Old Skills for the New World

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Brian Kight

Here are five behavior skills that have always been essential to a productive and fulfilling life and are even more valuable now.

Each of these skills provides a unique benefit. Either because you need it to excel in the current and future environment or because it is rarely executed well that you gain an advantage when you do. Perhaps both.

  1. Focus: I expect this to be obvious. That's why I'm highlighting it first. So you don't overlook it. Distractions abound. Every device is screaming for your attention. Every app, channel, and brand is too. Companies invest billions of dollars into the most advanced ways to get your attention, hold it, and get it back when they lose it. None of them are responsible for your life. None of them care if the attention you give to them pulls you away from your true purpose and real priorities. You either build the skill of focus or fall into the consumption patterns someone else designed to keep you doing what they want you to do.
  2. Patience: Human growth and development requires the same core process it has always needed: time, effort, and patience. Think about it. Even as the mountains of books, podcasts, workshops, and blogs stack higher into the sky, we are not meaningfully better as a society at behavior change now than we were before all this content existed. Why? Because people are impatient. If you observe, people are even less patient than in the past. Addiction to instant gratification now extends far beyond adolescents. Adults are just better at telling themselves the same justifications throughout their lives and publicly pretending they believe it. Privately though, they feel the regret of impatience. You either build the skill of patience or repeat the same disappointing patterns for the rest of your life.
  3. Listening: Everyone wants to talk. No one wants to listen. Everyone wants to prove a point. No one wants to hear it. Everyone wants to be understood. No one wants to understand. Hyperbole, yes, but not by much. Look, you know that listening is the most essential aspect of good communication. You also know that excellent communication is by far the most important aspect of every relationship and interaction in your life. So while everyone acknowledges how critical listening is, few people commit themselves to become incredible listeners. Most are barely competent or credible listeners. You either build the skill of listening or miss the most important things to understand in life.
  4. Empathy: This skill needs and deserves more space than this format allows, so I will keep it short and sweet here. Caring about people is a choice, not a feeling. If you care about people you feel good about, congratulations. Everyone does that. Empathy is choosing to care when there are reasons it would be easy not to care. For whatever reason, it's common at the moment to justify a lack of empathy for people based on any reason whatsoever. Don't be that person. It's most important to care when you really don't want to. You either build the skill of empathy or you treat someone poorly who doesn't deserve that from you.
  5. Discipline: You had to see this one coming. You have more reasons and excuses available to lack discipline than anyone who came before you. You can follow the crowd and see discipline as the rigid, compliant, obedience-oriented command you grew up believing it was or you can shed that perspective for the truth. Discipline is your salvation. Discipline is your foundation. Discipline is your accelerator. Discipline is your shortcut to the things you want most. You either build the skill of discipline or you reach a moment later in life and wish you had.

What happens when you build uncommon skill in focus, patience, listening, empathy, and discipline?

You'll get no guarantee from me. Life doesn't work like that. I certainly don't have that predictive power.

If two versions of my future exist, one in which I become much better in these timeless skills and one in which I do not improve much at all, I know which of those futures I want.

You can decide which future you want for yourself.

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