Life skills are freaking essential and help us get through the day-to-day of life. And most of us figure them out the hard way.
As in, through years of pain and mistakes.
I’ve been the guy with the degree I can’t use, stepping into workplaces that didn’t make sense to me. So developing these vital life skills isn’t just about checking off a box on a resume or a vision plan. Building life skills ACTUALLY has a huge impact on your quality of life, the amount you can earn, your day-to-day experience of the world.
I’m a damned good cook. I never thought of that as a life skill. But not only can I create awesome meals for my kids, I save a lot of money by cooking good food. I just happen to like people. It took me years to realize that this could translate into NETWORKING skills that went a long way in building a career.
So in this article, I want to talk you through what I believe are 17 life skills everyone should have.
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- Essential Life Skills
- Financial Skills
- Home and Personal Care
- Relationship Skills
- Professional Skills
Essential Life Skills
Let’s start with the basics. The ones that are just human skills that everyone needs.
1. Communication Skills
Good communication skills are some of the most important skills we can have. The ability to express yourself well and listen to what others are saying (instead of waiting for your chance to talk) will take you a long way.
We often think of communication skills in connection with a job — and yeah, that’s important.
But communication skills are also vital in every single relationship you have with others. I’ve been blessed with a 15-year marriage. We were just two stupid kids who jumped in at 20 and 21, with NO IDEA what we were getting into.
But through the ups and downs, communication skills have been our saving grace. The fact that we’re good at talking through things has made it work.
You need communication skills to form good friendships and relationships. You need communication skills with your family. And yes… eventually you need them with your job.
If you need to improve, try this course on LinkedIn Learning!
Communication Skills Machine: Master Persuasion and Influence for Entrepreneurship, Business, & Life (Skillshare)
“Holy shit. The career I just spent 5 years prepping for was replaced by AI!”
Is that you?
The world is changing SO DAMNED FAST, and if you’ve enrolled in a college degree to prepare for some future job, you might be surprised to find that it could disappear before you’re done.
A crucial life skill for me has been the ability to learn continuously. Learning how to learn.
If you can learn and teach yourself new skills, you can adapt to the changing workplace. If you can’t, you’re screwed.
3. Decision Making
I hate decision-making. I always have. I put things off until the decision is made for me (or until the opportunity is gone).
Decision-making is a critical life skill, and I’ve struggled with it. Do you?
Effective decision-making and problem-solving skills give you the power to handle situations with clarity and confidence. If you can analyze the available information, weigh the pros and cons, and then make informed decisions, you’ve got a superpower.
LinkedIn Learning Course:
Removing Noise and Bias from Strategic Decision-Making
4. Time Management
Everyone gets the same amount of hours in the day. Elon Musk. Opera. Kim K.
We all get 24 of those things.
So what separates the successful from the *ahem* less successful?
Easy. It’s the things they do with their time.
So I see time management as being about more than just scheduling things properly, or finishing by deadlines (of course, that’s important too).
True time management also means choosing to spend your time on things that pay dividends for your future and the life you want. It’s easy to be busy. Anyone can be busy.
True time management means being effective AND often carving out some time to build the future you want (even if you’re working a shitty job to pay the bills with the rest of your time).
Here are a few tricks of the OLD kind of time management:
- Creating a daily to-do list
- Setting deadlines for each task
- Breaking down large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks
- Taking regular breaks to avoid burnout
Is fitness a life skill? I think it is!
I’m in my 30s and I’ve found it’s becoming more and more important all the time. This body of mine is the only one I got. and I sit in a chair for a living.
I don’t care what you do for fitness. But do SOMETHING! It’s a life skill.
I was raised pretty blue-collar. With that came a bunch of money blocks and a lack of general financial literacy.
Managing finances effectively can make a huge difference in your overall financial health and stability. Let’s talk about financial skills: managing money and making it!
My own experience with budgeting in personal finance is hit and miss.
But I think the practice and skill of making one is really important. Budgeting helps me avoid overspending and keeps my financial goals within reach.
Here’s how you can create a simple budget:
- Track income and expenses to determine my monthly cash flow.
- Categorize expenses and set limits for each category based on priorities and past spending habits.
- Adjust the budget to reach my financial goals, such as paying off debt or increasing savings.
- Monitor spending throughout the month and make adjustments as needed.
Just a reminder, for a lot of people budgeting is a chance to feel guilty about spending too much. I’d way rather see it as a chance to find out how to increase my cash flow (through new income streams) and carving out more cash to reinvest.
Tools like You Need a Budget or Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar (free) are good budgeting tools to have in your back pocket.
Here’s a cool SkillShare course on Budgeting...
