What are the key skills to be learned to live a successful life? If schools as we know them, were not there, what would I consider top critical skills to be learned for my kids?
Photo credit: Boy playing by Shutterstock
In the previous parts of this guide I have expanded on Stephen Downes original 10 points included in his excellent guide "How To Be Successful", which I curated and republished (with his permission) in 2006.
In Part II and III I have looked at 15 additional skills, ranging from the social (collaboration, sharing, listening, being sociable), to the survival (grow your own food, wilderness, first aid, personal defense) and to the cognitive / intellectual ones (how to ask good questions, how to curate, how to focus, and more).
In Part IV I am looking at the following five additional life critical skills:
26. How to Get Buy-In
How to get other people to support you and your initiatives
27. How to Sell
How to sell things in exchange for money to other people
28. How to Be Reputable
How to leverage reputation without handicapping yourself uselessly?
29. How to Be Causative
How to effectively change things?
30. How To Be In The "Here and Now"
How to be fully in the present moment and why this is so important
Here all the details:
26. How to Get Buy-In
Definition:"Acceptance of and willingness to actively support and participate in something." Source: Merriam-Webster
"Getting agreement, approval and support from others to do something." "Getting advocates for your cause, proposal, idea." Source: Robin Good
"The commitment of interested or affected parties to a decision (often called stakeholders) to 'buy into' the decision, that is, to agree to give it support, often by having been involved in its formulation." Source: Wikipedia
Backgrounder:Buy-in occurs when an individual sees clearly that all of his needs, interests, desires and fears have been fully taken into account. Buy-in also occurs when a person feels integral part of the group and of the decision-making process where he is asked to provide support. The tangible benefit of buy-in is the fact that whoever buys in will also feel responsible for whatever is being created or produced. People who have seriously bought-in into an idea will naturally brag about it, will share the idea with others and will try to find ways to make it better. In other words people who buy-in into something will become natural evangelists for that idea / project. Furthermore, a group of people who has bought in into a project or idea is generally excited about it and will do whatever in its capabilities to make it succeed, including being much more flexible and willing to adapt to the needs and requirements of the project. In practical terms these people will find extra time to go through the actual changes needed to achieve the goal they have bought in, even if these require them to learn new stuff, change habits and approach certain things in novel and unfamiliar ways. Buy-in can happen as long as the people asked to contribute and support can clearly a see a tangible benefit in their lives for taking this course of action. The key reasons why it is generally quite difficult to get others to buy-in into your project include feelings such as:
- being excluded
- not being valued properly
- not having one's own interests taken seriously into account
- fear of being exploited
- lack of detailed information
- not enough transparency
- having one's opinion not seriously considered
- inability to understand fully the plan / strategy
- things moving too quickly
- lack of affinity with other stakeholders
- lack of clear motivations for proposed action
- lack of clear benefits and rewards
How-to:Inviting teammates, stakeholders, readers or fans to provide feedback, criticize or contribute to your work can be very beneficial, as these people can see your project from different and complementary viewpoints, and this can help you refine and hone your approach while getting them to feel tangible ownership of the project. To get buy-in from other people the first and foremost thing to do is to inform them in a clear fashion that allows them to identify, empathize and fully understand:a) the issue at stake, b) the consequences of not addressing it, and c) the motives and benefits of working together to solve it.
The best course of action for anyone wanting to get more buy-in (active support) from others should include as many of the following action-points as possible:
- Reach out to, re-unite, get together all who are or may be affected.
- Ask about their feelings, fears, gather opinions and sensations on the issue at hand.
- Identify exactly what problems they have. Assess the current situation.
- Involve them in looking and suggesting possible alternative solutions.
- Highlight the real, tangible and personal consequences that the issue / problem at hand can have on them if not properly solved.
- Acknowledge and publicly describe all of the risks and issues that the project may run into.
- Anticipate all possible arguments, questions and skepticism and prepare high quality answers and fact-rich replies to address them.
- Address and answer all possible doubts, questions and prejudices.
- Clearly illustrate and explain why your solution / proposal is good.
- Clarify what's in it for you. Why you do it, what you are going to get out of it.
