This post is written by Aditya Shukla; no, not me. Another guy with the same name. Using his psychology expertise, he recommends a few life skills that will make your futures better.
Do you feel like a replaceable cog in the system?
Do you feel that someone can do what you are doing cheaper and in much lesser time?
Do you feel that the future is about to twist and turn and leave you dumbstruck?
These are the reasons why you need to work on specific life skills that prepare you for the future. Trust me, they are not so obvious.
We don’t know what we don’t know. No amount of history can accurately predict the future unless we can develop a compelling model of the human condition (if at all it is possible to do so). Unfortunately, we are far from doing it.
Unexpected significant changes in one’s life are just as expected as the sun rising the next day. Maybe not for everyone, but for many. So regardless of what you have been doing until today, you don’t know everything about tomorrow.
So how do we approach Tomorrow? We build life skills that are adaptive, flexible, sustainable, and actionable.
12 life skills you should master
Skill 1: Identifying useful qualities in others
One of the critical requirements today and tomorrow will be to understand what value humans have & can offer. People build psychometric tests to understand their abilities, but that is a costly affair. Most people want someone to recommend a person based on insightful judgment. That is hard to do. But that is a skill that people can use today. Nay, it is a skill which is extremely useful for our tomorrow. Work and human interaction will be streamlined if people have good judgment about others. Know their practical value and how they can benefit someone. I cannot overstate this life skill.
Skill 2: Managing mental information
As much as this is a cliche, we are bombarded with information. The accelerated amount of information we consume is just crazy. There is Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, real-life outings to absorb social information. There are blog posts, publications, books, listicles, forum threads, etc. to absorb useful information from. Note- people link each other to information along with providing direct information. This creates a massive problem for us. What do we do with it?
The strategy we need is to do something there and then OR make a mental note and do it later (but people often slack. I plead guilty). Found a resource to email? Email right away. Open a dialog. There and then becomes a routine habit once you really see how it saves you time.
The other side of information is making a mental note of what you have learned and revisit it occasionally. Having access to information means nothing if you don’t know what to access and how to access. Think of these mental notes as the titles and subtitles of a book chapter. When you can manage these, you can revisit them and quickly use technology to dive in deeper. Your mental notes become the seed for a higher level of engagement with information.
It is important to manage information in the following domains: Self-growth, social, work, personal, and relationship building actions (friendly visits, gifts, etc.) The world is moved to an unprecedented level of connectedness. Half the world is already at home. This home is the internet. Wouldn’t you think you need a life skill that can be used to make life better at home?
Skill 3: Know what others are doing
Everyone can come up with fabulous ideas. But almost no one is the first one to do it or the first one to do it better. If you are an idea seeker or want to be an innovator, or just grow a body of knowledge, you need to work on ‘knowing what others are doing.’ The world stands on the shoulders of giants. Stand. Do something, then become one of those giants.
Networking is important. I don’t mean LinkedIn connections. I mean talking with people who do something valuable and taking an interest in that work. Then, offer your benefits and value. Networking is based on an exchange of potentials and value additions. Be of use. Seriously. Once you are of use, others will show you what they are really doing. That way, you get a front row seat to what is happening in the world. You know what is trending. Not in the #way. In a more profound ‘valuable to the world’ way.
Remember, it is likely that all the low hanging fruits have been picked up. Know what fruits have been picked up. It gets more challenging to pick high hanging fruit over time, but you also get more resources to leverage: giants. Btw, just knowing what low hanging fruits have been picked up is also a significant life skill.
Skill 4: Notice the source of information
We are consumers of information. What we don’t always pay attention to is where you consumed something. Be it a conversation with a specific person, a movie, a weblog, a newspaper, a lecture, etc. Notice who gave the information, who created it. This category of attention makes you resourceful.
Once a habit, you’ll quickly know people’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know other resource people, you’ll know who is an authority, you’ll know who people for what they offer the world. This makes you resourceful.
I’d say that this life skill is one of the most important ones if you see misinformation as a problem. Which, I think, you should.
Skill 5: Become multifaceted
The era of ‘Jack of all master of many’ has come. We just can’t have one skill. Because everyone kind of has some skill. Unique and powerful skill combinations are needed. Everyone wants more than what they are paying for.
Think about it, if you are just a coder, you are like many others. But, if you are a coder, a digital marketing enthusiast with good party skills, and have excellent planning skills, you are more likely to be the valuable coder from a bunch of many equally competent coders.
For those who live under a rock and think ‘let me just sharpen one skill’- think twice. You don’t want to be replaced by a machine or someone cheaper. You want a way to broaden your skill set. A combination of skills is a life skill that you won’t regret having ever.
People are invariably attached to technology now. So understanding it is a starting point. Social dynamics have changed over time, so there are new dynamics to learn. No excuses. Gotta do what you gotta do.
This goes without saying- maintaining your physical, social, and mental health is essential. But that is just a baseline. Being multifaceted is adding multiple components in these domains. Be it skills, goals, experiences, etc.
Skill 6: Improve your speed
If it can be done faster, do it faster. It’s not the extra time you get to relax that is beneficial. It is the fact that it CAN be done more quickly. It often translates to more money. And also gives you time to focus on other future life skills such as being multifaceted.
