The essential soft skill

No matter your age, experience, talent or skill level, anyone can improve one of the most essential soft skills: being coachable.

Consider how difficult it is to interact with those who are never open to being wrong, have over-inflated egos, and are incapable of processing feedback to appreciate how valuable those with exact opposite traits are.

Being coachable is an important quality to look for in employees, business associates, and friends, and important to encourage in children.

Stress and control

No matter how serious the challenge is, from ego-driven to life-threatening, there is one theme that everyone who feels stress shares: feeling out of control. Those who are unemployed feel helpless to be in that position, and many with jobs are unhappy as they feel like their priorities and time are dictated by others.

One antidote is to control whatever you can. One reason that the military emphasizes perfectly making the bed upon waking up is that we can start each day immediately accomplishing something small and within our control.

If your stress stems from feeling out of control of your life, take it back by taking control of the small wins.

An alternative to NY resolutions

The 80/20 principle reveals how 80% of positive or negative experiences result from 20% of events.  Exact ratios vary (90/10, 70/30) but the principle shows how fundamentally unbalanced the world is as it applies to wealth distribution, product sales, and even friends.

A very small number of people own most of the world’s wealth.  A small number of products from any company make up most of its sales.  A small number/percentage of all your friends contribute a huge amount to your well-being.

One alternative to New Year’s resolutions is to review the year, analyzing the people you surround yourself with, your time spent, and uses of attention and energy thru an 80/20 lens.  Which few things in each category contributed to the biggest positive or negative states of mind?  Deciding to make a few very small changes for a disproportionately positive outcome is a terrific investment.

Creating the environment

My earliest martial arts teacher had a mic-drop line that I never forgot: “Great teachers create an environment where the learning reveals itself.”  Great teachers are facilitators.  So is everyone else who can influence not just learning but collaboration.

A business owner can cultivate an environment that fosters respect among coworkers,  or an environment of diverse perspectives where people can disagree without fear of consequences.

Cultures emerge no matter what – in your office, your family, in sports teams, and in relationships.  It’s hard to overstate the value of creating one deliberately.

A better way to ask for advice

It’s wise to ask the advice of those whose wisdom we respect.  But there are better and worse ways to do that.

Asking “what would you do if you were me?” is not so useful, as everyone has different fears, perceptions, and experiences that influence their answer.  Also, the advice-giver will not have to live with the consequences of the advice or decisions.  You will.

Therefore, I find it best to ask: “How would you encourage me to think about this?”  What we really need from smart people with sound judgment – even more than what their conclusions are – is how they arrived there.

Stop saying or even thinking this!

Asking things like “why does this always happen to me?” is detrimental to our well-being.  Your subconscious doesn’t understand rhetorical questions and immediately goes to work on answers.

You will only uncover negative answers like “because I’m not worthy” or “because I always make bad decisions”.  Always replace “Why is this happening to me?” with “What is the smartest thing to do next?”

This creates an inclination towards action and automatically bulldozes negativity.  It’s not possible to simultaneously problem-solve and beat yourself up.

Know what you’re buying and selling

Earning a living as an employee is such a common construct that it seems like everyone is trading time for money.  But some businesses and consultants sell outcomes, not time.

When you pay for an outcome, speed is an advantage.  To complain about paying a large sum of money for a job that only took one hour to complete is to totally miss what you’re really paying for: potentially decades of experience that made that one hour possible.