The Latticework of Life Skills – 9 Crucial Skills to Develop in Your 20s
I am 30 years old.
Soon to be 31.
After you turn 30 you develop this habit of constantly ruminating on the past and what you could have done differently. Relationships, career aspirations, investment decisions, health choices, everything.
You have this feeling that you grow wiser 1 and you hope that you can enter the most prosperous decade of your life in a more calculated and deliberate fashion.
All that just by capitalizing on the empirical and theoretical data that you managed to accumulate over the years.
Realistic strategy or just a frivolous act? Who knows?
Most of us, by the time we are 30, have sculptured more than 90% of our persona and every attempt to remodel it or refine it seems agonizing.
Energy levels, family, responsibilities, ambitions, existential angst, ego. They all stand in our way towards the establishment of what we perceive as the ideal life.
Still, despite the perplexity that such an endeavor entails, we make interesting plans and we try to use all available resources in order to mold this desirable state.
Every person is a story and their narrative oscillates between grandiosity and despair in an attempt to create meaning. Their personal meaning.
This idiosyncratic nature of meaning is what gives rise to momentum, plurality, and complexity within the Homo sapiens sphere. Ergo, one needs to be prepared to face these predicaments in order to deal with all contingent outcomes.
Based on behavioral motifs that I identified over the last 10 years and by extrapolating from the lessons gained by immersing myself in the teachings of my favorite thinkers, I am in a position to offer an overarching knowledge base, essential for every step of one’s personal development journey.
This is a compendium of important life skills to develop if you are in your 20s, but also for everyone who still feels younger, even if their age doesn’t justify it. 2
All the skills suggested below attempt to create the substratum of a well-informed and, I dare to say, antifragile person. Because antifragility stems from the ability of the individual to prepare himself for all eventualities that might occur.
I am a writer. Even the sound of that sentence still seems bizarre to me. Such a possibility appeared so outlandish ten years ago. Today, after almost three years of indulging in this incredible skill, I feel that when I decided to start my blog I embarked on one of the most important intellectual journeys.
I always had a flair for literature and philosophy, but I never really approached these areas so deeply as to have to produce relevant analyses in a written form.
Jordan Peterson once said that “to write is to think.” When I heard this assertion, it immediately hit a chord. There has never been a time in my life I can consider more stochastic than the one that eventuated over the course of the last three years.
Every time I sat at my desk with the aspiration to create a compelling, well-structured and interesting essay, I had to face an unprecedented creative struggle.
I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering but believe me, none of the subjects included in my curriculum could stretch my intellectual limits as much as writing did.
Writing is a tool for self-exploration but also an important way to challenge your capacity of understanding the world around you. It is a manifestation of your ability to analyze complex ideas, demonstrate logic and reason and showcase your verbal dexterity.
Good writing is a tool acclaimed by almost all of society and a skill that can help a person discover their voice. Your voice is what defines your authenticity. Authenticity is what defines your influence.
How to be a writer: Write. Every day, at least 300-500 words. Whether this is your journal, or your blog, or a piece of paper, it doesn’t matter. Also, read. Read complex topics, keep notes and keep a file where you save unknown terms. Revisit them from time to time.
Speaking is a skill that can be cultivated in tandem with writing since both include the aspect of language. The proper use of language and the implications associated with it have troubled me a lot during my 20s.
My Greek descent wasn’t a very favorable factor during my attempt to master the English language since your mother tongue usually affects you significantly in the way you perceive certain parameters of a foreign language. Nonetheless, my decision to live in London for three years and my deep interest in English-speaking thinkers, allowed me to improve my command of English exponentially.
I still have trouble with my accent, which is primarily American and peppered with Greek elements, but this shouldn’t be a limiting factor when it comes to showcasing your speaking aptitude.
Speaking can take many forms but, unfortunately, most people confine this glorious skill to small talk and chitchat with friends. Speaking is way more than this.
Speaking can be storytelling, speaking can be analysis, speaking can be oration, speaking can be acting, speaking can be expressiveness, speaking can be flirting, speaking can be persuasion.
