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March 31, 2016 / paulio10

10 Skills You Need For The Future

The world is changing, I don’t think anybody will argue with that.

To adapt quickly and effectively to the changes coming (rather than being railroaded by them), I suggest you develop the following skills for yourself:

1. Observation

Look around you at what other people are doing. Other people are not stupid. If you see another person that you think is behaving in a stupid way, stop what you’re doing and go up to them, and start asking them questions. Observe them. Find out what’s going on, what they are about. Why are they doing that? If you can’t figure it out, ask them point-blank. You can learn a lot about the life around you that you never understood before, this way.

I saw a homeless man who was wearing a grungy dark-green jump-suit, in a fast food restaurant at lunch time a few years ago. He was a young man, maybe 25 years old or so, and I felt compelled to talk to him for some reason, even though my immediate reaction was that I was repelled by him.  I ate my lunch and waited, and then I found an opportunity to go and talk with him. He needed a ride to another part of town, so I gave him a ride in my car, and had a chance to talk to him and understand his viewpoint of our society and the world we live in. I did not talk about me, I talked about him the whole time, and tried to re-express his own ideas back to him, to see if I got it right, and to encourage him to tell me more.

His grungy 1-piece uniform irritated me so much. At one point I said, “you know, if you wore some nice clothes like jeans and a T-shirt, at least, you could probably get a job working somewhere, and have a lot more money to spend.” I wanted to suggest to him what I believed to be the next step in his “evolution” of becoming part of what I think of as our normal society.  It was the best thing I could think of saying at the time, and I really wanted to hear what he had to say about this. His response was really interesting.

He basically said, “no, this is my uniform. I have to wear these clothes. When I wear this, people know I’m homeless and give me money. If I wore ordinary clothes nobody would give me any money.” And it occurred to me, I gave him some money earlier, and now I’m giving him a ride. I really learned something that day. This guy intentionally wore that clothing to intentionally set my expectations, so I would participate one way or another – be repelled and leave, or help him in some way, because those are the two reactions that all people have in our society.  It kind of blew my mind.

He was a very kind-hearted young man who is currently hating our society. And I don’t blame him; he brought up some very good points about the down-sides of our economy and political system and social-environmental system. I couldn’t really argue against anything he was saying. Which means he’s also a very smart young man, because I’m smart too, and I couldn’t come up with very many good arguments against what he was saying. The only difference is, I cooperate with this society the way it is, and try to influence it in the best way possible, from within the system.  He chose a different route, to reject it directly, and rely on God and good samaritans to help him survive.

This kind of thing can open your eyes to other aspects of our society. I’m not going to become homeless anytime soon; but I can understand his point of view, now.  It was eye-opening to see a side of our society that we NEVER get to see from any media-outlet. This is a fragment of the real world around me, and I needed to see that.

2. Listening More than Talking

When I was talking with that young man, I listened 90% of the time, or more. I didn’t talk about myself much at all, except in comparison to what he was saying; then I turned it quickly back to him. I wanted to be supportive of what he was saying, whether I believed in what he was saying or not; because I wanted him to tell me more.  And he really appreciated it. I got the feeling that not very many people take time to talk to him and listen to him these days. Most people, like him, will go into deeper detail and follow deeper and more realistic paths of thought if we simply encourage them and support them in what they’re saying.  To help them reconnect broken connections, come to newer conclusions over time.  It’s possible to do that without believing their viewpoint – simply by understanding their viewpoint.

It’s important to understand other people’s viewpoints. In war time there is a saying, “understand your enemy;” but in this case, I realized this young man is not my enemy, he’s just yet another hurting person in our society who is aligned differently than every other hurting person in our society that I’ve ever seen, including me. Everyone seems to be hurting in some way, in some direction, in some dimension; and I could see that sometimes it pulls the person away from the norms of society, like this young man, evidently.

I could tell that this young man really liked talking to me, because he gave me one of his prize possessions in return for the ride – a large highly polished rock with amazing fossils embedded in it – I had never seen anything like it before.  I still have it in my collection of things in my office, it’s really cool.

3. Accepting Other People the Way they Are; Encouraging Them to Be More, Their Own Way

I didn’t reel back from the way this man looked, talked, or smelled. I just took it all in. It was a new experience from me.