- Compare and confront your proposal / solution to what others have done before or to other possible approaches.
- Make your proposed solution feel as real as possible. If it doesn't feel real, it will not be easy to get buy-in.
- Help yourself by using analogies or storytelling to emotionally convey and share the story and motives behind your project / idea.
- Leverage the power of social media to reach and find more people interested in supporting and helping your idea / project grow.
- Explain clearly how everyone can get involved and how he will be rewarded.
Suggested Reading and Videos:Video: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek Duration: 18':01"
- Article: Before You Can Get Buy-In, People Need to Feel the Problem by John Kotter, 2011 - Harvard Business Review
- Article: Getting Others to Support Your Ideas by Marcia Pennington Shannon, 2007 - AmericanBar
- Book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, 2011
- Book: Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John Kotter, 2010
- Book: The Layers of Resistance -- The Buy-In Process by Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag, 2010
- Book: How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation by Susan Weinschenk, 2013
- Book: Advocacy: Championing Ideas and Influencing Others by John Daily, 2011
- Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, 2009
- Book: Getting to Yes: Negotiation Skills & Strategies by Katie Lenhart, 2013
- Book: Made to Stick - Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Hardcover by Chip and Dan Heath, 2007
Tools & Resources:
27. How to Sell
Definition:"The holistic business system required to effectively develop, manage, enable, and execute a mutually beneficial, interpersonal exchange of goods and/or services for equitable value." Source: ASTD
"Selling is offering to exchange an item of value for a different item." "a systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, by which a salesman relates his or her offering of a product or service in return enabling the buyer to achieve their goal in an economic way.." Source: Wikipedia
"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe." Source: Simone Sinek
Backgrounder:Selling is a life critical skill because, everyone needs at some point or another in his life to be able to sell his idea, property or car to someone else. Famous author, Robert Louis Stevenson, recognized this when he said, "Everyone lives by selling something". Whatever is your profession, interest or passion in life, sales skills can be very valuable, as they allow you to:
- Persuade others of the true value of something good you have/own
- Raise money rapidly in case of need
- Be able to face sudden economic downturns
- Convince others of your ideas
- Bail out of difficult situation by bargaining a way out of it
- Sell to others what you want
Selling is a particularly vital activity when it comes to buy, exchange or barter assets or services you need. Sales are important as they allow any individual, company or organization to obtain money or other goods in exchange for whatever they produce, create and offer for sale. This in turn allows the individual, company or organization to continue its activity, pay collaborators and contributors, invest in new possible directions and to improve its line of products / services. Selling is a very close relative to "How to Get Buy In".
How-to:According to Wikipedia: "The personal selling process is an eight step approach that has been found to be beneficial in sales. The eight steps are: prospecting, preapproach, approach, need assessment, presentation, meeting objections, gaining commitment, and following up". You can indeed use these eight references as reminders of what a classical salesman would likely do in the real physical world. To sell effectively you must know very well the product that you are selling, and you must develop the communication skills required to illustrate and explain clearly its benefits and its relevance to your potential customers. Key actions that significantly help the selling process are:
- Listening, or the ability to truly understand what the customer needs and wants.
- Sharing, informing in an empathic, simple and straightforward fashion.
- Identifying pain points, specific needs that your potential customer may have, often by asking specific questions.
- Handling objections or being prepared to answer, clarify and explain any kind of doubt, problem or issue presented by a potential buyer.
