The skills we need

We spend a large portion of our lives selling – selling our customers that they ought to buy from us, selling our organizations on our ideas, and, as parents, selling our kids to listen to us. Being a bad salesperson is counter productive to leading a good life. Selling involves influencing and moving people without any authority. Nearly every job in the knowledge economy requires that skill.

As investors and managers of our own wealth, we need to understand basic principles of finance and accounting. It is impossible to make smart investment decisions if you don’t understand how the economy, investments, interest rates and taxes work.

Most things we do either further or destroy our brand. In that sense, we are all marketers.

In most of our jobs today, we see more data than ever before. Being able to make sense of them requires us to channel our inner statisticians and engineers.

And, every memo we create, event we organize, meeting we run, and product we ship showcases (or not) our design skills. We are all designers, too.

So, to say that we only need mastery in a skill or two to lead a successful life is a flawed belief. Masters, by definition, are cross functional because mastery requires a certain cross functional awareness that most do not access simply because they don’t make the effort. We don’t all need to go to business school or engineering school to learn basic principles. Education helps a lot, sure. But, real learning involves much more than having a professor stand up in front of you – it involves thinking, synthesizing and applying what you learn. Very few manage to take those leaps.

We’re never going to be “learned.” Instead, we’re best served to consider ourselves life-long students and apply the child-like curiosity we had as kids every time we get on a new project. There is a lot to be learnt and there are many skills to be mastered. And, if you ever feel like learning new things is beyond you, just take a look at Ben Franklin’s profile on Wikipedia –

A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

PS: Ascribing Franklin’s incredible list of achievements to genius is just lazy. Any credible biography of Franklin describes him as someone who combined hard work with smart application. There’s definitely inherent ability in genius. But, it takes thousands of hours of work to make that inherent ability count.

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