“Learn and forget”.Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei
The pandemic all over the world brought us to the struggle with changing our habits, and sometimes the way to see things. In this scenario, while unfortunately many people have lost their jobs, a lot of them try to reinvent themselves.
So, the hunt for strategic skills became unprecedented, as virtual certifications like badges are becoming more and more popular. Although the best mindset for working on skills shall be the innate curiosity (that which drives our attention and interest in certain topics), it is also true that the need for education as a matter of survival testifies how hard is the competition in a moment where companies were already transforming their business models before the pandemic came and showed its effects on world economics.
In this article, I would like to share with you my personal view on the matter; but rather than stressing out on the social and economical context – there is plenty of data for that! – I’d like instead to focus on a positive outcome: in practice, I consolidated various interconnected skills into five concepts which I perceive to be useful for living a better life, other than giving you a sprint on your career.
Whether you may agree with it or not, among those there are strategic aspects that companies are looking for, as strictly correlated to growth mindset, resiliency, and other skills of the future. It is unlikely that you haven’t heard those words before and in that case, you might just want to look around and document yourself to be ahead with your goals and plans.
The list below considers my idea of five top elements for your growth that can be mastered regardless of your academic and professional background. Saying that, I encourage you to assess yourself, learn more and try them out there.
#1 – Critical Thinking
Recommended reading: Hans Goslings. “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think”. (2017).
Critical thinking is the ability to be as much objective as we can while taking decisions. That means to account facts, data and details when picturing a strategy or while doing a risk analysis, staying away from gossips, being skeptical of common places. It is something that really helps to see the world better (better than it is, and also better than we see it!).
I recommend Factfulness as a source because it is a precious and fine work of life, providing ten crucial pieces of advice that teach us to see the world differently. To start, you can test your ignorance right here – and find out that most of the people on the planet fall where you and I are.
#2 – Emotional Intelligence
Recommended reading: Daniel Goleman. “Emotional Intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ”. (1995).
This is often defined as a unique skill, but I think it takes much more than theory to master in practice such a concept. In a few words, understanding the psychology behind will allow you to become an active listener when receiving information, and at the same time actively passive when talking to somebody. That translates into the ability to record and elaborate information in context by using empathy to understand how people feel, think, act.
It is, without doubt, the essential for those who, like me, see coaching as one of the greatest tools to help people grow. On the other hand, it may be what you currently do not use with awareness to resolve personal and professional conflicts and extend your network.
#3 – Analytical Observation
Recommended reading: Joe Navarro. “What every BODY is saying”. (2008)
This is the ability to read small details and translate them into a hypothesis; and in our case, non-verbal communication in patterns to get clues about a person’s mindset in course of action and to empower that person using the right tools. Consider observation as a muscle: it does not work well only with theory and needs consistent and constant training.
Joe Navarro’s experience from FBI and as coach for poker players is helpful if you want to increase your situational awareness. Non-verbal clues can say more than words, but only when put into the right context. If you feel uncomfortable to start observing people’s behavior, observation can be trained in many other ways.
Among the five elements in discussion, it is the one that connects the best with the other four on this list simply because it is from observation of phenomena that all sciences and many discoveries came up, and it is also the less considered nowadays due to the excess of stimuli we receive with our hectic lifestyle.
#4 – Envisioning
Recommended sources: news about your company and/or where you live, supporting data, public opinion and/or feedback, etc.
Having a big picture of what is happening is never easy, especially considering the volume of opinions we listen to daily about anything, compared to the number of reliable sources on a topic. Hence, it is important to put into context what is happening with what people think, but also what is not said. Which alas, it is what often happens in many corporate environments.
While we could put a big lack of trust between us and institutions as a barrier, we need to consider that such an attitude could be a double edge blade and that the refusal to get information in this regard is a derailment factor driven by biases and emotions. To survive that, what helps it is to see the workplace as a living organism full of contradictions that somehow manages to carry on: after all, such contradictions explain the continuous transformations (as a cause and as an effect).
Understanding the vision of your company, organization, etc. is about contextualizing individuals’ actions and preference and their place in the big picture and it may be a great tool to enable teaming for success.
Also, it is an essential skill if you are interested in a career path that focuses on research or Big Data and machine learning – albeit from another perspective. Anyhow, data literacy is going to be a powerful tool to get the big picture as much as using critical thinking.
#5 – Mindfulness
Recommended sources: any meditation technique, chán/zen principles. You can find interesting the aphorisms of Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the Ai Ki Do martial art, collected in “The Art of Peace”.
What is mindfulness? The concept is no new as it was introduced in the mid-1970s and yet is now popular more than ever. With regards to the other elements mentioned above, which are often overlooked on a CV, mindfulness should be considered the “life jacket” of your mind. As Houdini was able to escape from the most improbable situation, so mindfulness is the capability to switch off from our problems and get a moment for yourself while being fully aware of what is happening around you.
Often researched through yoga, meditation, and martial arts it is what makes you able to detach from emotions and passions to see things in a different light (useful to get the big picture) and to pause mental trails that go off the main road to keep focus (critical thinking falls here). Ultimately, it teaches us to understand when to take a break and how to control our energy – to pause for a moment the world around us so we can contemplate it.
When too many worries and ideas clash in your mind, mindfulness is what you need, so that the tangle of thoughts can unravel and be ready once you go back to it.
Here is some advice that you would like to take into consideration while working on yourself:
- You can expand your cognitive abilities beyond your barriers. In this regard, memory is often considered the hardest and yet may be easy and funny to train. If you ever heard of mind palace or method of loci, there is an innovative way to experiment on yourself and for free. Visit Anthony Metivier’s website to know more about the Magnetic Memory Method.
- You may have many biases about our world, but there is always a chance to recover from that. GapMinder is a project founded by the late Hans Rosling and led by his collaborators. The dynamic and interactive interface shows you how people really live in countries all over the world.
- As previously mentioned, you may feel uncomfortable handling observation training over people, or you may not be particularly interested in non-verbal communication. There are other ways to train so. If you are a fan of hiking, you love nature and animals and you have a good smartphone, iNaturalist may be a solution that fits you better.