Suggested Reading and Videos:Video: Why To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink interviewed by KnowledgeWharton Duration: 20':28"
- Article: How To Be Great At Selling Even If You Hate It by Ira Kalb, 2013 - Business Insider
- Article: Steps to Selling, 2013 - Australia Business & Industry Portal
- Book: To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink, 2013
- Book: Selling with Integrity: Reinventing Sales Through Collaboration, Respect, and Serving by Drew Morgen, 1999
- Book: How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard, 1978
- Book: Endless Referrals by Bob Burg, 2005
- Book: Selling 101: What Every Successful Sales Professional Needs to Know by Zig Ziglar, 2003
- Book: How To Sell When Nobody's Buying by Dave Lakhani, 2009
- Book: The Boron Letters, Gary Halbert, 2013
28. How to Be Reputable
Definition:"Having a good reputation; respected and trusted by most people." Source: Robin Good
"Reputation is a perception of value or distinctiveness vis-a-vis peers and competitors" Source: Drexel.edu
"What others say about you and what level of esteem they have for what you do." Source: Robin Good
"The collective mental construct everyone but you shares about you, a construct based partially on your own actions but also on the perceptions others have about others' perceptions of your actions." Source: Alex Lickerman
"The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something." Source: Merriam Webster
Backgrounder:"Some may think reputation doesn't matter or shouldn't matter, that we should all focus on doing our best, on being our best, and let others think what they may. Certainly, I agree we should never seek to manipulate what others think about us (it never works in the long run anyway), but to ignore the practical importance of a good reputation cheats us of many opportunities we might otherwise enjoy. Caring about our reputation doesn't mean we need others to like us. It means recognizing that as human beings we often can't help judging a book by its cover and that as long as the book itself is good there's nothing wrong with caring about having an attractive cover around it." "A good reputation shouldn't be an end in itself but rather a natural outgrowth of your striving to be the person you most want to be." Source: The Value Of A Good Reputation by Alex Lickerman, April 2010 - PsychologyToday
Contrary to popular opinion, reputation is OK, but it should not be attributed extraordinary powers it does not really possess."Our reputation represents the way others look at us and as such is at once critically important and utterly trivial. Utterly trivial because if we have a healthy self-esteem we won't need others to think well of us (though many of course do struggle with this and often find their sense of value vulnerable to the opinions of others--especially their perception of the collective opinions of others). Critically important, however, because even those of us with resilient self-esteem live in a great social network and need a good reputation for practical purposes--friendship and income chief among them. It's hard to have friends if people think you're mean-spirited and hard to make a living in any capacity if people think you're lazy, unreliable, or dishonest. Our reputation is a tool, then--not, hopefully, for creating or maintaining our self-esteem but for practical navigation through daily life..." Source: The Value Of A Good Reputation by Alex Lickerman, April 2010 - PsychologyToday
Reputation can greatly help (especially in the online world), where there is a large need to:a) rapidly assess the value, reliability and trustworthiness of a person / company / service, or to b) distinguish yourself from others, by providing potential clients and customers with additional information clues about your credibility, and c) improve the perceived value and attractiveness of your persona or of whatever product or service you sell.
But as you may have already heard: It may take a lifetime to build a good reputation for oneself, but only a few seconds to lose it all. All it takes to lose one's own reputation is to suddenly fail to match even one of the ethical, moral or social principles around which you have built your credibility or to fall victim of other people's decision to discredit you and your reputation by spreading false and misleading information. A person's reputation can be easily destroyed, influenced or heavily manipulated by outsiders and therefore it cannot be considered, per se, a reliable and absolute indicator of trustworthiness and reliability of anyone. For this reason, overly worrying about reputation is not a good idea as it may force a person to act and behave not always in his best interest, but in the interest of the image of himself that he wants people to hold or believe in. Being too fanatical about one's own reputation can also limit a man's potential to experiment, explore or try out different routes to achieve his objectives as he may be afraid to lose his reputation by doing so. An individual should also be capable of taking, when needed, unorthodox, unpopular and unusual actions to achieve his goals without having to worry about his reputation being handicapped by this choice.
How-to:First thing to remember is: If you don't manage your reputation, someone else will do it for you. Be it journalists, critics, bloggers, competitors or partners, if you don't take pro-active action to share a public image of yourself, one of these people will do it for you."Character is who we are and what we value. Communication is how we share our thoughts and values, engage and learn from others, and reach out to help in any way we can. Character, followed by Communication, leads to Trust, which generates the support and allegiance that lead to a positive reputation. Trust is the direct result of who we actually are and how we actually behave. This connection - from Character, to Communication, to Trust, to Reputation - is the path to follow in developing a positive reputation for yourself." Source: The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career by Chris Komisarjevsky, 2012
To improve your reputation you need to:
- "Become a person who deserves one.
- Take consistent action that embodies the characteristics you want others to associate with you.
