Timeless skills

Think of the most successful people you know. What did famous inventors like Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Leonardo Da Vinci have in common with successful people today? There are certain characteristics these people share that attributed to a major part of their success. In this article I’ll illustrate 7 of the most important skills one can develop that will withstand the test of time itself.


Imagine a captain of large ship who has left the port. The captain has no idea where to go so she steers the ship towards a group of islands nearby. After a while she sees another group of islands and decides to change direction to head towards them instead.

This is a metaphor for the things we commit to in life. Much like a ship, once we decide on a direction, it creates a lot of inertia to get moving in that direction. Once moving, changing directions requires another great exertion of force. The process of constantly changing directions can quickly become tiring.

Key Point:

Decide ahead of whether you are able to guide your ship from departure (start of a project) to the arrival (end of a project). Changing directions mid-way through can be costly in terms of money and time. Focus on the things you truly want and commit to achieving them.


A famous research project conducted at Columbia University titled the “Marshmallow Project” involved asking four year olds whether they wanted a marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows 15 minutes later. The researchers found that as the children grew up, those who waited longer for their marshmallows were also able to pursue their academic and other goals more successfully – with less frustration and with less distraction.

Key Point:

Train your self-control like you would train your body at the gym. Start small and improve consistently. Your self-control and disciple will allow you to take on much larger projects and goals in life and help you accomplish them.

Critical Thinking

“It’s just the way it’s done” is arguably the most dangerous phrase in the English language. This phrase assumes that there is no reason to question an existing process. An innovative mind must actively scan for this phrase, for this is where opportunity resides. Asking questions, challenging closely held beliefs and assumptions are the foundations of creativity. Arriving at your own conclusions will allow you to truly appreciate a process and perhaps even improve it.

Key Point:

To think critically is to live totally.

  • Ask questions
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Arrive at your own conclusions

Making Connections

Living in the information age, we have the gift/curse of having access to unprecedented amounts of information. The abundance of knowledge is overwhelming and we train ourselves to indiscriminately filter information. While serving its purpose of protecting us from the bombardment of information, this makes us prone to missing the larger picture. The ability to carefully dissect information and piece them together in a coherent manner has proven, throughout history, to be valuable characteristic of successful people.

Key Point:

Connect the dots to see the larger picture. Draw similarities and use it as a guide to making decisions. Spotting things that are oblivious to others will help you be more resourceful.


What made Steve Jobs persevere and return to Apple despite being ousted in the spring of 1985? In part it was his resilience to overcoming difficulties. Resilience is the capacity of someone to recover quickly from difficulties. Steve was able to power through and spearhead Apple into becoming a global technology company.

Key Point:

Focus on the objectives and do not allowing temporary failures to throw you off balance.

Continuous Improvement

Why is it that as we age, time seems to pass by more quickly? When we’re young, we are constantly learning and improving every day. As we get older, we tend to fall into patterns and stay in our safe spaces where we have full control of our environment. The downside is that we fail to learn as rapidly as we did while growing up.

The journey is never over; there is always something that can be improved. Continuous improvement involves taking on challenges and avoiding stagnation. Evolving from one state to the next ensures adaptability in this ever changing world. The ability to consistently grow through learning will help you realize your potential.

Key Point:

As the world changes, so can you. Never stop learning.


Last but not least, the ability to effectively communicate helps you share ideas and interact with others. The strength of the human race lies in our ability to effectively communicate with each other. More than reading, writing, speaking and listening, effective communication is the ability to determine what you want to communicate and realizing how your communications will be understood by others.

Key Point

Communicate effectively by choosing the right words, and understand how your audience will interpret your message.

These are the seven skills I believe will withstand the test of time. What do you consider timeless skills? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Razi October 31, 2016 @ 12:17

    Nice article. Keep up the good work.

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