Observe yourself – do you avoid new experiences? If yes, then, why? They don’t really threaten you in any way. You can still go on and be you afterwards, follow your own path, pursue everything you believe in, get things and do things the way you always have. You don’t have to suddenly start following someone else’s belief system just because you learned about it. Knowledge is not a virus! If that were true, wouldn’t you be trying to live exactly like EVERY movie and EVERY TV show you’ve ever seen? TV and movies portray very compelling characters and stories, sometimes in the most amazing way. But that’s ridiculous – you don’t try to do that.  So, then, it’s OK to learn about a new person, a new thought, a new way of life; and not feel you have to abandon everything you are and everything you believe it to become like them.  You’re still you, always, forever. So throw away the fear and start learning what people are like in our society who aren’t exactly like you. You won’t learn it any other way. Life is living all around you; with or without you; I recommend experiencing all you can.

4. Learn how Money Really Works

I wrote an earlier blog post about this.  Read it for more information.

5. Dream How Money Should Really Work in Our Society

Now this is a topic I love thinking about. What are your ideas, I have a feeling I know what the next generation of money will be like in our society, but I’m still constructing my ideas about it. What do you think?  What would be a more fair system, that covers every type of person, every need, every want, in our society?  It can be done. Be creative and see if you can figure out a great system. Thoughts are powerful things.

6. Be OK at Failing, get used to Being Wrong

This is really hard for some of us; it used to be hard for me.  We were taught in school that you’re supposed to find the ONE RIGHT answer; only tell the teacher, tell the class, what the RIGHT answer is. If you don’t have the RIGHT answer, you’re WRONG.  Your grade reflects that; pure and simple.  There’s a certain powerful element of emotion tied in to this, being right and wrong, also. Turns out this is all wrong.

It’s OK to be wrong, or to fail at something.  At the very least, you learned what NOT to do.  I know that sounds like loser-talk, but you’ve got to change your way of thinking – you can never lift yourself up to the next level of understanding ANYTHING until you can get past this limitation you created within yourself. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to fail. Because you’re going to learn from it, and try again. And again. And again – until you are successful.  If it’s painful right now, take a break. You’re done for a while. Stop thinking about it. Recover.  Then get mad – that thing doesn’t have the right to defeat you! Try it again.  Learn from those who already do it right. Study them. Ask them lots of questions. You’d be surprised at how many people “greater than you” are happy to answer questions about how they do what they do. The most talented people are very open about what they do and how they do it. They’ll look at you and say to themselves, “now there’s someone with potential – curious and learning. So few people care enough to ask questions. I want to encourage them, they’ll get it some day. They’re actually closer than they think, right now.”

In fact, you can practice failing, in order to get good at it.  Really!  A good way to practice failing is to learn how to juggle.

I taught myself how to juggle 3 balls with 2 hands. I can also juggle 4 balls, with 2 balls in each hand (which is harder than 3 balls in 2 hands). You don’t have any idea how many times I dropped those balls while practicing. I come from a family who learned to have a giant emotional seizure every time they “drop something on the ground accidentally”.  I realized it’s like an opera – not real, but so compelling. Well, thanks to juggling, I completely got over the fear of dropping things! I have no emotional hangup with dropping things now. I just don’t care if I drop something or not. And, consequently, I almost never drop anything at all, anymore. Maybe one or two things a year, or less. I don’t break coffee cups or tea saucers in the kitchen like my parents would. I don’t drop my phone and break it. I don’t spill the cup of soda all over the rug, and have to rent a carpet cleaning device to fix it.  I conquered spilling and dropping.  I conquered it by learning to juggle.

Want to learn how to juggle? You don’t have to spend much money to practice it. Believe it or not, the nearest to perfect thing to use for juggling balls are: oranges!  Buy 3 oranges that are the right size that fit your hand nicely.  When you wear them out, buy 3 more oranges. They are not that expensive.  And don’t feel bad; those oranges are serving humanity, just as if you had eaten them. Or you can buy juggling balls in some toy stores, or online.

Practice a little every day. Watch youtube videos on juggling basics. When you get frustrated and mad, stop. You’re done for the day. Pick it up again tomorrow. The most important thing: don’t give up until you can do it.

But while you’re learning to juggle, keep an eye on yourself – what emotions come up?  What body movements happen that you can’t seem to control and change? What thoughts go thru your head?  How do your emotions and thoughts change about juggling over a 1-month period?

If you get seriously stuck on something, break it down – figure out the components that make it up; but don’t just analyze it with your mind, don’t overthink it; mindless repetitive action sometimes is necessary to get your body to comply with what it is you’re trying to train it to do.

