Three foundational skills everyone needs to get ahead in life

Over the past few years, the following foundational skills have helped me shape my career. I am not going to perfect them anytime soon but I think I don’t have to. I believe these skills takes life-long practice and I really don’t want to get done with them. I think it would be silly of me to think that someday I will master them all. I probably won’t. But by simply being aware and practicing them, I feel like I can adopt growth mindset and get better in my life and career.

Focus

Regardless of what I do, being indistracable and being able to focus on the task at hand for longer periods of time is a great skill. It is hard; if it isn’t everyone would do it. Being able to focus gives me a great competitive advantage, so I think it is very well worth learning how to be focussed. I learned that even a few focus blocks each week makes me  highly productive and effective. Having said this, it is really hard. I fail more often than I would like to believe. But that’s the challenge I signed up for.

Feedback

Willingness to ask and accept feedback without getting defensive is another essential skill to develop. It sounds simple. But being told on the face that you have a lot of room for improvement —which is generally true in most cases— is inconvenient and deeply cuts through my most precious possession called ego. But however harsh it may sound,  feedback on how I can improve is exactly what I need to get ahead. So I consider feedback as a gift. To get ahead in life, I need tough love, not being told how awesome I am. That’s why I am always open for feedback.

Flip-flop and iterate

It takes a lot of courage to be comfortable with changing my mind and ideas often. Everything around me is changing constantly. So should my ideas and opinions, I think. I am not obliged to stick with anything just because I felt certain way at certain point in time. Rather than being dogged about my ideas, I found that being open, adapting to feedback and iterating has helped me do cool things.

Can you think of any other skills that are useful regardless of what we do?

Next time I will share what I believe are foundational habits and how I learned about them.

Also, this is my first attempt with a cheesy clickbait title 😉

Great article I read about proactiveness

Yesterday I came across the following tweet by David of Raptitude, one of the few blogs I read and recommend.

The article in that tweet is a great read regardless of your life situation.

If you are dealing with challenges, you should read it to learn how to turn around your situation.

If your life is already great, you should still read it as it serves as a great reminder of the things you got right and shouldn’t forget.

Tweet more characters?!

Okay, I work for a company that makes it easy for people to setup a blog, site or online store. So I may be biased. However, I found this tweet from Twitter interesting:

But seriously, if you are dying to share something with world, and you can’t fit your thoughts in 140 characters, I think what you need is a blog or website where you truly own your content. Not tweets with 280 or some arbitrary number of characters.

New quote that I liked

Added a new quote to my Quotes page on this blog.

I can think. I can wait. I can fast. – Siddhartha

Found this quote in Matt’s Twitter profile via the following Derek’s tweet.

Tim Ferriss’ explanation I found here elaborates this quote well.

Ferriss said that this deceptively simple response is the foundation for all high performers. He explains in “Tools of Titans”:

I can think: Having good rules for decision-making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.

“I can wait: Being able to plan long-term, play the long game, and not mis-allocate your resources.

“I can fast: Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.”

“Those are three very, very powerful tools and they’re very flexible,” Ferriss told us.

The important thing we forget in the rush to achieve

I should remember the following gems in the article I found in the following tweet.

But if I could offer one piece of advice to incoming freshman, it would be to learn to take care of themselves—because they are about to be surrounded by people who often have the misconception that racking up achievements and accolades is more important than leading a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

the real lesson of grit is the importance of working hard at a sustainable pace, without any expectation of immediate payoff.

Should we encourage our children to work hard? Absolutely. But young people need to learn that grit is only effective when coupled with restorative activities like sufficient sleep, exercise, a well-balanced diet, meditation, walks in nature, and time off. Research shows that these basic yet essential self-care habits result in greater focus and productivity, not to mention increased creativity, better decision-making, and stronger emotional intelligence.

Example of a nagging app

Only yesterday I blogged about apps and their tricks to grab our precious attention by making us  install them on our phones in the pretense of helping us.

This morning I wanted to check the menu of a local cafe. I googled and clicked on one of the search results. It’s a Zomato link that looked like what I wanted:

I click on it and get this:

When I click on SEE MENU link, I get this:

If I think a bit about this…

What I wanted to do: check the cafe menu.

What Zomato wanted me to: install their app.

If Zomato’s aim is to help me, it will get out of my way and provide the info I need as soon as possible without any friction. But it seems Zomato’s aim is to make me install their app and advance its interests.

These are exactly the kind of apps and services I should avoid.

Apps and attention

I started reading Raptitude from last year and it quickly became one of my favorite blogs.

The recent post, How Billionaires Stole My Mind, opened up my mind to how social media companies compete for our attention first thing in the morning and succeed in distracting us.

After reading this post, I also deleted Tweetbot app from my iPhone. Twitter now joins the ranks of Facebook, Instagram and other social apps that have no place on my iPhone.

And despite Outlook’s frequent nagging, its notifications remain turned off. The only three apps I allow notifications are: WordPress, Slack and WhatsApp. These three apps are important to me.

I urge you to reconsider and be deliberate about which apps and notifications you allow on your phone. Just because your phone has a lot of space (mine has 128 GB) doesn’t mean you need to install lot of apps and worse still, scroll through their feeds unconsciously.

Ownership and control

I read a great post today that explains why we should take the ownership and control of our content we put on the internet.

Discovered in this tweet, Redesigning Waxy, 2016 edition is a great read.

If you don’t have time to read the full post, just read these two paragraphs:

Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.

It is still hard for me to publish to my blog first and everywhere else next. I shared the original post first in a tweet, and now writing this post. I’m trying hard to get over this habit.

I archive my photos to OneDrive, Flickr and Google Photos. All these services upload my camera roll without me having to do anything. It is convenient. But there is a risk that any of these services can shut the door on my previous memories with little or no notice. I really have no solution to this. I will keep thinking.