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7 Lessons we can learn from Taylor Swift

Swiftie or not, there are lessons all students can learn from Taylor Swift.

Time Person of the Year. Pop Princess. Master storyteller. Billionaire businesswoman. Tween idol.

Call her what you will, but Taylor Swift is a force to be reckoned with. Chances are you, or someone you know (or teach) will be heading to one of her record-breaking concerts this month.

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Considering the age of her average fan, it’s easy to forget that Ms Swift has been doing this for a while. Two decades, to be precise, which means she has more experience than approximately half of all Australian teachers. She signed her first recording contract at the age of fourteen. That’s the age of your average Year 10.

Swiftie or not, there is a lot we can learn from Taylor Swift – here are some of the biggest lessons:

Lesson 1: Stand Up for What You Believe In Even When It’s Risky

“Anytime you’re standing up against or for anything, you’re never going to receive unanimous praise. But that’s what forces you to be brave.” Taylor Swift

It’s easier to stay quiet sometimes, especially when the people you disagree with are powerful. No one wants to be criticised or attacked, but sometimes it’s the price you must pay when you feel something terrible is happening. Until 2018, Taylor had never made public comments about politics, but she spoke up against a Congressional candidate in her home state of Tennessee, a woman who publicly voted against equal pay for women, disagreed with the right of gay couples to marry and voted against an Act that would protect women from domestic violence and stalking.

The candidate still won, but Taylor’s comments inspired almost 170,000 people to register to vote in the 48 hours after her remarks (as reported by the Washington Post).

Lesson 2: You Don’t Have to Play a Role to Make Others Happy

“If you think too hard about who other people want you to be as an artist, it stops you from being who you want to be as an artist.” Taylor Swift

Some people wanted her to stay innocent and chaste, others wanted her to be sexy – it’s a dilemma most tweens and teenage children will come up against as they make their way through school. Do you change to fit in, or do you deliberately try and stand out? We should be encouraging our children that whatever decision they make, it’s for themselves and not others.

“As an artist you should embrace what comes naturally to you, whatever role feels right. I would never encourage an artist to try and fit in to a role that seemed to be created for them by a bunch of record label guys in suits in a conference room,” she said.

Lesson 3: You Are Never Too Young to Follow Your Dreams

“I signed my publishing deal when I was fourteen. I knew I had to work just as hard as the veteran 45-year-old writers who were also signed there.” Taylor Swift

Obviously as parents and teachers we should be making sure kids study hard and finish school, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also be supporting them to follow their passions. It might be judo or singing or collecting rare Beanie Boos.

It doesn’t necessarily mean packing up and moving to Nashville, but it does mean making room for passions outside of school and recognising that not all paths to success are via academics.

Lesson 4: Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

“You become a brand as soon as you sell one thing, so you can either recognise it and embrace it or you can deny it and pretend it’s not happening.”

We often tell kids that high school is the place where they can ‘find their tribe’. Finding people who are like-minded is a vital part of high school (and life) – once we get past the idea of fitting in based on looks, we can start looking for people who think the way we do, and who share the same values.

“It makes it less like work, having your friends out there.” Taylor Swift

Lesson 5: Keep Reinventing Yourself

“I realized every record label was actively working to try to replace me. I thought instead, I’d replace myself first with a new me. It’s harder to hit a moving target.” Taylor Swift

What’s important when you’re 13 is not what’s important when you’re 25. When you’re in high school, even the smallest detail can feel life-crushingly important. We can try and tell kids that what shoes they wear or what water bottle they have won’t matter in ten years’ time, but chances are they won’t listen.

It’s easier to remind them that life is a constant journey of reinvention  – and tell them ‘don’t peak in high school’.

Lesson 6: Success Requires Both Talent and Hard Work

“Creativity is getting inspiration and having that lightning-bolt idea moment, and then having the hard work ethic to sit down at the desk and write it down.”

A lot of kids cruise through primary school on their natural intelligence only to come undone when they hit high school. Suddenly, they’re not the biggest fish in their small pond. The kids who struggled, who had to put in the long hours doing homework and tutoring and trying to catch up, suddenly realise they have important tools and skills: perseverance, resilience, and determination.

Hard work will always take you further than talent.

“The reason I was so driven was that I didn’t expect anything to happen for me. But that doubt fuelled me to work harder.” Taylor Swift

Lesson 7: There is Value in What Has Gone Before

Taylor Swift’s current Eras tour – which consists of forty songs from her back catalogue without a single new track –  has been so phenomenally successful that a new term ‘Swiftonomics’ has been coined to explain the massive financial boost her shows have had on the local and national economies of entire nations.

So, perhaps one of the biggest lessons Taylor Swift can teach us is reminding us that we don’t always need to create new things to be relevant. Whether it’s upcycling clothes, learning from our mistakes or doing a stadium tour of your back catalogue, we’d be silly to overlook our history and the value it still holds.


Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a freelance writer and the author of "Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed our World", now available in all good bookstores.

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