“This is all useless,” I thought.
I’ve had this scenario occur several times throughout the process of formal schooling.
I felt it in high school while learning the “SAS” rule to compute angles for a triangle.
I felt it in college when I had to listen to my professor — who never had any business experience except for being a business professor — read the bullet points of his power point presentation word for word.
I have a 15 month old daughter and I fear she will feel the same things I’ve felt.
Much of what school teaches us has little to nothing to do with the real world. This isn’t a mystery. Many of us know there are problems with the current education system.
As far as systemic changes are concerned, there are too many layers of red-tape, and fundamentally changing the system will cause a lot of bureaucrats to have lighter pockets. I’m not crossing my fingers expecting change any time soon.
I decided to play a different game with my life. While the majority of people follow the prescribed program of “Go to school, take tests, graduate, and enter the employment funnel with no sense of meaning, desire, or intrigue,” I have and will continue to develop the skills that make a difference in the real world.
Allow me to put this into context first. I believe these skills are the top 10 in demand skills for people who want to choose themselves. If you’re content to wander aimlessly through your career, jumping from company to company, adding bullet points to your LinkedIn profile that read akin to “specialized in optimizing synergistic solutions,” this ain’t the post for you.
But, if you want to do what that matters to you on a personal level and live a life that does the same, these tips might help.
- Self awareness - Frustration in life comes from a lack of self-awareness. Lack of self awareness is the reason why people end up in careers they hate. Someone attuned to their preferences, strengths, and desired outcomes doesn’t accidentally stumble into an awful career. First, determine what you’re good at. The process to do so is rather long, . Second, figure out what’s led you astray. We receive subtle messages from the world telling us who we’re supposed to be, how we’re supposed to behave, and what the rules are. You have to unlearn all of that stuff and then relearn how to live a life on your own terms.
- The Ability to Learn - Warren Buffet once said, “The more you learn, the more you earn.” His partner Charlie Munger says, “The most successful people in the world aren’t necessarily the most talented, but they’re learning machines.” Here’s the thing. Most people end their education after they’re done with school. If you take even a little bit of time to increase your knowledge - by reading, watching videos, taking online courses, ect. - you’ll be miles ahead of everyone around you. Most people don’t even practice continued education in their own field or industry - let alone develop an eclectic knowledge of different subjects. If you have a base level of education in various disciplines, you have a tool belt you can use to solve different problems. Turn your brain into a “Swiss Army knife” and you’ll become indispensable because few people will have your array of knowledge.
- Bias towards action - The world is moving at a fast pace. Those who develop the skill of acting on the information they receive will reap rewards in the future. Knowledge isn’t power. The application of knowledge is power.
- Online Marketing - Career expert Penelope Trunk says having a blog improves your career success. Marketing expert Seth Godin believes everyone should write a personal blog daily. In today’s world, employers, potential business partners, or fans are going to Google you and check your social media profiles to learn more about you. The online presence has replaced the resume. You can use content marketing to display your expertise. People have received job offers, landed business, and gained publishing deals from simply keeping up with their online presence. Everybody has a brand and a media presence today — everyone — some people just have bad ones.
- The Ability to Come up With Ideas - Quora’s pound-for-pound champion, James Altucher, has dubbed this era in society “the idea economy.” New ideas are emerging everyday, and now is the perfect time to turn your ideas into reality. Testing ideas is now easier than it ever has been before. With the “gig economy” you can work with freelancers across the globe to come up with a “beta test” for a business idea that doesn’t cost much money. As an employee, if you’re working in a visionary and flexible company, they’ll let you test your new ideas. If the company doesn’t let you test them, you should quit. How do you learn how to come up with good ideas? By coming up with tons of bad ones. One of the most valuable tips I’ve learned from James is to come up with 10 ideas per day — about anything. Write down ten ideas each day on a chosen subject. 9 will be bad. 1 will be mediocre. Every once in a while, one will be great.
- Sales Skills - You’re a salesperson whether you like it or not. You’re selling when you’re at a job interview. You sell when you try to get a person of the opposite sex to like you. You sell when you’re trying to convince your kid to eat their peas. The ability to persuade is the umbrella with which all other skills fall under. You can have a great product, but without persuasion it won’t sell. You can have valuable skills to provide to the market place, but without persuasion you won’t land the best opportunities. Read the book Influence - the Psychology of Persuasion, because it will give you superpowers.
- Focus - Our attention has become more fragmented every day. We have our phones on our laps, while watching T.V., while having our laptop open. With so many distractions, the ability to do deep and meaningful work is decreasing at a time when this type of work is most needed. Cal Newport covers this in his book Deep Work. Deep work helps you make creative breakthroughs. It’s what gets you into the state of “flow” where you’re in the zone. According to the Deep Work theory, work done in a state of focus for a shorter period of time produces better result than work done in a state of distraction for longer periods of time. Many argue the 8 hour work day is too arbitrary, and that 4–6 hours of deep work per day would produce more output. Evidence continues to pile up about the negative impact multi-tasking has on our brain. If you lengthen your attention span, you can put in a level of work that stands out above the crowd, because your peers simply can’t focus long enough to create astonishing work.
- Patience - We want “six minute abs.” We want to “start a six figure business in six months.” Right now, we’re living in one of the most opportunistic periods of human history. You have more access to resources than ever before to help you build a life and career to your exact specifications. That being said, those resources don’t create a “cure all.” There’s no easy button for success in 2017. I’ve seen people fall prey to a lack of patience more times than I can count. They’re the type who start blogs, write two posts, and quit because they have no fans. They make excuses for why others are succeeding, when in reality, the only difference is the length of time put into building their career or business. As far as what it takes to develop patience, I don’t have the perfect remedy. For me, it’s an insatiable desire to accomplish my dreams. I know I’m going to die, perhaps sooner than later, and I keep that in the forefront of my mind while I work. There are days when I feel like doing nothing, but I remind myself that it could be my last day, and often I get back to work.
- Hustle/Grit/Determination/Persistence - You have to be hungry. This skill reminds me of a lyric from a Kendrick Lamar song - “Time will never wait on no man, society will never hold your hand.” Whatever you’re looking to accomplish in 2017 or beyond, nobody is going to hand it to you. This is why I’m against participation trophies for kids and helicopter parents/soccer moms. People are becoming too soft, protected, and idealistic. If you want to succeed in the real world, you have to accept that life will punch you in the face, and you have to get off the mat and punch back. Complaining isn’t a strategy. Like I’ve stated previously, there’s so much opportunity in the world for those willing to hustle for it. In the long run, things usually work out for the persistent. It was true in 2017 B.C. and it’s true now. Some skills are timeless, and the ability to persist is one of those skills.
- Social Skills - You can be the most intelligent person in the world, but if your social skills aren’t up to par, it won’t matter. You’ve heard the cliche, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” The thing about cliches is they’re usually true. You can’t succeed alone. You need to build a large network of people so you can help each other. Being social makes people want to work with you, do business with you, and endorse you. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but find ways to connect with other people in a meaningful way. I once heard a great rule that went something along the lines of “treat everyone like they can get you press in the New York Times,” or something like that. The point was that you don’t know what people can do for you down the road. Don’t judge people on first appearances. If you go to a business meeting and you’re rude to the receptionist, that could get back to the person you’re meeting with and kill the deal. Treating other people well should be something you do simply because you’re a good person, but if you need an extra incentive, treating people well can lead to karma coming back your way when you need it most.
There you go! I hope that helped.
If you’re looking for ways to develop skills and reinvent yourself in 2017, you should, because it covers a wide range of techniques you might find useful.