The world is an ever changing place. Gone are the days when we used a circular dial on our telephone to ring and call someone. Gone are the days when our TVs could do not much else but provide us with a channel to watch. Gone are the days when we used postcards to tell our friends and families where we were, who we were with and what we were doing. Gone are the days when we would only be able to merely wonder about what is going on in the world around us.
This was the life I lived 30 years ago when I was a teenager. This is not the life I live now. 1987 has long gone. Welcome to the world of 2017.
Todays phone is a jack of all trades, where we can take and send pictures, watch movies, send messages and chat all in real time. The TV allows us to watch 60 different channels where we can slow things down, rewind the program, stop it when we want a break, and even watch many channels at once. Postcards have gone by the wayside as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media has taken over. Knowing about the world has become a hell of a lot easier too, for we only need to turn on our computers, go online, press a button, and voila - we can see that Liverpool beat Manchester United 1-0 yet again. The world is now quick, microwave, and automated. What once took the eternity of time to complete now happens in the quick click of a button.
Welcome to the global world, where everything seems to have gotten very easy, fast, more accurate and …
Scratch that, hold up, wait a second, not so fast.
The global world is not as easy to function in as what you may think. Like everything in life you should not judge a book by its cover, for like every coin that tells its monetary tale, there are definitely 2 sides to every story.
WHAT WE HAD, WHAT WE HAVE …WHAT WE’VE LOST.
Who here remembers the 80’s ? I do. I lived in them. Truth be told, my journey started in the 70’s, got into motion in the 80’s, sped through the 90’s, sped even faster through the 00’s, and ….well… it is now in free flow through the 10’s. I wonder what the 20’s will bring? I know what I wish for for it to bring, but that will come in a few minutes time. Back to the 80’s for now.
Life in the 80’s. Wow. It seems to be an eternity ago, as it goes back to a time where we used circular phone dials, our TV’s pretty much only showed one thing on one channel, the only pics we may have sent about our holidays came on postcards, and knowing about the pilgrimage to Mecca was only a pipe dream. Not that we seemed to mind though, as we got pretty clued in about life back then - when we played played outside with our friends, we had sleepover parties, we slow-cooked our own meals, and…did everything slower, more consciously and more thoroughly. Ah the slower life…
It is a life that seemed to disappear come the 90’s. We started to use these crazy new toys called cellphones. They seemed pretty cool, they looked pretty funny and they allowed us to talk to people from any location. Then we decided that we needed to cook our food faster, so we came up with the microwave oven. Instead of turning up the gas, we just started to press buttons, and whoosh - our food was cooked. Not stopping here, we also decided we wanted our food to come much faster so we made it come in 2 minutes, not 2 hours. We decided that we also wanted other things in life to come faster, so we started looking at how to do this on our new toys - called computers ( yep they replaced bikes and board games ), which then gave us an even bigger and better toy - the internet.
The horse had certainly bolted. Once the internet came in, there was no stopping. Since the 90s we have welcomed anything that we can stick an ‘I’ in front of, 60 MORE channels to our TV Screens, an app for just about everything, and complete sensory overload. Yep, we now have everything, our fingertips have an easy job, pushing buttons does the work and everything is wonderful.
Don’t you just love everything about modern life ?
Well…if you are like me… you DON’T.
Lets get back to everything being a 2 sided story yeh ??? Read on.
Every upside has an accompanying downside. We hear, read and see so much about that good things of modern life that we rarely seem to take a moment and think about the not so great things that have come with our desire to have everything easier, more direct, and faster. Actually, lets not leave it at not thinking about the bad things, as we just don’t seem to think about anything at all, because really, we just don't seem to think.
Welcome to the other half. Let’s open our eyes, put down the cell phone, slow cook a meal and check out that which is hidden in plain site.
For us to do this, I want us to imagine we are on a train in rush hour. The train is full of people and it is packed. Yet for some reason, there is no noise on the train. You look up in order to see why, and it doesn’t take very long. Everyone is plugs in, head down, mind switched off, looking at something on their phones. Yep thats the reason for the silence. You put your head back down again. As you do so, someone with their plugs in, head down, watching there phone, walks towards you, and pushes into you. You raise your head again and say something to him, but he keeps on going. He pushes through and doesn't even acknowledge you are there. You get a little rusty with him, but you decide not to say anything, because after all, he is plugged in and would not be able to hear you.
You go back to putting your head down, and a few minutes go by. You are drifting along, away in your world, counting the lilies, when suddenly you look up and realize you have gone past your stop. You hurriedly move towards the door and things come into contact with you as you do so, but onward you rush. You run out the door of the train and in your sloppy moment, you turn back and look in the window of the train. Its the only thing you do. You can not hear the train take off, nor can you hear the announcements on the platform. In fact, you can not hear anything, and with good reason.
