In a few of your posts, you mention "Learning universally useful skills". Could you elaborate? I think I have the basic idea - public speaking, writing, negotiation, etc. - but what would you include?
Good question. You listed three in the category of interpersonal skills and yes, that's a useful category. Almost anything important you'd want to do, you'll need to work with other people to some extent. Getting better at communicating is always good. Writing, negotiating, speaking. Conflict resolution. Whatever you'd call what's described in "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Some basic understanding of sales. All useful.
Next up, I'd like to put forward the idea that numbers are either your friend or your enemy, and there is no middle ground. Being able to do basic arithmetic fast is underrated - it has a ton of value. It's easy to train up - before you get a bill or check from somewhere, try to figure out roughly in your head how much it should be. See if it matches the bill. This helps you get your mind around opportunities and costs pretty quickly and helps you check to make sure things aren't going wrong.
Probability and statistics have a ton of value in them. I learned by studying advanced baseball statistics and I enjoyed that, but there's probably other ways. Variance is super important to understand. Getting your mind around how random can be really, really random is important.
Being able to do percents, and percents of percents has a lot of value.
Basic financial accounting has a lot of value to anyone - it also helps you get your mind around numbers.
After that, execution and get-stuff-done skills are important. This could be individual stuff like building good habits, keeping a clean environment, and training yourself how to focus. Defining a scope and your goals/objectives with anything you're doing. Some of the basic formal or informal project management stuff helps.
Underrated in this category are things that you have to do a lot of - things like typing fast, knowing how to set the agenda for a meeting or phonecall so you cover everything quickly, and how to handle email without it ruining your life.
Health, obviously. Yeah, there's a ton of contradictions all the time, but it's still worth learning a little about your anatomy, the basic systems of your body, and how they wear out and fail over time (or don't, and keep working well). Nutrition. Exercise. Basic info about cardiovascular systems. Learn something about addictiveness - tolerance building, chemical addiction vs. psychological addiction, toxicity, etc.
I'd also encourage you to work towards clear thinking - rationality in the vein that Eliezer Yudkowsky writes about at LessWrong is important. It's worth spending some time to learn about how language works and how your mind works.
That's just off the top of my head - I'm sure I missed a number of important ones. Your additions in the comments, dear reader?
It would be really useful to have relevant links/how-to to read more about the topics you and the commenters mentioned. Preferably both in the quick-n-dirty way (like you suggested before to get something important done) and in the "deep" way (like reading GTD to organize yourself)
For example I was really interested in body language and I know that "how to speed read" guides are around, but if I could have someone I trust tell me about one he used that'd be better than googling it myself.
I'd say if your native language is not English you totally need to learn how to fluently speaking it
How would you do it (this might apply to other foreign languages aswell):
- start watching english voices+english subtitles movies at the beginning and once your understand only english voices
- in your city there are probably groups of people speaking english, reach out (think couchsurfing.com members, exchange students, and just people interested in the language)
- make it a point to learn a new word in the foreign language each day and use it in a sentence, even if you're alone just say the sentence out loud using the word
- go live in a foreign country doing barista (or better something in your field if the language barrier is not too high) for 3 months without living or having any contact with people of your own language, it'll work wonders :)
I believe you wrote about that earlier, but certainly controlling your own emotions and not action on them without thinking is valuable skill. I guess it can be trained in things such as poker game. I see a lot of potential in learning how to be good at poker. Unfortunately I'm not there yet...
networking is a skill you need to make sure you have. being able to talk to people is good but you need to be able to follow up on it and pursue it.
if i think of any more ill post them.
I've been spending time thinking about this lately, and have some to add to the list.
Reading. By reading faster while keeping comprehension up, you gain the ability to increase your input. You still need to judge the worth of the information, though.
Body language. You don't need to be an expert, but should be able to recognize when someone is happy, sad, concerned, surprised, and such.
Patterns. This sounds odd at first, but being to recognize patterns through history lets you recognize what's going on today. Playing with numerical patterns, perhaps though Sudoku or something similar, let you see other types of patterns.
I think my weakest area is in the execution. Does anyone have recommendations for building this up? I don't care for formality, so GTD is probably off the table. I just want something simple that I can make into a habit.
Arbitrage and speculation get a bad rap sometimes, but they're incredibly useful.
I'm leaving Ulaanbaatar shortly and I'll be heading to Japan. I went to stock up on some basic supplies - personable consumables and work stuff.
Strikingly, paper is really expensive here for Western-grade, Western-style paper. The local shops literally don't carry it. Instead, they have this checkered sort of paper. It's like graph paper, but with thick black lines. I prefer black ink, and after trying out one of those notebooks, I couldn't read what I'd written.
I tried some of the upscale department stores (Sky Department Store, State Department Store) and there's literally no Western-style, 60 sheet lined notebooks in the $1 to $2 range like you'd see in the USA. They have high end notebooks for $6 to $12, and they have these thin flimsy 20-page booklet-type things for around $1. I settled for the booklet.
Now, if there was the demand to make it worth it, someone importing Western style paper from China at 20 cents a notebook and selling it here for $2 per notebook would be creating a lot of value. If this presented a large enough opportunity, eventually you'd see the margins go down towards cost, as happens in almost all industries.
Welcome to 2014. For me, it feels like my year started in June. Being on a semester system in school, it feels like January-May was a totally different year.
It's been a bit exciting, if not grueling. I've grown a lot, but at the same time, I've fallen back towards resistance and am still struggling with Step 1 of How To Take Control of Your Life. When I let the biggest hindrance go, I start to look for something to fill the time with, and sadly, I fell back into it.
I was wrong about a ton of stuff this year, but I can also say I was also really right about a lot, too. I've probably made a ton of mistakes that are going to affect me in the long run, but the time to change my life is coming up one week into the New Year, so we'll see how it goes.
I think I'm struggling the most with a sense of direction. I know what I want to do in the long run, but right now, no options seem viable for my unique situation. Yes, maybe I'm a teenager convinced that I'm a special snowflake, but it's still difficult in the present. One of the best skills you can have is to look at your present hardship as how you do when you look at your hardship in hindsight.
All I can attest to doing this year is trying.