This multifaceted nature of speaking needs to be honed not only because it can help a person increase their status, but also because it can foster great interpersonal communication.
Our relationships tend to be boring and agitating because we fail to recognize the impact skills like speaking can have in improving them. When you learn to express yourself in an interesting, logical and well-structured way, you reduce friction between you and others to a minimum.
Needless to say that speaking is also an undoubtedly important business skill. A great speaker stands out in presentations, meetings, and interviews and becomes a force of inspiration and security in the tribal-centric business world.
How to improve your speaking: Read “Speak like a Leader.” Speak and listen. Be more social and try to engage in interesting conversations that will allow you to expand your speaking standards. Listen to podcasts of great speakers like Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson and try to emulate expressions they use.
3. Social and Dating Skills
When I was a teenager, and until my early 20s, trying to improve your social and dating skills was considered weird. The principal belief was that either you have it or you don’t. Thank god this limiting approach got debunked over time and today trying to increase your chances of success in these areas via studying them is getting more traction.
Personally, I have to say that most of my success and ability to ponder big questions is predicated upon my time investment in becoming more interesting and attractive. This wasn’t a result of luck or circumstance. It was a result of a well-thought and planned strategy that allowed me to understand and internalize these paramount life skills.
Young people have an impulsive need to flirt and play and interact. That is great and something we need to embrace. But if you don’t understand the rules of the game, you will never be able to play it properly.
Also, if you don’t get it out of your system and develop it to such a degree that you can look like a natural, you will be constantly distracted by your lack of competence in that area.
Dating and being social isn’t just a skill, it is an art. There is a plethora of nuances in the dating and social skills spectrum. That makes it open to extensive analysis and exposure in order to feel comfortable in your own skin and understand the variety of emotions and experiences your interactions can offer.
How to improve your social and dating skills: Get out of your head and into the world. Start giving more and demanding less. View every interaction as something special and realize that fear is an illusion. Improve yourself from the inside out and vice versa and see your receptivity soar.
Money and its nature are regarded a perplexing story for almost everyone. Some of us love it, some of us consider it the source of all contentment, and some of us just accept it us a necessary part of our lives. I have been through every stage of the spectrum and I don’t really know if I will ever adhere to a specific mindset.
However, I think that when it comes to money one needs to be very self-aware concerning the reasons he wants to make it.
Self-awareness is where it all begins.
Use your powers.
Reduce your weaknesses.
Live a great life.
— Adrian Iliopoulos (@theQSLmind) March 15, 2017
Because money can indeed help you live a more comfortable life but it can also become an obsession and drag you to a pervasive downward spiral.
I have spent years trying to formulate the ideal approach to this annoying conundrum. Most of the time I feel that vanity is the underlying motive for every attempt to make more money than one needs. But when you begin to investigate deeply the structure of our social fabric, things start to get messier. Money can work as a symbol, it can work as a motivator and it can work as a deal maker. Even if you have benign intentions, like creating a movement or a philanthropic cause, money becomes a prerequisite for materializing these intentions.
I believe that once you settle on the reasons behind your intent, then every money-making decision becomes easier.
And that’s where investing comes into play.
Investing is the only way known to man that can instigate an exponential growth in one’s finances. It is a strategy created by wealthy people to help them ensure their profits and also accelerate them. Once you understand the nature of investing, there is a whole new world that opens up to you. Stocks, businesses, assets, cryptocurrencies, funds and other peculiar terms start to make sense and become a vessel for further financial development.
An investor disengages from the consumer plane and allows himself to use strategies that have an immediate impact on his life and maybe society as a whole.
How to become an investor: Start small and educate yourself early. Realize the impact of saving and compound interest and start looking into investment options from an early age. Read books like “The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing,” research companies like Wealthfront and follow guys like Mike Syding and Mr. Money Mustache.
If you want to understand the nature of the human condition, it can be summarized in the following sequence:
Intuition > intellect > emotion > instinct
Where > signifies greater than.
Intuition > Intellect > Emotion > Impulse
This is the truth.
This is life.
This is your purpose.
