21 Critical Skills for the 21st Century

November 15, 2000 · by Rhonda Abrams

I've been thinking about the skills necessary to succeed in the “New Economy” and the New Century. Here are my thoughts.

I've been thinking about the skills necessary to succeed in the “New Economy” and the New Century. Here are my thoughts.

1. Embrace Change. The only thing that’s certain is that things will change. Don’t imagine you can ignore change, waiting for things to settle down and return to “normal.” Change is normal — it’s part of our lives. You have to get used to the idea that you will have to continually grow, evolve, change. Remember, even if you’re on the right road, if you just sit there, you’ll get run over.

2. Use your head. The race is to the smart—not just to the swift. In a world of rapid change, it’s easy to think that the only thing that matters is speed, but the fundamentals still apply. You’ve got to think—not just act.

3. Keep learning. You are your most precious resource. Find ways to keep growing. Read. Take classes. Join associations. Travel. Continually improve you.

4. Do something. Don’t wait to do things until you can do them absolutely, thoroughly, and completely perfectly. Perfection is the enemy of production. Something is better than nothing.

5. Value your employees as much as your clients. Your employees ARE your business. Good employees are always hard to find and will be more so for many years to come. Treat them as the valuable and scarce resource they are.

6. Take responsibility. In a world where many people view themselves as victims of circumstance, those who are willing to accept responsibility—for their own actions as well as for trying to improve conditions they find—are most likely to succeed.

7. Stay in touch. With all the things you have to do, communication may seem like an unnecessary burden. But communicating—with your employees, your customers, your suppliers, your family and friends—is critical. And even with all the new convenient technologies which make communication easier, nothing beats face-to-face interaction.

8. Do something for others every day. We’re so caught up in the importance of our own lives that we forget that there’s more to the world than our bottom line or the GDP. Contribute to the betterment of your world.

9. Respect Your Youngers. People are beginning their careers earlier and earlier, bringing fresh ideas. That 24 year old may be the CEO or a marketing or technology genius. Just because someone is young doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer.

10. Respect Your Elders.People are continuing their careers longer and longer, bringing a wealth of experience. That 74 year old may be the CEO or a marketing or technology genius. Just because someone is old doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer.

11. Lead—don’t manage. Set goals, standards, and an example.

12. Know when to use technology. It’s just another tool, and it’s here to stay. It can make many things in your life and business simpler.

13. Know when NOT to use technology. Not everything is best done with high tech. Sometimes the best solution is low tech—or no tech.

14. Go home. Life isn’t only about work. Take a break. Take care of yourself and your health. Find balance whenever you can.

15. Get help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Do what you do best and allow others to help you to the things they can do as well — if not better — than you.

16. Give help. Help others to succeed. You didn’t make it on your own, and they won’t either. Don’t keep track — give without thought of what you’ll get in return.

17. Take risks. Playing it safe isn’t. You can’t get rewards if you’re not willing to take risks.

18. Buckle your seat belt. Just because you have to take risks doesn’t mean you should be unnecessarily foolish. Take steps to reduce unnecessary or preventable risk.

19. Learn to live with contradictions. Two different things can be true at the same time — few things are black and white. The world is a complicated place, so only fools have foolproof answers.

20. Have fun.

21. Wear clean underwear. Do what’s right even when no one else can see. Live a life of integrity — in business and in life. Earn the trust of others and keep it.

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