Essential Skills

“Essential skills” is a buzz-phrase that gets thrown around in corporate speak and in education.

What should people know?

It’s a tough question because “essential skills” keep changing. So what skills would be considered timeless?

Let’s try a thought experiment:
Our entire technological infrastructure goes down, as does our energy supply. We have no access to the comforts of progress, nor the ease of transportation.

What are the essential skills needed for survival?

Knowing how to grow food would be a top priority.
Knowing how to build shelter.
Knowing how to get access to water and filter it.
Medical knowledge.
Knowing how to cooperate.
Knowing how to defend oneself from those who refuse to cooperate.

Once those are firmly established, other skills can be built upon them to rebuild what was lost.

For those who do not possess any of those skills, the benefit they could provide is a willingness to learn.

Those are essential skills that will never change.

Everything else is mere curiosity about what we’ve uncovered throughout history.

What You Wanted Then Isn’t What You Want Now

As a teenager, I wanted to be a martial artist… then a computer programmer. I also wanted a corvette.

In University, while studying Theology, I wanted to be a world-famous magician. I had no desire to own a vehicle, be in a long-term relationship or live in a house.

Ten years from now, I can already anticipate my wants (and needs) are going to change drastically again.

This is the difficulty in giving advice to others, especially when they’re at a different stage* in their life.

You’ve been in their world, but they haven’t been in yours.

You need to remember how your mind worked, or at least try to empathize how their mind is working, in order to be helpful.

Otherwise, you’re another person who “just doesn’t get it.”

It’s also something to keep in mind for people who are at a stage you will be approaching as well.


*Stage, by the way, doesn’t always correlate with age.

I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

My head is always spinning with thoughts and ideas. To get them onto the page is a matter of getting out of the way and letting them flow.

To worry too much about perfection is when the block happens. It’s a belief that writing is some kind of magical process that demands the highest level of mastery only some possess and others only fake.

Once I stopped believing that, there was never an issue to write.

Writing is work and it’s a skill that can be learned. To learn it requires practice and that can only happen when you do it.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

The real writer’s block is feeling like you have nothing to say.

In that case, it’s time to find your voice.

All Time is Free Time

You don’t pay for time because it’s given to you every day.

It’s considered the great equalizer because we’re all given the same amount of it.

However, what you do with that time is a whole other story. Sometimes circumstances dictate how it will be used, but there never seems to be enough of it.

We strive to get rid of commitments just to have more free-time for ourselves.

We regret the time we’ve wasted and the time we used on worrying about things that don’t matter.

We wish for more time for the things we love.

We’re bitter towards others who seem to have more of it than us.

With all of this going on in our heads, maybe it’s time to change the way we look at time.

Try this mindset change:

Instead of, “This is what I have to do,”

try, “Here is how I’m choosing to spend my time.”

Keep saying it enough and you might start appreciating the time you have… and choosing to do something different with it.

Is Discussion Possible?

Social media, a microcosm of our need for self-validation, has made us hyper-aware of what’s happening in the world.

It has also given us a place to connect with others, share our findings, encouragement and opinions.

Unfortunately, it still has not pushed us to have real discussions. Everything turns into an argument where people shut down and become defensively aggressive.

This could actually be pointing to a bigger issue, which is our inability to listen.

We forget that listening is a skill and one that takes time to develop. Even in our face to face conversations, our listening skills can be relegated to waiting for the other person to finish talking just so we can get our turn to speak.

Our online conversations are merely transpositions of our personalities (real or perceived).

Are discussions on the Internet possible?

Only if we’re ready to actually listen and respond accordingly.

Learning About Food

The first time I saw the price of pesto sauce in a grocery store, my jaw hit the floor.

My dad was the typical Italian immigrant gardener (he was a farmer back in Italy as well), who grew all our vegetables in the summer and preserved them for the year.

He grew bushels of basil to make pesto sauce. It didn’t occur to me how much of a pain it would be for others to make their own from scratch.

