The 3 Most Valuable Skills for Success in the 21st Century (and How to Learn them)

While the future cannot be predicted, you can often get a good sense of what will be valuable in the future be looking at what’s scarce in the present.

With that, I have comprised a list of the 3 most valuable skills I think everyone should learn in order to have continued success in the present and future of the 21st century.

Here we go.

You Need to Know Yourself Better than Anyone Else Does

If you don’t get to know yourself better, there is someone out there who is right now who is trying to hack you.” -Yuval Noah

In the 21st century, you need to have your own philosophies and ideologies on everything. You need to have your own set of rules that live you by. And you need to be clear on your own values and where your heading with your life.

Otherwise, you’ll end up on a path that everyone else wants for you, rather than one that’s best for yourself.

You have to realize that in the world today, almost everyone has their agendas and they’ll happily use you for your time, money, and energy in order to get ahead.

So, if you’re not 100% clear on where you’re heading with your life, you’ll be played like a pawn on a chessboard; used only so that bigger pieces on the board can gain an advantage.

While if you know where you’re heading and what’s most important to you, you’ll act from a place of doing what’s bests for you, and you’ll only focus on doing those select things that will get you to where you want to be.

How do you learn this skill?

Reading a lot of books: Go into a library or bookstore and find the section that you wouldn’t mind reading every single book in. Get a handful of them and read them, absorb the ideas and apply the knowledge. I’m sure you’ll find what I’ve found; that often the books you’d most haply read are the clearest indicators of what you most deeply value in life.

Morning and nightly journaling: You need to use a nightly journal to reflect upon your days and work out what’s bringing the most joy to your life. You need to find and remove anything that doesn’t serve your purpose. And you need to plan what you’d like to add to your days to make your life better going forward.

A morning journal should be used to get clear on the long-range vision you see for your life. You need to write down your dreams and goals along with the present and future actions you’re taking to achieve those goals. It’s important you do this almost immediately upon waking up as this the time you’re most creative. While writing your dreams and goals down first thing every morning will remind you of what achieve with your time on this planet, you’ll then be motivated to act in congruence with what really matters most to you in the day ahead.

You Need to Think Differently to Everyone Else

If you want to get better than conventional results, it’s important to ignore the conventional wisdom.” -Seth Godin

Multi-billionaire and entrepreneur, Peter Thiel has one question he always asks people who are seeking employment with him,

“Tell me something that you think is true that very few people agree with.”

He asks this because he doesn’t want an employee who is easily replaceable. If you only I think as everyone else thinks, you’ll only be as valuable and useful as everyone else.

While if you can use your cognitive power to think in different ways, you’ll be able to solve problems that others can’t. Thus, you’ll offer immense value to other people’s lives and be indispensable.

Why is this such a valuable skill in the 21st century? Because we’re in a time where change is the only the constant. You can’t rely on a system that works today, to work 5 years from now. You need to continually adapt and change.

How do you learn this skill?

Question the things around: What are other people not seeing? What is something that can be done more efficiently? What is something that could benefit a lot of people’s lives? Etc…

Read books that most people aren’t: Japanese author, Haruki Murakami has wisely said, If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Don’t simply go to the bestsellers list to get your books. Find topics that interest you and read books that most people have never heard of, allow the ideas to adapt your thinking and how you engage yourself in the world. You’ll then quickly find yourself thinking and acting differently to everyone else.

You Need to Be Able to Remain Focused and Perform Deep Work

The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” -Cal Newport

In his book, Deep Work Cal Newport distinguishes between deep work and Shallow Work.

Shallow Work is doing tasks that do not create much new value, they’re easy to replicate, and are often performed while distracted.

Deep Work is doing tasks that create loads of new value, are hard to replicate, they push cognitive capabilities to their limit, and are performed free from distractions.

If you couldn’t already guess, shallow work is the mode of work that’s most prevailing in today’s society. The world has come to be ruled by distractions and most people cannot focus one singular thing for more than 10 minutes.

Thus, you want to be able to obtain the skill to the opposite. To focus on something for a continued period. To achieve more results in less time. And to be present and conscious in your everyday actions.

How do you learn this skill?

Turn off the notifications on your smartphoneYou need to continually prime your environment for entering peak states. You can’t simply rely on removing distractions when you have important work to do. See, if you’re constantly distracted throughout the day with quick glances at your phone to check notifications, you’re developing habits and rewiring your mind to be dependent on distractions. Your body will become your mind, and you’ll begin to act out of impulse and addiction, rather than from a place of your deepest dreams and desires.

Do your most important work first: Ideally, your morning routine should include writing in your journal for 5–15 minutes followed by at least 90 minutes of deep work focused on your highest priority. Why? Because it’s much easier to produce quality work immediately after a night’s rest. You haven’t done anything else, you’re not exhausted, and your mind is clear. You’ll produce your best work, you’ll be pumped, and then you’ll float through the rest of the day with little effort.

In Conclusion

You need to know yourself better than anyone else does. Most people are trying to hijack you from your purpose and use you as an object to advance their own agenda.

Whether you have an IQ of 90 or an IQ of 130, you will win more success by using your mind to think in new ways and generate new information, rather than simply thinking in the same ways as everyone else does.

There is a distraction epidemic taking place in the world and you don’t want to be a part of it. Directions are a disease that will rob you of your focus, creativity, and discipline to keep you in mediocrity.