- Don't just mouth the platitudes of hard work, attention to detail, loyalty, and drive -- live them. In fact, don't mouth them at all. Let others discover them in you." Source: The Value Of A Good Reputation by Alex Lickerman, April 2010 - PsychologyToday
In my personal experience the key factor that contributes the most in the development of one's own reputation is consistency / coherence: do you do what you say you will do? Do you stand by your promises? Do you walk your talk? In the online world, where you often need to assess and evaluate a person's reliability and trustworthiness there are a number of specific factors that an increasing number of people use to evaluate/influence someone else's reputation. These may include your:
- Work experience - what you have created, built
- Writing and published work(s) - articles, ebooks, magazines, print books, etc.
- Experience: how long you have been doing what you do
- Past education: what you have studied and where
- Online presence: your professional presence on the web (your personal site, your social media presence, Email signature, About page
- Public achievements: awards, prizes you have won
- Testimonials, mentions and citations about you + who talks about and links to you
- Numerical indicators such as visibility, traffic, number of followers, inbound links, views, etc.
Suggested Reading / Videos:Book: Reputation Rules: Strategies for Building Your Company's Most Valuable Asset by Daniel Diermeier, 2011
- Book: People Will Talk: The Surprising Science of Reputation by John Whitfield, 2011
- Book: The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career by Chris Komisarjevsky, 2012
- Book: Reputation Repair: A Guide to Repairing, Building, and Protecting your Personal or Business Reputation on the Web by R.L.Adams, 2013
- Book: Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward Bernays, 2011
Tools & Resources:
- PersonalBrandingCanvas - Reputation measurement tools
29. How to Be Causative (able to bring about change)
Definition:"Effective in bringing about change" "Effective or operating as a cause or agent" Source: Merriam-Webster
"To act aware of the fact that you are responsible for everything that happens around you" Source: Robin Good
Backgrounder:In life it is important to be "causative", that is, effective in bringing about the desired change in whichever field. Not being able to "cause" change, means surrendering direction and change to whoever else will take responsibility for it. You can choose to see and act with the assumption that there are magic coincidences or accidents: but in reality what happens to you, where you are, who you are with, are all consequences of the personal choices you have made earlier. If you can embrace this concept you can then decide to act with a different awareness as you start to own the consequences of your choices. You are always, whether you like it or not, in the driver's seat. This is why, if you are not the cause of something, you are likely going to be the effect of it. By choosing to be causative, able to effect change, you will start to see opportunities in what others would normally consider negative circumstances. Being causative allows you to create, produce, make things. If you become fully aware of this ability you have, you also realize that what you can imagine, you can also create. Knowing how to change things allows you to be fearless as you know that you can handle any situation and overcome any obstacle; it is just a question of doing it. By being causative you don't get hung up in doubts and fears/problems, you act instead of procrastinating.
- Be present - be in the present time, in the "here and now"
- Know that in any troublesome situation you can do something about it
- Be confident / trust in your capabilities
- Be resourceful - do what the hell needs to be done, and utilize all of the connections, tools, that you have at your disposal
- Keep the focus on getting results
- Be decisive - take decisions and act quickly and effectively
- Be prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of your actions
- Originate - be the starter - the dj - conjure up something - do things
- Don't follow - don't default back on what everybody thinks or does -
- Evaluate the situation and make up your own mind
Suggested Reading / Videos:Book: Own It! How to Take Responsibility for Your Life - Step Up to the Mirror by James Smith, 2013
- Book: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, 2010
- Book: Take Responsibility: How the Best Organizations in the World Survive in a Down Economy and Thrive When Times Are Good by Randy Spitzer, 2010
- Book: Take It Personally: How to Make Conscious Choices to Change the World by Anita Roddick, 2001
- Book: Change the World : How Ordinary People Can Achieve Extraordinary Results by Robert Quinn, 2000
30) How To Be In The "Here and Now"
Definition:"To be fully present and fully aware in the present moment." Source: Robin Good
"Being mindful." "Being in the moment, being in your body; not being on 'autopilot" Source: SmartRecovery
"To set the intention of paying attention to what's happening at the present moment." Source: Psychology Today
Backgrounder:a) You are talking to someone, but you can clearly perceive that the other person "is not there" and is not listening to what you are saying. b) You are driving a car but your mind is wandering elsewhere, and not paying close attention to the road, to other vehicles and to possible risks. In fact you miss altogether your freeway exit and you wonder where you were when that happened. c) You are reading a book and you suddenly realize you have no memory or awareness what you have just read for the last fifteen minutes.In these three cases you have a perfect picture of what it means not to be in the "here and now", and you can also understand why it is a life critical skill as it not only allows you to live life fully in the most literal sense, but it also allows you to appreciate life more and in greater detail, and to avoid placing your life and the one of others in danger. Being here and now, or being "mindful", contributes to a richer, fuller life because you are noticing all the things around you (e.g., you aren't eating an entire meal without tasting it). Being in the "here and now" happens when you're so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. The depth of engagement absorbs you powerfully, keeping attention so focused that distractions cannot penetrate. You focus so intensely on what you're doing that you're unaware of the passage of time.