How do you become faster? You need 3 things to start with. One, an ability to manage your tasks and prioritize them. Two, optimize your tasks with technology, new learning, or maintain a ‘do it there and then’ attitude. Three, think creatively. Read the next point.
Skill 7: Learn to think creatively
I’m not talking about painting or learning the piano. This may sound odd- a lot of artists are just not creative. They don’t create something new or unique. Derivative creations are very common. I tend to draw the line where creations are not too derivative or take long leaps of derivation.
I’m talking about using all of your mental resources from across domains to concoct something new. It isn’t easy. You need to really think about applying information in novel ways. You’ll need a variety of skills such as music, coding, cooking, etc. You’ll need a deep enough understanding in a few areas so you know what can be done to further yourself. You’ll need flexibility to borrow ideas from elsewhere and apply them.
You can be creative everywhere. I’ll give you an anecdote. I did not want to copy-paste 40 links one by one to prepare a list of all articles on my site… Used python to get the links from the sitemap… Then copied the list of 40 links and pasted them in an answer on Quora which I knew automatically fetches the title of the links. Once the page titles appeared, I copied all of that and pasted it on my webpage. No HTML work, no 40 copy pastes, no mouse dragging to select links from a hodgepodge of code, no waiting for pages to load, etc. I had a nice hyperlinked list of all of my articles within minutes. Saved a lot of time and got a kick out of it!
The point of this example is to tell you how you can find the resources to apply from virtually anywhere. That helps with creativity.
Skill 8: Learn to prove your creativity
Self-claimed creativity has no value. Even if others don’t see it, you have to prove it to yourself. You need to get creative. One approach is improvisation. Want to cook something and are out of ingredients? Find a way to make food. Experiment with making cocktails. Experiment with writing styles. Merge ideas. Go to a college class unprepared and still talk about the content that is being discussed. Practice catching ideas on the fly.
This too is a matter of practice.
Skill 9: Make your statements actionable
People like How To’s. This is because people like to know how things are done. When proposing an idea such as ‘why don’t we create an unusual metaphor overarching this story,’ follow it up with an actionable idea like, let’s equate people to eagles and see where it goes. Once the seed has been planted, it get’s better.
Actionable statements are not just useful for creative work. Say you want to bag a client for a design job. After proposing your award-winning idea, tell the client how you will approach this idea. Tell the client what steps you’ll take. Trust me, job providers like people who go out of their way to show them exactly how something will be done.
Skill 10: Empathy
Oh, boi. This little phenomenon is becoming a modern ‘advice trend.’ But that is indeed warranted. Underestimating the value of empathy is hard. But it also can be contextually useless.
Empathy is understanding something from another person’s point of view. It is not reacting emotionally, it is processing at the level of emotion, thought, and behavior. You can prove empathy by paraphrasing an experience.
Extending empathy often helps in building a relationship and trust. It also welcomes a person to a deeper level of communication. In the professional world, a short empathic statement w/ details can go a long way.
There are 3 casual points of advice I can give you about learning how to be empathetic.
- Forget about your anecdotes when listening to someone else’s anecdote. Listen and reflect.
- Gain a variety of experiences, so you actually develop a tendency to relate to many situations. Don’t rely on your anecdote, extract the underlying thoughts and behaviors through introspection. Use them to understand how others would behave and think. The more experiences you have, the closer you might be to empathizing with a random person.
- Think about a situation in terms of variables. Think in ‘what ifs’ is handy when it comes to empathy. If you work hard enough at the thinking level, it isn’t difficult to think in counterfactuals and hypotheticals. Humans are reasonably good at this. Leverage it to precisely understand what would happen in a specific situation.
Skill 11: Think iteratively
When you work on something big, 2 things are essential: Iterations & visible action. ‘Visible action’ is when one can estimate and foresee how the next step is done. This is why iterations are essential. THinking is small steps allow you to build, correct errors, and develop.
Be it a writing project, a big marketing strategy, a science project, or a musical composition- work on your idea iteratively. Small steps build on small steps. Iterations let you focus on the most critical aspects few at a time.
Bonus Skill 12: Curating and identifying noise
With great information comes great noise. There are millions of people uploading content on youtube and on blogs regularly. Millions are ready to consume it. What content is good? Once you get good at a particular skill or have a deep enough understanding of something, identify the good content from the bad content. Highlight that is good. Demote or request to rectify what is bad.
Becoming a curator is difficult. You need experience, trial & error, and a lot of risk-taking (more life skills??). It is when you learn from your own understanding, you can identify something that stands on solid ground. Curating scientific is hard, you need expertise. Curating art is hard, you need expertise. But that isn’t enough. You need expertise as well as a sensitive eye to detect garbage. This means, exposure to garbage.
If you cannot curate for yourself, Identify those who put in the effort to select the best content and learn from it. Remember- knowing a quality in others is also a life skill. Here, the quality is curation.
Hope this list of life skills helps you in improving your future.
Recommended reading from the other- guest -Aditya Shukla.
Aditya is an applied psychologist and runs the blog ‘Psychology, Brain, and the Human.’ Check out the links below.
- 10 psychology facts that’ll NOT blow your mind away
- Why we should learn skills even if we don’t need them
- 7 effective methods to sleep faster and improve its quality
Have a great life ahead!