The Most Valuable And Timeless Skills You Need to Thrive in The 21st Century

The evolution of skills is accelerating, fast.

We live in a world of constant change, where skill sets can become obsolete in just a few years, you have consistently upgrade and reinvent yourself.

“Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their operation.”

John Ruskin could not have defined skill any better.

When you strive to consistently improve your skills, you enjoy more success in life and at work.

Don’t give up on lifelong learning. Ever.

Research shows that it pays beyond the skills you acquire.

More than ever before, a challenged, stimulated brain may well be the key to a vibrant later life.

“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success,” says Scott Adams

Start spending time preparing for the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts.

Begin to plant seeds every day that will yield the best and most fulfilling life now and in the future.

These valuable skills can radically improve your life. They may not seem earth shattering at first glance, but you’ll be surprised at just how much they can affect your life and career now and for the rest of your productive life.

Get gritty

Grit entails working strenuously towards challenges, maintaining effort and interest, despite failure, adversity, boredom, and plateaus in progress.

Daniel Coyle, author of The Little Book of Talent explains, “GRIT is that mix of passion, perseverance, and self-discipline that keeps us moving forward in spite of obstacles.”

The only person that can really push you a little bit further in life is yourself.

Grit is both a trait and a skill.

And the good new is, you can cultivate or better still grow your grit to strive for what means a lot to you.

It’s a skill that can be learned and practiced over time.

According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, the personal quality she calls “grit” is more important than talent or intelligence in predicting success.

Grit is associated with perseverance, resilience, ambition, and the need for achievement.

It involves maintaining goal focused effort for extended periods of time.

You can develop your capacity for grit.

Your response to a challenging situation is more important the obstacle you face.

Ryan Holiday says “obstacle is the way”. And you need grit to push through the obstacle every time you face a challenge.

The ability to stick with and pursue a goal over a long period is an important indicator of achieving anything worthwhile in life.

Grit is a better indicator of success than talent. No matter how talented you think you are, if you don’t put in the work, it will amount to nothing.

The need for adaptability has never been greater than it is now

The world of work is changing at an ever increasing pace.

In Adaptability: “The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty Max McKeown argues that, “All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.”

We live in ever-changing world which is unlikely to ever slow down.

So, what mattered yesterday (e.g. skill, knowledge, social circle, etc.) very much so might not be worth a dime tomorrow.

The ability to change (or be changed) to fit new circumstances — is a crucial skill to master.

Leon C. Megginson once observed, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

Change used to be slow and incremental: now it is rapid, radical and unpredictable.

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Adaptability enables us to dwell on new circumstances and stay on top of the situation.

Of course, this skill is best when combined with insight, giving us fresh perspective before the change itself.

Growth depends on how adaptable you are.

To stay relevant, most companies will need people who can change with time.

Master failure to success better

Sounds strange, right?

Everyone is always looking for a new way to succeed, the fastest route to success, the best study methods, “How do I get better at [x] without doing [y]?”

The first step is to fail, and not focus on results but learn from the process.

Nothing is perfect; nothing will ever be perfect.

Everything is a learning process. Those who have mastered failure succeed better.

“The evolutionary algorithm — of variation and selection, repeated — searches for solutions in a world where the problems keep changing, trying all sorts of variants and doing more of what works,” says Tim Harford in Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.

Every failure brings you one step closer to success as long as you learn. It’s only a failure when we fail to rise again after a fall.

Entrepreneurs know their chances of failing are greater than those of succeeding, but still they try and risk their time and money.

If you fail, do it quickly, and more importantly, learn quickly.

How to learn, unlearn and relearn

“The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” says Alvin Toffler.

Learning agility is the name of the game.

Unlearning is the new learning.

Your ability to proactively make changes in your career is what will make a crucial difference to where you find yourself even just five years from now.

To succeed today, you must be in a constant state of adaptation — continually unlearning old ‘rules’ and relearning new ones.

That requires continually questioning assumptions about how things work, challenging old paradigms, and ‘relearning’ what is now relevant in your job, your industry, your career and your life.

People who find opportunities in a changing environment are those who are actively looking for them.

Your real education begins with your career, which demands that you continuously learn, irrespective of how often you need to unlearn and relearn.

How to actively and skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyse, synthesise information

The ability to actively and skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyse, synthesise, and/or evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, is of immense importance to work.

Francis Bacon once said, “Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture.”

Decision making and problem solving require gathering reliable information, evaluating the information for a variety of solutions and selecting the most appropriate option based on the criteria and situation.

People who can look at problems from a different angle often end up solving them in completely unexpected, often elegant ways.

At the same time, they expose how narrowly the majority had viewed the problem, or whether it even was a problem.

Creative thinkers are innovative and inventive and are more likely to devise new ways of doing things that add value to the work environment, making systems and procedures more efficient.

The ability to handle yourself, handle others and handle what’s happening around you

In a very practical sense, we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels. Highly emotionally intelligent (EI) people rank high on responsiveness, empathy, listening, and self-awareness.

