an edge.

Activism and non-profits

You can still take creative risks without starting a business. Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg are examples of young people who have become really really good using activism.

Like them, you have to be willing to put your excuses aside and invest your time into something that may or may not work out. There are probably hundreds of other students who tried this without sparking a movement. However, Greta may have simply been at the right place at the right time.

By continuously taking small bets with your time, generating new ideas and executing them, you have a decent chance of making some noise somewhere. You only have to be right once.

You don’t need to become world-renowned like these two to learn a thing or two about yourself and build valuable skills that other’s don’t have.


Sport is a fantastic way to stand out, but only if you compete at a high level. In my experience, it’s usually too late to pick up a new sport after the age of 18 so this option is reserved for those who have continuously played from a young age.

Some of our mentees played multiple sports at a young age then focused on one over time. They usually continued playing well beyond school—first or second teams at university, company teams, weekend leagues or tournaments at district and county level. 

The sacrifice and discipline required to compete at high levels are universally understood by most people, including your future employers. These will always give you an edge over other candidates so don’t give up.


Do you dance, sing, play an instrument, draw, paint, write or practice any other form of creative expression? Have you done this from a young age? If so, focusing on these could help you stand out. However, playing an electric violin beautifully in your bedroom or writing engaging short stories on a personal blog located on the 10th page on Google isn’t enough.

Share your music on platforms like SoundCloud or YouTube and perform live. Send your novel to a publisher and your short stories to anthology creators and genre magazines. Record your street magic performances and organise viral flash mobs. Sign up to every competition or opportunity that provides a platform for you to share your creative expression with large audiences. This is how you leverage your interests and talents to help you secure a job. It will also boost your confidence and enhance your c-skills, as mentioned in the second book of this series, How to be Admired & Respected.

Think about how you can use your creative talent to add value to a large group of people. Your answer will probably involve stepping outside of your comfort zone in some way. Most won’t have the courage to do so and that is why their CVs will fall to the bottom of the pack. By taking a chance and risking a little embarrassment that no one will remember, your recruiters will remember your name. 

Take action. What you should do next and how we can help

Do you want a life like Danyal and Maryam?

What the Qureshi’s have done may seem remarkable now, but it won’t be in the future. People are starting to see the holes in our education system and are taking matters into their own hands.

5,000 students are being home-schooled each year.

10,000 student are taking their GCSE exams early.

Some schools have even completely removed year groups and given control back to students to go at their own pace.

Sitting exams early is not a new concept. In fact, 173,206 students took at least one of their GCSEs or iGCSEs in year 10 or earlier. Some schools have gotten rid of their year groups altogether and let students do exams whenever they want. This trend is just getting started.

Studies done by Cambridge assessment research show that, on average, those who take two or more GCSEs early get more or less the same grades as those who take them with everyone else. So, why wait?

Chances are that your school’s desire to improve their pass rate and for you to progress on to the next level of education is so great, that spending time on anything else is subtly discouraged. Hence why the word ‘extra-curricular’ exists.

We understand that, right now, you are probably just doing what you’re told. But, have you ever thought about taking matters into your own hands and choosing what you do with your time? Why do you have to wait till you’re 18 to start your life?

Believe it or not, your parents and teachers will give you the freedom that you crave if you prove to them that you can take responsibility over your own life.

 All they want is for you to be happy. If you show them a strategy that not only gives you freedom and satisfies your parents, you may be able to improve your current and future circumstances.