How-to:To be in the here and now requires that you temporarily put aside all worries, fears and thoughts about the past and the future. By doing this you liberate yourself from carrying in your head a weight that is not needed right now and which may hamper your desire to create, make or do something specific. Here's some basic advice on how to work toward being more often in the "here and now".
- Alleviate stress. Reduce as much as possible stress, pressure and any other factor that holds part of your attention.
- Realize that you are not your thoughts. Recognize and become aware of this powerful fact. You can watch your thoughts without needing to identify with them.
- Meditate. Exercise yourself to focus and to be fully in the here and now by learning the practice of meditation. The purpose of this activity is to quiet the ongoing chatter in your mind and to focus only on one thing.
- Start paying attention again. Make an effort to pay close, active, undivided attention to your present activity, without letting yourself get engaged, interested or distracted by other things.
- Breathe. Learn how to become aware of your breathing patterns and how to focus rapidly by paying specific attention to it.
- Take it easy. To be able to be fully in the "here and now" you must literally abandon or give up thinking about what happened or is going to happen next, while focusing only on this very instant.
- Focus on things outside of you. Pay attention to a bird, a kid playing, a flower. The less you think and the more you put your attention to something specific, the more you will be in the present moment.
- Act. Do things, instead of thinking about doing them or about the issues that prevent you from doing them.
- Don't judge. Exercise yourself in suspending judgement when you want to increase your ability to be in the present moment. Judging and evaluating involves a lot of thinking, while being present requires as little thinking as possible.
- Do one thing at a time. Don't get sold on the idea that nowadays the good guys are those who can multitask. Not true. To do things better and faster, go after the big fish first, and do one thing at a time.
- Do not react / Don't get sucked in. Maintain your independent viewpoint. Don't fall prey of anything that attempts to provoke you or change your focus by leveraging your emotions.
- Practice being curious. Engage with things as if it was for the very first time. Start paying attention again to things, even to the ones you think you already know.
And to be in the "here and now", as with romance or sleep, you can't just will yourself into it - all you can do is set the stage and to create the optimal conditions for things to occur.
Suggested Reading / Videos:Video: Here and Now by Alan Watts Duration: 7':34"
- Video: Be Completely in the Here and Now by Alan Watts, 1973
- Article: The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment, 2008 - Psychology Today
- Book: How to Live in the Here and Now: A Guide for Accelerated Practical Enlightenment by Paul Jones, 2009
- Book: Alan Watts: Here and Now: Contributions to Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion by Alan Watts, 2013
- Book: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares, 2014
- Book: Be Here Now by Ram Dass, 1974
- Book: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, 1997
Tools & Resources:
End of Part IV See Part I: What We Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part I And Part II: What You Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part II And Part III: What You Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part III
Originally written and curated by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia on Tuesday May 20th 2014 as What We Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part IV.
Photo credits: How to Get Buy-In - Thumbs up by Shutterstock How to Sell - Woman doing shopping by Shutterstock How to Be Reputable - Quality stamp by Shutterstock How to Be Causative - Inspiration by Shutterstock How To Be In The "Here and Now" - Skydiving by Shutterstock