Sunday, August 06, 2006

Valuable skills

You may have earned several degrees. Bachelors, masters, doctorates, diplomas and what not.

However, it seems to me that some of the most valuable skills are not taught in academic programs. If they are, I certainly am not aware of.

First and foremost skill that is very valuable in our professional life is organization skill(s). Start with organizing desktop to organizing everything. Importance of organization skills cannot over emphasize. Only people who have benefited from organization can attest to the value of organization and rich dividends that are paid on a small effort spent on organization.

Do schools or colleges or universities teach how to organize your personal and professional lives? Probably not. Many of us pick up and improvise on organization skills as we go along. We observe and learn organization skills at work and at home we are probably little better as we have seen it all along while growing up..

To make a point, does any course teach the information presented in David Allen’s best seller “Getting things done”? The material presented there is not anything radically new. But, it makes a big difference to see all that wisdom at one place.

Reading and/or listening to “Getting things done” and similar other books can probably be a good alternative to a course in basic organization skills. Smalls things such as coming up with working solutions to arrange our work space, organizing our files (paper and electronic), taking notes, tracking action items etc. make such a big difference in productivity that it has to be experienced. Unorganized mind is a wasted mind. Some people think that organizing every small detail takes away the creativity and spontaneity and totally unorganized life boosts creative energy. Nothing can be farther from  truth. On the contrary, discipline helps creativity by taking care of mundane things that absolutely need to be taken care of and frees the mind for creative pursuits.

So, think about spending some time getting some education formal or informal on organizing skills. It can start with organizing your workspace. Very soon, do not be surprised if you are called to organize your team, department or entire organization. People with superb organization skills stand out and are called upon very often to help reduce the chaos in  organizations.

Second most important skill or knowledge everyone should acquire is basic financial management. It is not required to become a CPA or major in finance. However, being able to make sense out of myriad of financial terms that bombard us on daily basis, goes a long way to successful financial state. To begin with, if a person understands basics regarding bonds, stocks, investing for retirement, practical understanding of risk and reward, some theory behind financial markets, some dos and don'ts, some historical perspective to weather inevitable short term financial ups and downs, debt, credit cards, rent v/s buy among others. It is criminal that some very talented people in other fields lack basic financial management skills or knowledge. They are either leaving the money on table by making mistakes such as not investing in 401(K), not taking tax benefits, not keeping track of all deductions, not investing wisely or investing based on latest fads, trying extremely speculative investments such options, futures etc. Many people put off acquiring financial knowledge for two reasons. One, they do not have much money now and do not expect to acquire much in the future. Second, they are already loaded and do feel they need to maintain it wisely. Both cases need financial acumen more than anyone else.

Get  basic financial management education and it may make huge difference of millions over your lifetime. Good news is that a lot of formal and practical education is available on personal financial management. Check out your town's recreation department and/or colleges and universities in your area. Armed with this education, you can very well pick and choose a financial advisor who you think can take care of you finances if you do not want to do it yourself.

Third important skill or knowledge is to acquire is interpersonal skills. Some people are blessed with great interpersonal skills. It comes naturally to them. They also can benefit from formal learning as if you become consciously aware of your strengths, you can further strengthen them. For rest, importance of teamwork and interpersonal skills should be taught from the beginning so that we don't learn them by  trial and error. It is much easier to recover from mistakes in other areas. But, relationships with fellow humans are far more fragile and are some time irreparable once we screw them up.

A lot of knowledge about interpersonal skills boils down to one simple thing that is to put ourselves in others’ shoes so that we can empathize with them. This alone when practiced effectively makes a big impact on how successful you can be. Once the other person knows that you empathize with him or her, then they work with you with full trust. Once people interact with trust, rest all falls in place. All other problems are solved because people trust each other.

Related to interpersonal skills is getting in touch with ourselves. It takes a lot of effort to harness even 10% of our true potential. A lot of our vital energy is wastefully dissipated by our prior conditioning, which results in all negative traits such as fear; greed, anger, jealousy and you name it. Making a conscious attempt to get in touch with ourselves from time to time and taking heart in reminding ourselves of our true mission goes a along way in keeping us spiritually healthy. With that, physical health and menthol health cannot help but improve. There are many good courses and books on different topics related to getting in touch with ourselves. If not anything, following should serve your adequately. Our classic scriptures and commentaries on them by eminent scholars are a good start if we want take the route of tried and true. On the modern front, Dale Carnegie’s books, Wayne Dyers works and works of many other social scientists are a great way to get in dialog with your core. Meditation and other practices which help strengthen your faith in anything that you value (God, work, family etc.) are a really great add-ons.

Start spending sometime on all of the above and you will be amazed at how purposeful your life will become. You also start feeling a sense of renewed energy as you take control of different aspects of your life.

Only thing to watch out is not get into the cycle of regretting and repenting. It is not at all unlikely for people to develop a sense of despondency and utter sense of having wasted so much over the years. This can lead you into self perpetuating cycle of self pity. Let bygones be bygones. Future is bright and we all have more than adequate time to live our life to the fullest.


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