”Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect, and passion in their operation.”John Ruskin
Educational skills help to get your foot in the door, but essential life skills are what get you the gig. It is not uncommon for less qualified individuals to be more successful than their abundantly educated rivals. Essential life skills are what differentiates them from the crowd.
In this article, we examine varied essential life skills that we can learn from business professionals to enhance critical thinking and decision making, keeping you consistently ahead of the pack.
1. A basic understanding of Economics
Behind the definition of economics are 2 vital concepts:
- The scarcity of goods AND
- The need for societies to use resources efficiently.
You don’t need a degree in Economics to understand your environment. A basic understanding of economics leads to better financial decision making in life, and in business. You learn to make the most of your assets instead of replacing them with new, or unnecessary ones.
If you are in a position of management, whether it’s your household, your own business or someone else’s you’ll understand the importance of scarcity and resource usage. It also helps you to interpret and prepare for unforeseen events more efficiently. A basic understanding of economics makes you proactive instead of reactive.
2. Analytical skills
This may sound cliche’ to some, as analytical skills are in great demand in the workplace. But how do we use analytical skills as an essential life skill?
Analytical skills can be broken down into 4 groups:
- Attention to detail
- Critical thinking
- Decision making
- Research skills
Think about the last time you met someone new. You painstakingly paid attention to their every move and then probably researched them thoroughly on social media. Then you had to make a decision whether you’d like to see them again based on your observations. And this decision required a plethora of critical thinking!
You see we use analytical thinking more than we realize. Yet some do not make the best decisions, as they tend to skip the most important steps.
When you practice analytical thinking as part of your everyday activities, it will soon become second nature. And before you know it, your sharpened analytical skills can put you in a favorable position, whatever life throws at you.
3. Financial Intelligence
Financial intelligence is not just the skill to manage money, but also to understand the principles of finance.
Knowing how to manage income and expenses is indeed a critical life skill. However financial intelligence teaches you how to make that money work for you.
These 5 basic principles of finance for the financially intelligent
- Money has a time value – meaning that the dollar you have today will be worth less tomorrow.
- The higher the risk, the higher the return – meaning that you may win big, but you may lose even bigger.
- Diversifying your investments may reduce risk – meaning that you should never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to financing.
- Manager and stockholder objectives may not be the same – meaning you should never trust just anyone with your money. Make sure your money manager understands what outcome you want and then track if that’s what they are actually doing. Better yet, learn how to manage your money yourself!
- Reputation matters – meaning that whoever you choose to manage your money must have extensive experience in the industry with a good reputation from clients.
The Difference between Financial skills and Financial Intelligence
Financial skills are what makes you financially stable, but financial intelligence is what makes you wealthy. Only a select few tend focus their time and energy on financial intelligence, therefore only a select few are wealthy.
Watch this TED Talk by Robert Kiyosaki, the author of one of my favorite books, Rich Dad Poor Dad, a must-read for anyone interested in financial intelligence.
In this TED Talk he discusses the importance of financial education and how it equates to income inequality. I consider this essential listening, as it could literally change your life.
4. Negotiation skills
Remember the last time you bought something big? Did you do your research as a basis to negotiate a better price or did you just go in there and accept it at face value?
The World Economic Forum describes negotiation skills as one of the top 10 skills needed to thrive in a future workplace. I would argue that it is an essential life skill in business, as it is in life.
The power of negotiation not only requires you to be more informed, but it commands respect from others. As an added bonus, it may save you several valuable dollars in the future.
5. Management skills
The core of management is organization. How many times have you heard people complain they have no time, yet they spend countless hours in front of the TV?
The most important components of management:
- Time management
- Making lists of tasks
- Delegating tasks
- Tracking progress
- Evaluating if something is working or not, and making necessary changes
- Making informed decisions
The lack of these critical management skills stems from the lack of focus. When you can get your focus down pat, the rest tends to come naturally.
Watch this TED Talk by Chris Bailey, author of the book Hyperfocus, where he discusses how the state of our attention determines the state of our lives. This may give you better insight on how to prioritize your focus to better your management skills.
6. Leadership skills
Oh dear, another cliche’!
But think of it this way. Can you remember the last time you commanded the attention of a room with only your character and communication style? And I’m not referring to the time you yelled at the top of your lungs to have everyone listen to you! That screams ‘look at me’ or ‘I’m insecure, pay attention to me’. The exact opposite of a leader.
A leader commands attention with their character and quality of communication. A good leader leads by example and has no need to raise their voice or be demanding. People respond favorably to them, look up to them.
Leadership is about getting the most out of people by commanding their respect with strength of character, and not status.
7. Communication, communication, communication!
You may think this is one of the easiest essential life skills since everyone has to do it on a daily basis. But there is a huge difference between communication and effective communication. It’s not what you say, but how you say it that counts.
Think of a colleague who is great at what they do, but you can’t stand to talk to them. Or the office joker who pretty much sucks at everything but everyone loves them and freely offers their help without even realizing it!
Effective communication is about getting a feel for your audience and adapting your communication style. But the most important aspect of effective communication by far is active listening.
As you listen actively to someone speak, you dissect their talking point. Now you have the power to instantly avoid misunderstandings and frustrations, as you will know exactly how to respond favorably. This gives you the upper hand in every conversation.
Try it with your spouse, your best friend, your colleague, and see the difference in how they respond to you. Even the atmosphere becomes less tense!
8. Emotional Intelligence
The book Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman has taught me what distinguishes the winners from the losers. Also known as EQ, it is the ability to understand and manage your emotions as you would an intellectual ability.
There are 4 attributes to Emotional Intelligence:
- Self-management – your ability to control your impulse feelings and behaviors.
- Self-awareness – Recognizing how your emotions affects your thoughts and actions.
- Social awareness – Empathy, the ability to pick up on people’s emotional cues and concerns.
- Relationship management – The ability to build and maintain healthy relationships.
This is an essential life skill necessary for every field, every situation and every circumstance.
Watch this TED Talk by Louise Evans on how to achieve success by mastering your behavior, the most essential life skill.