7. Saving and Investing
I find that having a solid savings plan is essential for both short-term emergencies and long-term financial security. I make it a habit to set aside a portion of my income each month for savings, whether it’s for a rainy day fund, a vacation, or future investments.
As an important part of my financial strategy, I also invest my money to grow my wealth and provide a comfortable retirement. Some investment possibilities are:
- Stocks and mutual funds
- Real estate
- Retirement accounts like 401(k) and IRA
The thing is, I’m not going to give you investment advice here. The life skill is LEARNING how to manage saving and investing. But I CAN recommend a few books that have changed the way I think about money:
- The Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (Get it!)
- Broke Millenial – Erin Lowry (Get it!)
8. Understanding Debt
“Stay out of debt!”
That’s the advice I was raised with. And in general, it’s good advice — when it comes to consumer debt. But certain types of debt can create more cash flow and wealth for you.
So again. Educate yourself here.
I keep track of my credit score (I use Borrowell for this) because it’s an important part of my ability to borrow.
But here are a few skills that need to go along with understanding debt:
- Limited borrowing, ensuring the debt-to-income ratio remains low.
- Making timely payments on loans and credit cards to avoid late fees and negative impact on my credit score.
- Not maxing out my credit cards (and cutting them if you can’t control it)
One more thing. Don’t JUSTIFY bad debt. Taking out $200k in student debt to get a history degree probably isn’t wise, even though everyone says “A degree is always a good investment.”
9. Cooking Basics
Cooking is a super valuable life skill to have. If you can learn it, you save money on groceries, eat better and — let’s face it — impress potential life partners. Who doesn’t love a spouse who can cook?
10. Cleaning and Organization
We keep a pretty clean house, which is great. Our place is relatively small so it’s easy to clean. And we try not to let crap pile up — downsizing and purging are a must.
Cleaning my office is another matter. I suck at it. this is a life skill I don’t have. Send help.
We talked a bit above about relationships skills — communication. Here are a few other relationships skills that are vital.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s putting myself in someone else’s shoes, trying to understand their emotions and perspectives.
When you display empathy, you can more genuinely connect with others, respond to their concerns, and support them effectively. Practice listening and asking open-ended questions, giving the other person an opportunity to express themselves fully.
You can also say things like “It sounds to me like you’re feeling this… is that right?” Reframing what you’re hearing to make sure you’ve heard it right is a great trick to becoming more empathetic.
12. Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is vital for both relationships and in the workplace.
Instead of flying off the handle or shunning someone, learn to calmly express your feelings, while also making an effort to understand the other person’s point of view.
You can also work to identify common goals and cooperate in finding a mutually beneficial resolution. Keep an open mind and practice active listening.
Here’s a cool LinkedIn Learning Course on Conflict Resolution!
13. Building Trust
Building trust is also a super valuable life skill.
The old saying is that “people do business with those they know, like, and trust.”
Learn to help people trust you, and keep your word — don’t give them a reason not to.
In my experience, there are quite a few professional skills that are essential for success in the workplace. Among these, I’ve found that networking, providing value, and salary negotiation are particularly important.
Networking is EVERYTHING. If you can grow your network, you’ve got the secret to a good career.
One hack I’ve used to grow my network is the informational interview, which I’ve used to meet new people, explore career options, and tap the hidden job market.
As I’ve done this and grown my network, what’s really cool is that jobs and opportunities come to you! And that’s a fantastic thing. Here are some anonymized offers for jobs and consulting that I’ve got over the years — some over text message!
You can also grow your network with LinkedIn! It’s really one of the best places. Here are some tricks to use it well 🙂
15. Providing Value
At some level, you’ve got to learn to provide value to people. Learn to give people what they want.
It’s the life skill that’s the secret to earning… whether you’re keeping your boss happy or starting a business and keeping your customer happy.
If you can learn to identify what people want from you, what will give them value, and give it to them… you’ll have a life skill that will PAY A LOT OF MONEY.
In your job, try this. Ask yourself, “What does my boss expect from me? What do I need to accomplish to be really successful? What would be valuable to them?”
When I started doing this at my past jobs, I ended up moving up quickly. In a world where people are content to sit back and wait to be told what to do, those who can provide value shine.
16. Salary Negotiation
Last but DEFINITELY not least, do you know how to ask for what you want and need?
There are different ways to get there, but one that comes up a lot is salary negotiation. Developing the skill of asking for more money will ALWAYS make your life better (even if you puke in the bathroom later).
These are some of the life skills that have served me well (and a few I’m still working on). I hope this article helps you think through some of yours and get clear on how to make the most of them!
Now Read: 12 High Paying Skills to OWN Your Future