How Will Courage Skills Change Our Lives?
“How can you say such hurtful things about people? Words Matter! Seriously, how do you sleep in your car at night?”
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
As my pal Triumph has often shared, words do matter. I’ve observed that the biggest breakdown with our intention to succeed shows up in the unconscious use of our words. The example I find most irritating is the mindless use of the words “Soft Skills.”
The dictionary defines soft skills as:
“Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
Our educational institutions are a wasteland in teaching soft skills. Many people run for their lives when it is suggested they learn soft skills. Many parents unconsciously become rather dysfunctional role models by dismissing the importance of soft skills in their own behavioral repertoire. Well, if the skills are so soft, why are they so hard to embrace?
Why would we describe essential life skills in such a dismissable manner? In all probability, we use the term because so many of us are afraid of the learning process itself.
Here are a few examples:
- “I’m not a salesperson. Never will be.”
- “I would rather die than make a public presentation.”
- “I’m flying below the radar.”
The most common reason we get pushback about developing our ability to sell, network, influence others and build effective support systems is because when we think of drawing attention to ourselves, we become afraid of getting hurt, judged, scrutinized, or rejected. But, without these skills, we become underemployed, obsolete, and cut our overall income by almost 60%.
For many, the challenge is primal. Our outlook on attention begins to take shape during our childhoods and within our homes. As we peer in, we find the average American family spends 7 minutes per day on communication. And yet, we spend hours involved in screen time and watching Television. Some of these homes are also filled with emotional and even physical violence. Based on the average, learning how to draw attention to ourselves is awkward. For those of us who were injured, the reaction is far more negative.
For years, we have delivered a two-day immersive program that has led thousands of people into the clarity of what they most want to do with their lives and a detailed understanding in how they will succeed. By and large, our participants take immediate action in launching new careers, starting a new business or finding far greater success with their existing work.
When someone identifies the work she or he would most love to do, they become far more willing to learn any necessary life skills. This has been the case since we launched our business in 1990. Conversely, in the years since, the rate of change has increased to the degree that today’s average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. In this scenario, the very meaning of the word “job” has transformed.
For about 300 years after the Industrial Revolution, we were conditioned to look at jobs as a source of security. Many of these jobs provided predictability and survival without having to sell, network, influence others and build support systems. However, rapidly advancing technology has turned the tables on our culture. Not only is it speeding up the cycles between looking for work, but it is also offering, perhaps even demanding, how we intend to use our freedom.
Freedom from what?
Even the most highly paid task-based work is crumbling before our eyes.
Here are two vivid examples:
For years, graduates from our top law schools usually aspired to join major law firms. The most courageous and ambitious attorneys learned how to bring in business. They became partners. The rest worked as associates pounding out tasks at all hours of the day. But, Legal Zoom offered to do the same work at a fraction of the cost. Now, many former associate attorneys work in environments that resemble sweatshops at a fraction of their previous salary.
By gathering much of the world’s talent under one digital roof, LinkedIn disrupted the entire search profession. Tens of thousands of professionals who only executed searches have been shown the door, while the partners who generated business have a bright future.
When I launched Inspired Work, there was a metaphysical book on the market called, Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. It was a rather dishonest take on what must take place between the time we commit to changing our lives to the moment where we are succeeding with the change. Andy Warhol understood this. He was not a metaphysical guy, you know, floating across the floor in his saffron robe and lightly hitting a gong. Nope.
Andy told the truth, “Do what you love, you can always sell it.”
His outlook required a bit of courage. Warhol was infamously shy. But, he loved his work so much that he made his introvert personality an asset. He became “mysterious.”
Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call these critically important abilities, “Courage Skills?” The term would make it a bit more difficult to dismiss. Seriously, we can no longer afford to dismiss the development of these skills because they are an entre’ into the future of work.
Many of us would have little trouble in declaring the Industrial Revolution is over. But, few of us have identified the deeply embedded beliefs and behaviors that were imposed on all of us during that era. The most limiting standards of all involved how we selected work because first and foremost, work had to bring us survival and predictability. Employers portrayed a promise in which we got jobs for life. We didn’t have to sell, build support systems or influence others. We filled quotas, plugged bolts in holes, and spent hours involved in rote and repetitive tasks.
Today, we live in a wildly different world. In fact, we have entered the greatest restructuring of work since the printing revolution. Many of us are getting kicked to the curb by change because we don’t know how to change ourselves. Or, we want to change but don’t believe we can. Finally, we are so frightened that we are running from self-change.
My mind goes to examples of clients who are thriving compared to those of us who are overwhelmed with change. I think of a communications executive who didn’t much like where he was working. He decides to launch his own company. While uncomfortable, he devours sales training, social networking, and developing a community around the new business. He makes more in his first year as a business owner.
I think of a another communications executive who wrote press releases for 30 years. He wanted to become a successful commercial writer. He starts publicizing his deeply personal work. I suggested he didn’t take feedback personally. Now, he is on an island writing his first book after getting a deal with a major publisher. I could go on for hours. But, the common thread with all of these individuals is that when they examined their lives, they became willing to change. When they identified what they wanted, not getting that became far more frightening than learning courage skills.
The ability to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people is now one of the most important skills for the future of work. Because, as the world continues to speed up, the more dependent we become on others for insight, help, guidance and role modeling. Today, people fail because of isolation.
My colleague Dr. Mary Campbell and I gave a speech last year to a professional group. We were presenting how parents and children can better prepare for the future. The organization was next door to one of the wealthiest charter schools in America. After we took the last question, they gave a Student of the Month award to a young sophomore. As about a hundred people applauded, she refused to get up and go to the podium to accept her award.
When an entire institution is filled with people who are frightened of attention, we produce young people who are also afraid of attention.
In the new world of work, our ability to connect with others is now the single most important life skill for thriving. Grocery cashiers that don’t look us in the eye will be eliminated by robots. Well-meaning business owners will fail because they believe putting up a website and a sign will be enough. Law students will graduate from schools that didn’t breath one word about business development. The underemployed will hold onto obsolete jobs hoping the human resources death angel doesn’t pay a visit.
Do you want to become a thriving addition to the future of work?
Do what you love.
Do you want to succeed in the work that you love?
Develop courage skills.
As we learn the skills and put them to use, new confidence will emerge. I promise a turning point where you realize,
“I can do anything that I want.”
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