5 Skills That Will Control Your Destiny in a Future of Change

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash

Embrace Iteration

“Few ideas work on the first try. Iteration is key to innovation,” said Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun. Yet how many people are prepared to handle iteration?

“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.”

Without iteration, we don’t recognize the importance of feedback. We lack the direct consequence from seeking out feedback and constructively applying it. And we limit our development to our own biased perspectives.

“Progress is incremental for us, both as individual creative beings and together as a society and civilization. The flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst. It’s just that culturally, we are not interested in the tedium of the blossoming. And yet that’s where all the real magic is in the making of one’s character and destiny.”

Ask (Great) Questions

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” — Eugene Ionesco

As many of us grew up, we quickly learned that answers — not questions — were rewarded. Answers move us forward. Questions delay. So it shouldn’t be surprising that while a lot of people specialize in giving great answers, few excel in asking great questions.

“Answers mirror the questions they rise, or fall, to meet.”

When Edwin Land was vacationing with his family, his daughter asked him why they needed to wait to see the pictures he had just taken. While it was common knowledge that film needed to be developed in a dark room, her question spurred him to challenge this convention. He would go on to develop the Polaroid Instant camera.

Encourage Diverse Opinions

“People who change their minds because they learned something are the winners, whereas those who stubbornly refuse to learn are the losers.” — Ray Dalio, Principles

It’s become a social embarrassment to not have an opinion on a topic. So we encourage people to quickly develop one based on a superficial understanding of the facts and a couple quick sound bites from the echo chamber of their choice.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

We should all remember that it’s much more rewarding to understand than to be right. And true understanding only comes from exposing ourselves to diverse perspectives. Above all, we should remember the fifth tenet in Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit,

“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.”

Perseverance

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill

I was interviewing a candidate the other day when I asked him to tell me about a time where he struggled to overcome an obstacle. He told me that he’s never really struggled with anything.

“If you think about how hard it is to push a business uphill, particularly when you’re just getting started, one answer is to say: ‘Why don’t you just start a different business, a business you can push downhill.’”

We often say that people need to overcome their fear of failure. I don’t believe this is true — people actually aren’t afraid of failure. We see people failing every day — often running headfirst with practices almost designed to ensure this result.

Self-reflection

“It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one’s own faults. One show the faults of others like chaff winnowed in the wind, but one conceals one’s own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice.” — The Buddha

Ask people if they consider themselves to be self-aware- and nearly everyone will make this claim. Yet research shows that only about 10–15% of us actually demonstrate effective self-awareness. As psychologist Tasha Eurich described it, “that means that 80% of us are lying to ourselves about whether we’re lying to ourselves.”

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

Embrace a Future of Change. Embrace an Active Life.

“We can change. People say we can’t, but we do when the stakes or the pain is high enough. And when we do, life can change. It offers more of itself when we agree to give up our busyness.” — Anne Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

We all have the capacity to adapt with a changing world. But first we need to be willing to let go of the current version of ourselves — those fixed mindset identities that are laden with weights of comfort and self-righteousness.

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Jake Wilder

Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.