How are the feelings and thoughts and movements different once you’ve conquered juggling, compared to the middle of learning, and compared to the very beginning? It is so fascinating. Once you conquer juggling, you need to understand that anything big and new that you want to learn, you’ll probably go thru those same feelings and thoughts.  And it’s OK, isn’t it, you got through it!  The later times are never as hard as the first time you conquer something.

Can you juggle yet, like me?

7. Try to Know What You Don’t Know

Be able to admit when you don’t know something. Because who cares! If you don’t know it, you need to learn it, and it’s OK to realize you don’t know stuff. Specific stuff.  And it’s OK if others know that about you, too.  You’re only a human being.  Like them.  There’s plenty of stuff they don’t know either.  That’s the only way you’re really going to learn something you don’t know – you have to realize you don’t know it first. Only then do you have a chance to some day know it!  If you pretend and skip past that part, you NEVER know it, and ALWAYS suffer from that lack of knowledge from that point on.

If you work with other people, you will let down those people with your lack of knowledge and pretend-knowledge.

If you work for a company, you’re hurting that company by pretending to know something you don’t know, instead of actually learning it.  Stop doing that. You’re risking your job, maybe risking your career, with pointless risk. I don’t want that for you. If it’s not easy to admit when you don’t know something, then start with admitting something small, something simple, and see how people take it. You’d be surprised how accepting people are of your lack of knowledge. Because, who cares. You don’t know something. So what. You’re human. Now, learn that something, so you know it for the rest of your life. That’s one more thing you conquered in your life.  And one less painful thought-feeling to experience for the rest of your life.

8. Cooperate; Ask for Help when you need it; Delegate.

In school we “learned” that we have to do our own work! Never cooperate! Don’t depend on other people to do your work for you!  Are you trying to cheat or something?  It turns out this is completely wrong, and completely the opposite of how all modern businesses work today. In business, if you don’t know how to do something, you probabl do not have time to learn it – it’s better to recruit someone who already is an expert at that topic. In fact, you can do both: (1) get the expert to do it right now, this time, and (2) you spend some time over the next week or month learning more about that topic, so you can maybe do it yourself in the future.  Maybe learn some of it from that expert you hired! That could bea perfect opportunity. Or just plan on outsourcing that every time it comes up. That’s a solution too.

Cooperation is the way to get anything done better, faster, cheaper.  Why would you not want to take advantage of experts?  You do what you’re best at, and let others do what they are best at.  It only makes sense. …assuming you know what it is you’re best at.  And that they do, too.

Delegation is getting other people to do the majority of the work. Sometimes this is the right thing to do. Perhaps some thing is still your responsibility, so you still need to track the progress, and maybe report the results to whoever you have to report to. Stay on top of the project or person, but don’t bug them too frequently. Answer their questions quickly and completely. Give them what they need to do the job. It takes practice to learn how to delegate properly, to help the person feel like they’re participating in a bigger project that’s exciting, rather than being give busy work to do by you. Because it is exciting, especially when you see the end results. Sometimes just a few quick words about why, about what the end-result will be if this work gets done. Seeing the vision of the end-result can be a very powerful motivation factor. For you, and for others.

9. Simplify & Optimize

Once you are able to accomplish a bigger task by doing all the smaller steps for it, if you find yourself doing it over and over again, what can you do to simplify the process? Speed it up? Reduce it to smaller tasks? Can you do pre-work that helps speed up the task? Can you get someone else to do the pre-work? Or to do the task itself? Can you have multiple people doing the tasks in parallel? Can a computer automate the task? Try to optimize the arrangement of parts, orders, data and information, so that it’s much easier the next 10 times it has to be done.

You can make your life easier by simplifying and optimizing.  You can create beneficial wins for yourself and your department and your company, if you find these things at your job. Bosses often like to find people who have the skill of simplifying and optimizing. So many people can’t or don’t do this; but so many businesses need their processes and operations streamlined, so they can work faster, better, and make more money – which will keep you employed that much easier and longer. It’s just good all-around.

With software development, “refactoring” is the science of taking a piece of code and simplifying and optimizing it. The benefits are pretty large; you get faster, more reliable code that is easier to debug or improve and add features to. Simpler code has a higher chance of being more secure, from a computer-security point of view. More software developers will be able to understand your code, if it is simpler. A developer can spend more time working on adding exciting new features, rather than being dragged back to the old code when there are a slew of newly discovered and unexpected bugs to fix.