— Adrian Iliopoulos (@theQSLmind) March 19, 2017
Intuition is regarded as the final stage of our evolution. Doing things intuitively means that you possess such a solid, sage, and sane understanding of things that you don’t even need to think before you act. It is the state where you are one with the moment and everything seems to push towards a holistic interpretation of being.
Doing things intuitively in the present day and age is usually achieved by reaching the state of flow, where you can be so focused on a specific task that nothing can disrupt your immersion.
However, the main idea is that this state should be the permanent state of man. It is a state so serene and omnipotent that epitomizes the idea of self-transcendence – the ability to move beyond the human archetype to something more divine.
From all the available techniques we have discovered over the years, there is only one that stands out and can help us come closer to this goal – mindfulness.
One of my favorite thinkers, Sam Harris, described Mindfulness in “Tools of Titans” exceptionally:
“‘Mindfulness’ is just that quality of mind which allows you to pay attention to sights and sounds and sensations, and even thoughts themselves, without being lost in thought and without grasping at what is pleasant and pushing what is unpleasant away. We’re so deeply conditioned to be lost in thought and to have this conversation with ourselves from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. It’s just chatter in the mind, and it’s so captivating that we’re not even aware of it. We are essentially in a dream state, and it’s through this veil of thought that we go about our day and perceive our environment. But we are just talking to ourselves nonstop, and until you can break that spell and begin to notice thoughts themselves as objects of consciousness, just arising and passing away, you can’t even pay attention to your breath, or to anything else, with any clarity.”
In essence, mindfulness is clarity. Clarity of thought. Clarity of intent. Clarity of action. When you possess this level of clarity you are able to be in control of most levels of your life. And being in control is one of the most powerful feelings one can experience.
How to be more mindful: Meditate at least 15 minutes a day. Focus on here and now. Use mundane tasks as tools for introspection and a reminder to return to the present moment. Ponder the big questions. Be more spiritual.
One way or another you will eventually find yourself in a relationship with another person. The fact that you managed to get there doesn’t necessarily ensure that you can stay with that person for long or that your relationship will be great.
A successful relationship is an amalgamation of many factors and whether or not this success will endure the test of time is predicated upon the willingness of the members to understand these factors.
Since the beginning of time, people have been vehemently trying to identify them, but still, we find ourselves discussing relationship issues perpetually.
This is something crucial to ponder.
A relationship is a dynamic process that requires constant reevaluation. Every person is a peculiar entity and that renders the potentiality of a perfect match almost impossible. Trying to view a relationship as something that will take care of itself almost organically is naïve, to say the least.
Mark Manson shared an in-depth guide on the issue some time ago after consulting the opinion of over 1,500 people. Some of the answers clearly resonated with my worldview.
- Have realistic expectations about relationships and romance
- A healthy relationship means two healthy individual
- The most important factor in a relationship is not communication, but respect
- Give each other space
They all communicated a very mature understanding of the relationship equation and provided a very pragmatic interpretation of human nature.
In essence, the trick to a successful relationship is to have the tenacity to wait until you have sorted yourself out first. If you don’t understand who you are, what you strive for, how your past affects your present and what needs are more important to you, your relationship will crash without a doubt. That is because when you enter a relationship hoping that the other person can take care of you as your caretakers did, you enter the wrong relationship.
A person who has sorted him or herself out is capable of evaluating all the parameters that affect the relationship equation and decide whether or not a relationship is suitable for them.
A person who hasn’t will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes in perpetuity.
Your 20s is the most crucial time in that respect. Use that time wisely to understand yourself, to experiment and to finally assemble the ideal figure that can accompany you in your journey.
How to have better relationships: Make sure to be honest with yourself and stay in a relationship for the right reasons. Understand what men and women want, be open-minded, be patient and try to not be afraid to leave a relationship if you feel that you can’t establish common ground with your partner. And most importantly respect and expect respect.
I have been an entrepreneur for the last three years. I can’t say it was a decision I meticulously planned. It was something that happened almost organically after careful evaluation of my personality and strengths. I was always a great generalist, I had a very analytical nature, I loved structure, and common sense was a very important part of my character.
