“Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.”
Norman Vincent Peale
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Goodbye information age.
We are in the idea age. An age, or era, dies once something better comes along that turns the valuable resource of the previous era into a commodity.
The stone age was replaced by the bronze age, and the bronze age was replaced by the iron age. And now the information age is being replaced by the idea age.
There used to be different degrees of accessibility to information. But now, thanks to the 24-hour news programs, the internet, broadband, cell phones, tablets, and a variety of other media channels and outlets, everyone has access. The world is completely saturated with information. This is why business moguls and celebrities now take unplugged vacations to digitally detox and learn how to enjoy life again.
Enter the idea age. Ideas add quality to information. You create ideas from the best information. But things are moving fast. Just as we are entering the idea age, we are leaving it. Ideas are already commodities. In fact, there are idea farms, such as Ideafarms, that will take in your raw idea and dump out a finished product, service, or company. Idea farms take your idea from A to B, from abstract thought to physical reality, for you.
Additionally, there are websites like IdeaConnection that allow you to list and advertise your ideas so that interested investors and buyers can find them. You can shop for ideas on these websites too. It’s like going to the grocery store, picking an idea off of the shelf, reading the label, and deciding whether or not you want to buy it.
In a way, good ideas have always been a dime a dozen. Everyone has at least one good idea. So what adds quality to an idea? The ability to communicate it effectively. The ability to take action and turn it into a physical reality. And most importantly, the ability to choose the right idea in the first place. Mastering each of these abilities, or skills, is a great way to increase your personal and professional value.
In fact, these 3 skills are the only skills that will matter in 5 years:
1. Oral Communication
Meet Jim. Jim is intelligent, good looking and a hard-worker. Jim’s reports are accurate, his emails are organized and to the point, and he knows everything there is to know about his company and his competitors. The only problem is that Jim always feels a little awkward when he’s around other people. He’s really good at filling out spreadsheets and staying up to date with the latest technology but he never seems to really connect with anyone at work. Jim has been at the same position with the same pay for the last 3 years.
What is Jim’s problem? From a distance, it’s tempting to write Jim off as lacking people skills altogether. But recall that Jim can effectively share his ideas with other people on paper and he seems to cooperate well enough to be able to carry out his company duties. So what is Jim’s problem specifically?
Jim lacks good oral communication skills.
If you go high enough up in any organization, the people at the top are the best oral communicators – end of story. This is because oral communication is the most direct way to share ideas, generate enthusiasm and motivate others and yourself to action.
Any business deal that involves more than a hot dog and a handshake requires at least one face-to-face meeting. Why? Because you can read a lot more into a person and a deal when things like body language, mannerisms, facial expressions, and vocal tone come into play.
Despite all the rapid advances in technology, there still is not a single facial recognition software program that can determine the mood of a person with greater than ~30% accuracy. Forget about a computer ever being able to analyze rapidly changing facial expressions, along with fluctuations in the pitch of someone’s voice, rapid changes in conversation topics, changes in mood, underlying humor, etc. This makes your ability to orally communicate with another person extremely valuable. It cannot be outsourced or automated.
Yet, most people completely ignore this critical skill, especially in today’s world. This is why more and more Universities are offering “Dynamic Speaking” classes. What does this class teach? One thing: how to interact face to face with another human being.
How many times have you practiced your ability to orally communicate in the past month? Have you every talked to yourself in front of a mirror like you were talking to a friend or a colleague and noted your personal mannerisms, facial expressions, or body language? The majority of the population would write this activity off as a complete waste of time, or as a sign of insanity, but they’ll spend 8 hours a day writing and rewriting the perfect email to their superiors at work.
The best oral communicators always rise to the top. If you improve your speaking skills, you will generate more influence and discover new ways to enjoy life. Oral communication is the bottleneck through which all great ideas must pass.
2. Physical Action
In college, I used to do landscaping work on the weekend in order to make some extra cash. I would dig ditches, lay sod, spread mulch, chop wood, bale hay, paint garages, mow lawns, rake leaves and shovel snow. I would simply post a three-sentence advertisement on Craigslist (free) and clients would come to me in droves. Eventually I would have to turn people down because I couldn’t handle the workload, unless I wanted to do landscaping full-time.
Why is it so easy to find this kind of work now? Because the phrase “manual labor” has been stricken from the dictionaries of children, teens and twenty-year olds.
Seriously, when was the last time a kid came to your door with a rake or a shovel and asked to clean up your leaves or clear out your driveway? When I was 10 years old, my friends and I would go door-to-door asking to do odd jobs. It just doesn’t happen anymore, not even in the safest suburbs in the country. The good news is that if you aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves, you can undercut all of the local landscaping businesses and make $20-$30 and hour.
