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By David Harder on October, 14, 2017

America’s Real Skills Crisis

In our culture, we have a growing challenge and dare I imply “crisis” around a variety of life skill deficits that impact many adults and will undermine the careers of our growing children. We can witness the impact of these deficits on the American workers who characterize themselves as “underemployed.” The number is 48% and that indicates that at least half of our workers are out of sync with change and ill-equipped to reinvent themselves.


For 27 years, Inspired Work has been a place where professionals come to reinvent their careers, and in many ways, their lives. It is a speedy and profound ride taking just two days. We’ve learned a great deal by observing what happens when someone defines what she or he wants really wants to do with life. It is even more exciting to see them realize how they are going to make it all happen.


When we began this journey, I assembled a team of academics and behavioral scientists to examine the relationship that we have with work. Why do I characterize it as a relationship? Well, we spend most of our waking hours getting ready for, being at, coming home, and recovering from work. Early on, it became clear that many people didn’t pursue what they really wanted because they were missing a series of life skills that would produce success no matter their choice. Without these skills, people typically went back to the default button of doing work that offered predictability and survival. But, as the world continues to speed up and the cycles of change increase, these skills have become critical for anyone who wants to be steadily working.


Why is the skill deficit becoming a crisis? Because many of us have run from even learning the skills. Becoming competent with these skills usually requires a bit of courage.


In a world where change accelerates, we need the following skills to thrive as we change ourselves and change our lives.


  • Drawing healthy attention to oneself
  • Understanding how to sell oneself and one’s ideas
  • Developing and building effective support systems
  • Engaging in regular self-inquiry that keeps us ahead of change
  • Practicing active learning every single day


We witness the deeply embedded aversion much of old work culture has about these skills by calling them “soft.” But, there is nothing soft about them.


While the need for developing these skills within adults can immensely improve the lives and careers of adults, children ought to be learning them right now. Leaders in the academic world predict that today’s college graduate will change careers (not jobs) four to six times. How on earth will they successfully do that without these skills? As role models, it is critical that we change what we are presenting on the topic of life skills as quickly as humanly possible. It is also important to understand that our entire educational system from Kindergarten through Graduate School has failed us in recognizing the importance of these skills and teaching everyone to use them.


Let’s instill in our young people, at an early age, that if they want to be successful as an adult, they must learn how to sell, present, network and actively learn. Give them an understanding that the learning process will include some fear and discomfort but as they get used to doing it, they will develop more confidence and get better results.


If you read this and realize it is true, we can always go back and reinvent ourselves fresh and new – no matter the age. Everyone has the capacity to find a great sense of purpose and meaning and joy and fulfillment in our work. We hear a great deal about technology taking our work. But, one of the strange and total flips that must occur in our thinking is that technology is actually giving us freedom, as long as we build the skills that allow us to change. For those of us who view these life skills with contempt, please don’t impact our future by passing that contempt onto children.


Never has there been a time where the world needs children who are doing the work they were born to do, who are connecting with each other, and who are confident they will effectively respond to anything the world dishes out to them.


At the very least, that is what I want because they are the future.


And, I believe all of us want a brighter future.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work Services, Inc.

(C) Copyright, 2017, David Harder – (All Rights Reserved)

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