Making something simple takes more work than making something complex. For some reason our initial impulse for solving a problem usually yields overly complex results.  With careful work, it can be made simpler. I like the phrase “make it as simple as possible but no simpler.” A famous writer once wrote in a letter to a friend, “I apologize for the length of this letter, for I did not have the time to write you a shorter one.” It’s funny, because it’s true.

10. Create Processes to Accomplish More Complex Things

Create steps of what to do, in what order; what things to check, what can go wrong, based on what has gone wrong in the past. Some people call this a “process” or a “system” to get work done. I call it common sense, so you don’t suffer the pain and agony of failing to do it properly in the future. I call it “learning now”, in order to not fail in the future.

It’s so easy to forget one of the many steps that it takes to accomplish something important. Whatever steps were left out end up causing a huge headache later on.  Then, next time, you’ll totally remember not to skip that painful step that was skipped last time – instead you’ll skip a different step, causing a NEW pain this time around!  Is that really how you want to live your life? I work with people like this today at my current job. I can see their pain. So I encourage them to (1) create the process they will follow, and (2) follow the damn process every time so nothing is missed. These processes can be revised and updated any time; they’re not fixed in stone.

In my world, most processes have to do with software deployment.  But these principles can be applied to anything in life, such as: paying bills on time, getting your kids to school or soccer practice on time, remembering all the weekend tasks you committed to doing without missing a single one, remembering to buy a card 1 week before valentine’s day / anniversary / important birthdays, remembering the grocery stores all run out of crushed pineapple 1 week before Easter so you should stock up 2-3 weeks before, and so many other things.

The trick is to (1) make a list of all the steps.  (2) follow the list when you’re actually doing the work. (3) when you discover something you have to do that’s not on the list, add it RIGHT NOW to the list. (4) prune anything from the list that doesn’t apply anymore and won’t apply in the future, if things have changed.

I do this for paying bills, even. I can tell when I did NOT receive a bill in the mail within a few days, and sense that something’s wrong in the universe; and call the company to ask where my bill is – rather than “missing a payment” because of reasons outside of my control. Sure, the post office ate my bill. Sure, the company didn’t know I moved to a new house, despite the change of address card I sent them. Sure, the kids got the mail out of the mailbox and dropped something on the ground before it all got back to the house. How was *I* supposed to know I was missing a bill?  Well, after many painful experiences, I created a way to detect that, and you can do the same in your own life. It takes a little extra work every month, around bill paying time, but it’s worth it. And because I documented the steps, I don’t have to think very hard to repeat them each time; just follow the steps.

But paying bills is probably not your issue. What is your issue? How can you remind yourself automatically, to follow the right steps at the right time?

Here’s another good one.  You see a problem (like you didn’t receive the electric bill this month), you contact the company, and they say they’ll get back to you or they’ll send you a new bill – and that’s the end of it. But then they never do their part, and you forget about it, so you fail to make the payment on time – and of course you get penalized, not them! Are you mad at them for failing you?  I say it’s YOUR fault for not creating a reminder system for yourself to stay on top of this thing that’s their fault (because they haven’t done the right thing and sent you a new bill), and they haven’t communicated with you (email or phone call), and yet, you’re responsible for making the right payment on time. You need a way to track what you’re expecting of other people, and keep reminding and bugging them until you get what you want, or you agree it’s time to drop it and move on. Nothing should slip thru the cracks, with you around.  You can create systems to prevent that. I know you can do it, because I HAVE done it, as have may others before me.

Learn about GTD – Getting Things Done. Look into what a “tickler file” is. Learn to use a day-planner. Practice putting things on your calendar to remind you in the future – you do have a calendar of some kind that you follow regularly, right? Digital systems are neat, but may not be a complete solution. What if you have a piece of paper you don’t need to deal with now, but you definitely need to deal with it next week? Next month? 6 months from now? or a year or two from now? Where can you put it that you’ll be reminded of it at the right moment, and NOT reminded about it over and over again between now and then?

You will find a way. I know you can.

Using Your Skills, for… ?

You, in the future. What’s the highest, greatest work you could do, that you would love to do, in the world?

Now, what skills will you need to accomplish that?

I think you will find that many of the skills I’ve listed here will come in very handy in that great future.

Other Skills

Did this article make you think of other skills that you want to learn in the future? Or that you wish other people would learn?

What are they?


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