And they excel at interpersonal interaction.

The reason emotional intelligence is so widely valued is pretty simple. It plays a role in everything.

In Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, author Daniel Goleman writes, “People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”

People skills are so important now and will continue to be in high demand in the future.

EI allows us to create relationships with others, provides insights into people’s motives and allows us to predict responses.

Any discipline that benefits from the emotional intelligence that only humans can provide will be in high demand.

If you are not a people’s person, it’s not too late. You can still learn how to better relate with others. You will need soft skills to thrive in the future.

Personal branding

Being successful in many fields means setting yourself apart.

What is the “one thing” you are great at?

What’s that one thing that sets you apart?

The answer to this question is apt to be elusive.

It’s not guaranteed to be simple, either; you might justifiably believe that multiple “things” set you apart, that you have multiple strengths worth constructing a personal brand around.

If nothing else, though, this exercise gets you into a branding mindset.

As long as you’re thinking in terms of standing apart from your peers and competitors, you’re on the right track.

The impression you project about yourself is crucial for finding the best workplace culture fit and for inspiring confidence in your coworkers, clients, and managers, says Jennifer Lasater, vice president of career services at Purdue University Global.

What does your social profiles says about you?

If you’re not yet active on relevant social media, now’s the time.

Re-tool your top profiles — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and perhaps Instagram,— to align with the personal brand you’ve begun to flesh out.

Start with the basics, such as auditing your social media presence and email name. Ensure that your image comes across as professional and appropriate for the business world.

And always remember, a true personal brand is a way of life — you’ve got to live it every day, lest you lose sight of what makes it unique.

Quick and deep thinking

Information is not the same thing as understanding.

What is the quality of your thinking?

How deep a thinker are you?

Thinking is the core of our being.

Deeper thinking leads to deeper living.

Superficial, shallow thinking produces a superficial life.

We are generally not taught how to think. It is a skill we are expected to know, without specific instruction.

Are you skilled at analyzing problems?

Here is a challenge for your mind for the rest of the year: commit to dig deeper into subjects of thought or knowledge you deeply care about.

When you dig deeper, you understand better.

You compare different outcomes. You analyse, dissect and make informed judgement based on different mental models.

Read a book once and you will probably have a shallow understanding.

Read a book multiple times, take notes, summarize concepts, and guess what, you understand the ideas deeply.

A shallow thinker solves one problem with one known solution whilst a deep thinker approaches multiple problems from different angles.

Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness is primarily problem-solving.

If you’re resourceful, you can take a past system and see how you can make it better. It often requires an imaginative and optimistic outlook.

There is an aspect of persistence and mental toughness in it as well, but problem-solving forms the heart of resourcefulness.

Most people put their dreams on hold because they’re waiting for the right resources to become available to them.

The feel stuck stuck and can’t get past obstacles.

Most businesses today favour employees who understand how to do more with less, solve problems better and help the company to achieve its goals.

Bezos once said that resourcefulness is critical for anyone pursuing a big dream because it’s inevitable that we’ll run into problems.

“As a lot of entrepreneurs know, the whole point of moving things forward is you run into problems, you run into failures, things don’t work. You have to back up and try again. Each one of those times you have a setback and you back up and try again, you’re using resourcefulness, you’re using self-reliance. You’re trying to invent your way out of a box.”

No matter what you do, take the time to develop more resourcefulness to increase your chances of success and to help make you more self-reliant.

When you are resourceful:

  • You are proactive not reactive.
  • You’re aware of the possibilities and opportunities around you and know how to make the most of them.
  • You use valuable information to your advantage at the right time.

Elastic mindset

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything,” George Bernard Shaw said that.

And Einstein also said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Life is neither static nor unchanging, it’s fluid.

Nothing stays the same.

Elastic thinking (experts may call it cognitive flexibility) allows us to shift gears and think about something in more than one way.

A fixed mindset can sabotage your efforts to thrive in a changing environment.

How elastic is your brain?

The ability to stretch beyond your core strengths when necessary and quickly rebound back to your core skills and discipline is a desirable trait.

Elasticity is essentially responsiveness to change in an ever-changing world.

To survive in an environment of constant stimulation and rapid change, elastic thinking is essential.

Elasticity is flexibility.

It’s the ability to adapt to new situations, break down complex tasks into bite size chunks, improvise, and shift strategies to meet different types of challenges.

Flexibility gives the human brain the edge over computers is flexible thinking.

Elastic minds are people who reimagine new ways to solve existing problems and create tools make things better, easier, faster and smarter.

Key takeaway

Today, in the digital age, we are witnessing a major shift.

As work patterns, economic times, and digital technology evolves, the traditional work environment is growing, changing, and emerging with the times.

The future of work is a lifestyle of personal preferences, personal development, and personal responsibility.

The future is yours to shape.

You have the power to change and adapt your skills to stay relevant and indispensable.

Choose to prepare yourself for the future.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +396,714 people.

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