However, I’m not advocating that you strive for a life-long career of digging ditches. That’s not something you want to be doing when you’re 50 years old. My goal is to illustrate the importance of physical action, especially now that ideas are commodities.
Sure, everyone has a great idea, but the only way to bring that idea to life is to take physical action. There are trillions of ideas floating around but less than 1% of those ideas will be made into a service or product. The simple fact is that turning even one great idea into a physical reality can take a lifetime. In fact, it can take several people, several lifetimes. And there are only 7 billion people on the planet. This is why taking massive action towards your goals, or towards bringing your ideas to life, is so important. Without action, ideas rot.
Taking physical action is a skill. Have you ever noticed that it can be really hard to get going again after you take a long vacation? It’s because you’ve lost your momentum. Your “taking action muscles” have atrophied.
Our bodies and brains are built for action – tons of action. If you want your body to continue to work properly, you have to stay active. The same holds true for your brain. In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina tells how our brains developed to work optimally while our ancestors walked an average of 12 miles a day. The human brain loves oxygen and works best when the body is taking physical action. Physical action helps pump oxygen into the lungs, through the bloodstream, and into the brain. This is why large estates used to have pacing rooms, where the lord of the house would walk in circles while thinking and dictating his ideas.
Physical action will always be required for turning an abstract thought into a physical reality. Most importantly, physical action is a requirement for enjoying life and staying healthy. If you die, it doesn’t matter how irreplaceable you are – you will be replaced.
3. Mental Choice
The title of this lifestyle blog article should really be: “The Only Skill That Matters Is Mental Choice”. After all, every idea you will ever communicate and every idea or thought you will ever act on will start with a decision. Your choices will determine what you experience and accomplish in life. More importantly, your choices will determine how you experience life.
When I travel to give seminars and speeches, I dictate and send my emails with Siri, I have all of my Facebook messages, Tweets, emails, texts and phone calls forwarded to Talkatone, I have my voice mails automatically transcribed and emailed to me with Google Voice, I automatically upload business cards to my phone contacts with WorldCard, I automatically download my receipts and generate expense reports with Expensify, and I save all my songs, videos, and pictures on iCloud.
Thanks to all of the different Apps and software programs that allow you to store, organize and transfer information in cyberspace, everything is becoming automatic.
The only human skill that will never be automatic is mental choice. This is why movies like The Matrix and The Terminator are cool but could never happen. Human beings will always have to tell computers what choices to make. Mental choice is a uniquely human skill.
Your mental choices direct your focus and determine your attitude. Everything else in life is secondary. This is why philosophers have debated the question of whether or not free will exists for centuries. Free will is defined as the ability to make choices without the constraint of necessity or fate. In other words, it’s the ability to act at one’s own discretion. You can think of free will as the influence you have over your own future. The problem is that the majority of the population does nothing to increase their influence in this area.
Most people allow external events and individuals to determine their attitude and focus, causing them to enter a state of mental disorder. When you allow your environment to scatter your focus and negatively affect your attitude, “psychic entropy” occurs in your mind. In “Flow: The Psychology Of The Optimal Experience“, Dr. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi writes about how your emotions are actually internal states of consciousness. Negative emotions like fear, anxiety, or boredom produce psychic entropy, a state in which you cannot use your attention effectively to deal with external tasks.
Conversely, positive emotions like enjoyment and alertness produce “psychic negentropy”, a state where psychic energy can flow freely into whatever task or thought you choose to invest in. So how can you restore the order in your mind? By deciding to restore it. Enjoying life is a decision. Being alert and productive is a decision.
The most empowering moment of your life will occur when you truly realize that you are completely in control of your attention and your attitude. Anything that happens to you in life is up for interpretation. And it’s your perspective that will determine how you interpret what happens.
Understand: you get to choose your perspective. Practice the art of choosing the right perspective. If you start feeling annoyed, anxious or fearful about something that is happening, use those emotions as STOP signs telling you to make a decision – the decision to forget those feelings and to replace them with enjoyment, excitement and confidence. Choose to focus on ways to enjoy life.
Utilize the counterbalance strategy and over exaggerate the positive emotions in your mind. If you’re anxious or afraid of an outcome, enforce a supremely confident perspective in your head. If you’re bored or lacking energy for a task, get overly excited about something – move around, play upbeat music, punch the air, or dance. Do whatever it is that gets you going in the right direction mentally.
Actively choosing your mood is critical to keeping your focus in check. And it is your focus that will shape what you do and who you become in life. Think about it. The person you are today is a direct result of everything you have given your attention to. And only the ideas you give your attention to can be communicated and turned into a physical reality. This is why mental choice is at the core of human existence. It is the only skill that will never become obsolete.
The future belongs to those that can control their attention and attitude. It belongs to those that can make the best choices.