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The 3 Meta-Skills You Need to Learn to Achieve Anything in Life

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In the world today, the only thing that we are sure of is that it will change. But by the words of Jeff Bezos, we need to focus on the things that won’t change, not on the things that will. And this is where meta-skills come into play. A meta-skill is a higher-order skill that allows other skills to be used and developed. This basically means that in order to master lower level skills, you need to master their common denominator.

So if you can master these 3 meta-skills below, you can achieve almost anything in life:

1. Building Habits

Aristotle used to say “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit,” and Jim Rohn agreed by adding  “Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.”

We can find strong proof of the importance of habits everywhere in the world, from business to sports to education and most business books tell us to form habits in this or that. But rarely do we learn how to build habits and are presented with a step-by-step process of doing that.

I’ve read so many books about building habits but most of them lack at least a couple of steps which would help you build a habit. Eventually, I managed to build my own system. This system helped me build a reading and a writing habit and currently, I’m building a health habit with it.

I took the time to learn how to build habits – any habits – and it gave me a massive payoff. I can now build any habit if I want to and this meta-skill will be an invaluable tool for the rest of my life and it can be in yours too. Habits train you to do one single action every single day until it becomes a part of who you are and the next meta-skill perfectly compliments this one.

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” – Jim Rohn

2. Small Actions

Everyone celebrates Elon Musk’s motivation to work 28 hours a day but, I put my focus on a smaller “celebrity” that has:

  • Written 5 bestselling books
  • Earned a computer science Ph.D. from MIT
  • Became a father of three
  • Obtained a tenured professorship at Georgetown

And he did all of this while shutting off work at 5:00 p.m. every single day and keeping the weekend just for his family. Oh and I forgot to mention – he did all of this by the age of 33. His name is Cal Newport.

Cal never runs on 100% of his speed because he understands that life isn’t a 100-meter dash, it’s a never-ending marathon and if you go all in the beginning, you will just burn out a couple of kilometers in the race.

Eric Edmeades said, “I do less every single day to do more in a year” and if you can keep doing small everyday actions, they will lead you to achieve mastery in life. The reading habit I started – doing only 20 pages a day – accumulated into 47 books in a year. That is the power of small actions.

3. Self-Awareness

So many books and articles rave about self-awareness today and hail it as one of the strongest meta-skills you can have. When they asked Gary Vaynerchuk what is the one skill people should master today, his response was “Self-Awareness.”

Self-awareness is the ability to consciously understand and know your own character, personality, and feelings. Self-awareness has a couple of layers but it’s best to only go 2 layers deep. You are on Level 0 when you are so long on autopilot that you forget that you’re on autopilot. Level 0 is a level where you have no self-awareness. On level 1 you have some metacognition (you have thoughts about your thoughts) and you think about the thoughts you have in your head. Level 2 is thinking about your mental models (where your thoughts originate and why).

A good example of this is, a guy who you hate from work just pulled a prank on you in front of the entire office. You became mad and as soon as you came home, you had a fight with your wife. On level 0, you just do it. On Level 1 you think “Maybe I’m not mad at my wife at all- this is just the consequence of the guy from work.”  On Level 2 you realize that you don’t need to answer the prank by hating the guy or being angry, just accept that it was just a prank, smile or laugh, and continue with your day.

Self Awareness will help you get better at anything faster, it will help you professionally, personally, and socially; and as soon as you master it, the sooner you can reap the rewards from it.

“Self awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean self-consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns.” – Tony Robbins

In a world where the only constant is change, we need to find and focus on the skills that won’t change. And with that, we have seen 3 meta-skills that we should learn to achieve mastery in our life.

Building habits, taking small actions and being self-aware are the ones that will help us the best. So what are you waiting for? Take control over your life by becoming the master of these 3 meta-skills.

Bruno Boksic is an expert habit builder who was covered in the biggest personal development publications like Lifehack, Addicted2Success, Goalcast, Pick The Brain. If you want to build life-long habits, Growthabits is the first place to visit.

Life

What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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