There is a ton of conflicting (and sometimes erroneous) information about the healthiest type of diet.

Here’s the crux: the one thing all diets have in common is they cut out processed food.

Learning about where your food comes from will teach you everything you need to know about eating healthier.

Just like growing basil, it’s a lengthier process, but it’s much cheaper on you and your health.

Bathing in Nature

I’ve always considered myself the great indoorsman.

Sure, my mom constantly kicked me out of the house as a kid and I would stay out until dinner, but I never found a lure with camping… or any of its related activities.

While people of my generation, and older, would read that with some amount of disdain, I do find solace in bathing in nature.

It involves spending time during the day to enjoy the home this Earth offers. Taking walks along trails, bike riding along paths, visiting gardens, going to the water… whatever is available.

Bathing in nature is akin to actual bathing. Instead of cleaning yourself of dirt and horrible scents, you’re cleaning yourself of the anxieties of urban isolation.

It’s like taking a vacation for your mind.

The Japanese even have a term for it, shinrin-yoku, and the results speak for themselves.

Getting people outdoors today, especially the younger generation, is proving to be a challenge. There’s just too much temptation to keep occupied inside.

However, there’s a stigma when you tell someone they need a bath. They immediately get self-conscious and want to remedy the situation.

Perhaps if we start telling people they need a nature bath, we might see a resurgence of people wanting to stop what they’re doing and head outdoors.

The Hesitation Before a Decision

Right before you make a decision, no matter how minute, pay attention to any hesitation that happens.

It could be an indicator of uncertainty, of unwillingness or fear.

It can be paralyzing.

The hesitation can prevent us from ever deciding because we get stuck in an endless cycle within our heads. We’re asking ourselves whether we’re making the right choice.

You can never eliminate that hesitation… or be certain it’s helping you make the right decision… but you can grow comfortable with it.

Then, it will stop paralyzing you.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree Book Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but picked it up on a whim after reading the first few pages at a bookstore.

First, if you’ve read any articles, blog posts, or books on success principles, there’s no new ground being broken here.

Instead, what Barker offers is a new narrative to deliver the information. Every chapter is loaded with stories, which makes the book a compelling enough read to get through. While the stories appear to be random, he ties them together in a way that fits his points.

At the end of every chapter are the key takeaways and call to action items. You could probably get all the information you need just from those summaries, but then you wouldn’t be quite as entertained.

My favourite section was Barker using Genghis Khan as a positive example of work-life balance and the section on relationships.

Some choice quotes:

“We always think we need more: more help, more motivation, more energy. But in our current world the answer is often the exact
opposite: we need less. Fewer distractions, fewer goals, fewer responsibilities. Is that so we can watch more TV? No. We need less of
those things so we can go all in on our priorities.”

You wouldn’t say “I got my dream job. Whew, now I can stop working,” but people frequently do something akin to this with relationships because “it was meant to be.”

If you’re a motivational junkie who wants another hit, or someone who is just never satisfied with their level of success, the book is worth the read.

When There’s No Finish Line

Imagine a race with no finish line.

You just keep racing until eventually your entire body gives out and you die. Sounds pretty morbid, right?

Isn’t this what we do with our lives?

We don’t set a finish line for ourselves, constantly seeking “just a little bit more,” and end up getting to the end of our lives without appreciating what we have.

It’s not completely our fault as we’re bombarded with messages about “having it all” and “achieving more.” Yes, we should try to achieve, but we should also be realistic with ourselves.

When there’s no finish line, no gratitude for what you’ve achieved and no parameters set, your entire instincts are out of line. It’s the reason billionaires commit suicide and professional athletes go broke.

Unless you’re willing to sacrifice everything for what you want… and I do mean everything… setting boundaries will be the better course of action.

Set the boundaries, choose a finish line and stick to it.

Then, and this is the tough part, be happy with what you have.