The importance of skill acquisition to personal empowerment
In this series, we are going over what I believe is the best way to organize your life. If this is the first entry you are reading I suggest you go back to the beginning as the order is important.
The first stages of this system focus on creating a roadmap so that you are in charge of where your life is headed.
The second portion of this system is about taking that map and following it.
Why Skill Acquisition Matters
We are now firmly in the information era. It seems almost ridiculous to say something so obvious but when our educational institutions act as if we are still in the industrial era the point must be driven home.
Over the span of our lifetime, there will be radical changes in how we work. It is no longer sufficient to go to university and come out waving your degree like it is the golden ticket to prosperity.
If you do that, you will be broke.
If you do that, you will be miserable.
The only way to stay above water in this world moving into the future is a desire to learn and expand your human capital. I explain why in more detail in my article about the death of the career man.
Regardless of how you feel about this, it is reality. We cannot deal with reality as we wish it to be but must engage it as it is.
Do not bury your head in the sand and pretend that you will be fine relying on one skillset.
Identifying Valuable Skills
You now understand why skill acquisition matters. What do you do now?
Very few of us want to travel the same road in life so I cannot give specific advice. That will be up to you to decide where you should invest your time.
As a general rule, however, everyone should learn how to sell. I don’t care what you do in life you will have to sell in one way or another. It is best to get comfortable with it now.
It is also one of the most useful skills to have. If you know how to sell, you will always have a job no matter the economic conditions.
The other bit of advice I can give besides learning to sell is to begin with the end in mind.
People get whipped about by the success of other people because they are unsure of where they are going in their own life.
They are randomly pursuing things that have worked for other people in a vain hope that it will also work for them.
Here’s my suggestion: look at your overarching end goal for your life and work backwards from there.
You want to be the world’s greatest neurosurgeon? Start with that and work your way back into what skills you need to acquire to get there.
Do you want personal freedom? Well you can’t have that if you are the world’s greatest neurosurgeon as you’ll always be on call.
The first two steps in this process should help you to determine where you want to end up. Work backwards from there to identify critical skills. Study other people who have succeeded where you want to succeed and see if their path will work for you.
What do you do when your map is wrong?
There is a fantastic saying that I first heard from Steven Covey that goes “The map is not the territory”.
What this means is that while plans are well and good do not let them override what you are experiencing.
If you’re trying to navigate Seattle with a map of Los Angeles, you will get nowhere fast.
Let’s go back to our neurosurgeon friend.
After a gruelling undergraduate where he ended up at the top of the class, he realizes that his goal of being a neurosurgeon is no longer desirable.
Now he has two options at this point:
- Cave to societal pressure and continue on the path to being a neurosurgeon
- Redraw his map
This is where most people go awry. They keep using the outdated map to navigate their life.
They drive twice as fast but only succeed in getting lost in half the time.
Then they wake up at 40 and hate themselves.
Do not feel pressured to stick to a map that you created when you were younger if your goals have changed.
I started off my career thinking that I wanted to be a biochemist in a biotech firm. That goal changed dramatically when I realized just how much government interference there is in the biotech sector.
I have made a pretty abrupt shift into being an online entrepreneur. I was only able to do that because I swallowed my pride and admitted that my previous goals had changed.
I then went about acquiring the skills I need to be successful online.
Our world is changing dramatically. The 21st century belongs to those who embrace the lifelong pursuit of knowledge and skill acquisition.
Map out your life using the first two posts in this series. When you have done that, sit down and begin with the end in mind.
You will have mapped out where you want to end up so now you can work backwards and identify the necessary skills to achieving that goal.
However, if that goal changes do not hesitate to alter your map. We have a finite amount of time in this world so do not waste it pursuing things that you don’t want to impress people you don’t like.
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