YOU, YOURSELF, ARE PLUGGED IN TO WATCHING THE CELLPHONE YOU ARE HOLDING IN YOUR HAND.
Yep. Welcome to yours, mine and pretty much everyone else’s new world. The world with a population of 1 - the world that is ourselves.
It is a world where we seem to want to know what everyone else is up to, yet don’t want to physically go and ask them ourselves. The world where we want to know how people made that dinner they put a picture up of, yet we also don’t care to go ask. The world where we want to criticize, yet won’t do it face to face. The world where we bump people, yet continue on like they are not even there. Thats the other side of the story - the other part of the world we live in.
Globalization, in its technological form, was supposed to bring the world together, and make us feel connected. It has made us connected all right - connected to the system that has brought us all together - allowing technology to rule pretty much every step of our lives. In allowing this to happen, we have forsaken our basic human traits of warmth, humility, empathy and physical communication. Was this the new world that we imagined back in the day when we thought we wanted all this to happen ?
It looks like its time to review the importance of SOFT SKILLS.
AND THERE IS NO TIME LIKE NOW TO DO SO.
Soft Skills are important, and perhaps more important now then they ever have been. People are currently walking around in the daze, glued to their cellphones, waiting for help to arrive, and not having any clue about what to do to fix the current malaise. We have been lured down a rabbit hole that has enticed us through gifting everything to us, making our lives easier, bringing on a group culture, and making us more dependent on everything but ourselves. We need to get away from this ideal, and having soft skills will help us do so.
Soft Skills are the building blocks of inter human life. They are like an inter human system that allows us to communicate with each other and the world around us. Our body is a system, our brain is a system, our being is a system and our humanity is a system. We still have our body brain and being, but we have allowed these to be taken over by technology, and the results have not always been good. Having good soft skills can reverse this.
There are 2 skill sets in life, Hard Skills and Soft Skills. These days, Hard Skills are easy to learn. You can learn them at school by studying them formula’s and remembering all that vocal for a test. You can learn them at work - just listen to your boss and he will show you exactly what to do ( no QUESTIONS ASKED …hehe). Heck you can even go and slave behind the counter at McDonalds for a few years where you will get to wear that cutie itty bitty uniform, follow a formula to make a Big Mac and wear a ‘smile’ ( definitely with ‘NO QUESTIONS ASKED’ ;).
Soft Skills, on the other hand, are much harder these days - after all, we have basically surrendered ourselves to allowing technology to do absolutely everything for us. Perhaps that is where we should start. With that in mind, lets put down our phone, turn off our computer, unplug ourselves and read on.
NOW FOR THE DETAILS
There are 2 groups under the Soft Skills heading that we should consider - Self Management Skills and People Skills.
To be successful at anything in life, we need to be able to manage ourselves. Sadly, we have become too dependent on technology and other things to save us from disaster. Sure they do save us, but we do not learn and grow as people in the process. Managing ourselves well, however, usually yields different results. Self management includes doing things like
Developing a mind set of growth, and seeing things not just as a crisis but as opportunity
Being self aware, and knowing your drives, angers, joys and motivations.
Knowing what sets us off emotionally. Building our self confidence and resilience.
Life throws you a lemon, but do you use it to make Lemonade?
Think of it like this - “KNOW thyself, No Life - KNOW THYSELF, KNOW LIFE”. Before you become something, you need to know yourself. You can do so by asking questions relating to the above
- What challenges did you face in your life?
- Who are you?
- What is your emotional state? How did it get that way and why?
- What do you do when things go sour?
These are but a few things you can ask yourself. They are also only one part of the story. The other part involves dealing with and managing people. Its all well and good to manage ourselves, but we also need to be able to utilize our skills to effectively deal with others. We need to consider things like
- How can we effectively communicate in person to audiences and with them over?
- How can we function well in teams?
- What are the key points in making a good presentation?
- How can we sell?
We can only do that by having good Soft Skills. We need to know ourselves first so we can go into communication and interaction with others in a more complete form. Having been an ESL teacher for 14 years, I have come to work on the points I mention above and I can see how they work very well when they come together.
Soft Skills are important for the continuance of humanity in our modern quick fix, microwave world. We have made great technological advances and yes they have improved our lives to an extent. They have also helped us gloss over the dark side of these improvements and this glossing over has gotten to a point where we can no longer ignore it. We have to get back to being decent and humane to our fellow man. Having a decent set of Soft Skills is one way we can do this.