That combustive mixture allowed me to pursue my ideas in a realistic manner and helped me understand that this is something that can define my reality for years to come.
That said, I am not suggesting that everyone who identifies similar patterns in their character should follow that path. Business is tough and the factors that determine a person’s success oftentimes branch off from what is considered the core of entrepreneurship. Environment matters, industry matters, connections matter, policy matters.
However, regardless of whether or not one decides to start their own business, I feel that an entrepreneurial mindset is a gateway to a lot of success in life. For investing the time and effort to draw knowledge from areas like soft skills, marketing, sales, raising money, management, strategy, and even coding, allows a person to refine their worldview and expand their repertoire of knowledge, thus shaping a more versatile persona.
Additionally, entrepreneurship makes you humble. You embrace rejection and failure as an essential part of your process and you become a better evaluator of your strengths and weaknesses.
How to improve your business knowledge: Start a side project. This can be anything from a blog to a trade business. Invest your free time in building a product that you always had in the back of your mind and allow this experience to enhance your mindset.
Philosophy is a Greek word and it means “friend of wisdom.” The idea that befriending wisdom can make my paradigm more meaningful dawned on me from a very young age.
I was trying to make sense of the absurdity encompassing the majority of my circles and I thought that there needs to be an escape from all these. Philosophy was this escape.
This idea is not arcane. Most of the prolific philosophers that managed to make an impact with their work, were motivated by it. Adversity, displeasure and a general lack of resonance with average behaviors can be a great motivator.
You begin to think deeply and by allowing philosophy to work in synergy with skepticism, knowledge, and reason you try to diminish absurdity and make your perception less erroneous.
A person’s skeptical supposition can allow them to conduct careful inquiries into the actual functions of society and the world as a whole.
Herein lies the secret to tranquility, serenity, and balance in life.
The sooner you take control of this process, the easier it will be for you to alleviate the struggles of life.
How to embrace philosophy: Take the time to read major philosophic works and analyze them. Start with simpler works like “The Consolations of Philosophy” by Alain de Botton or the “History of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell. Continue with the ancient Greek classics and then immerse yourself in the teachings of the Western philosophers and the more contemporary ones.
9. Economics and Politics
The recent elections in the US brought on the surface many maladies of the current system. This is something we should applaud. When a system with such an unsound establishment manages to get away with almost everything, a severe shock is what can foster the right environment for change.
However, this unstable landscape gives rise to a myriad of voices and the level of cacophony increases dramatically. The only way to reduce noise and help the sanest ideas stand out is to reinforce ourselves with adequate knowledge in the domains of politics and economics.
It is a person’s responsibility to comprehend various terms that are being thrown out and avoid the insidious effects that a lack of knowledge can beget.
Basic principles of economic and political history and theory are the cornerstones of one’s familiarity with the status quo. They allow a person to scrutinize, criticize and oppose political positions and offer realistic alternatives.
This is not imperative just for the shake of the rebalance of knowledge dynamics within the society, but also because young people can prove very effective when creating movements or assuming roles within the government. Older people are usually more rigid and this yields tremendous inertia when it comes to structural reforms.
How to improve your knowledge in economics and politics: Take it easy, start slow and expand on preexisting knowledge. A great book that dissects major economic principles is “Foundations of Economics” by Yianis Varoufakis. A great thinker that has influenced my overall political views is Peter Joseph. Watch the Zeitgeist trilogy and read his latest book: The New Human Rights Movement.
I am not omniscient but after careful evaluation of most of the factors that trouble young people nowadays, I do believe that the advice mentioned here is sound and relevant.
Also, I do think it is applicable to every person and age, but that totally depends on the individual mindset.
As I said before, every person is a story and the only thing I can do is to attempt and add more color to your story.
The hero will always be you.
If you find it hard to bring more structure to your life and follow a plan that can bring you closer to cultivating the suggested life skills, “30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses” can help a lot.
p. s. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to get my articles in your inbox the moment they are published. It is thought-provoking, free, easy to unsubscribe and some great resources will wait for you once you confirm your subscription.
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