Life is beautiful, precious, precarious, and above all, full of mysteries. With no prior training, we have been given this priceless gift while learning to make the most of it.

Our education system, despite its value, doesn’t prepare us for life’s challenges. Obviously, learning the principles of algebra is vital, but they can’t help us handle a difficult colleague, manage our time, or handle pressure.

As a result, students are graduating from high school and colleges and entering the workforce with industry-specific skills and zero life skills. We can’t blame our schools for not teaching us how to live, because it’s our responsibility to seek the knowledge that will guide us through life.

I’m no expert myself, but the decade I spent learning from outstanding individuals from all walks of life has made me realize that there are five foundational skills that seem to be part of all prominent leaders’ repertoire.

Regardless of socio-economic background, religion, or education, you will find these five psychosocial skills life changing. These skills aren’t exhaustive nor normative, but suggestive and learnable. You can master those skills with time and dedication.

5 key life skills we should all learn
The five key life skills

Learning Skills

Learning how to learn is the first core skill everyone should master. Knowing you can—and how to—develop the skills required to reach your goals will motivate you to challenge yourself, beat complacency, and boredom.

However, many people assume they are bad learners because they failed academically. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a significant disparity between “learning” and “being taught.”

Performing poorly as a student doesn’t mean you aren’t a good learner. Conventional education’s one-size-fits-all approach to learning may simply not fit you just like it didn’t Albert Einstein.

Einstein, known as the father of modern science, wasn’t a gifted pupil. His professors said he was a goof-off with no future. He himself wrote to his parents saying that he thinks he might be better off if he was never born.

While he didn’t excel in school, he did his best learning at the patent office while reviewing patent applications. Rather than passively absorbing knowledge in a boring lecture, he could review lots of claims and spend the rest of the time daydreaming, what he calls thought experiment.

Charles Darwin is another example of a changemaker who would be considered “bad apple” in the traditional school system. He could never fit in the rote learning of Classics at the popular Anglican Shrewsbury School, where he studied between 1818 and 1825. His schoolmate nicknamed him “gas” for dabbling in his chemistry class.

Does it mean they were not skilled at learning? They were bad at being taught. If you don’t perform satisfactorily at school, remember those who didn’t and ended up accomplishing beyond everyone’s expectations.

The Famous 70-20-10 Learning Framework

The famous 70-20-10 learning framework used for Learning & Development in the business world can help you improve your learning skills. These percentages are general guidelines and may vary by individual preference and ability. This structure is to stimulate you to determine the correct mix of learning strategies that work best for you.

70 percent of learning takes place in an informal setting, in trial and error, with no guidance. This may be in stark contrast with regular classroom-settings centered on a formal figure who presumably possesses all the answers. Both teachers and students would learn from a system characterized by creativity, instead of passive learning, deference to authority, and standardized testing.

Besides learning solitarily, 20 percent of our learning must come from interacting, observing, and emulating others. Like Bill Nye elegantly said: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.”

High achievers and low achievers have the same ocean of knowledge and wisdom. We model their successes from books, movies, interviews, or direct interaction. We also learn from their failures. Directly or indirectly, they inspire us to learn and grow.

Teaching is also an important learning skill that can help boost our self-esteem. This principle was thoroughgoing in one of the open-house events I attended at a local pre-school.

One kindergartener came in with her mother and her younger sister. We were playing a game in which they had to answer questions to riddles for gifts that I would give for accurate answers.

I couldn’t help but notice how proud she felt to instruct her sibling. Her pride motivated her to learn even more so she can teach her sister. Like my kindergartener, adults experience a similar surge in self-image when we share insights with others.

This is no mere proposition, but scientifically proven facts that competence, power, and achievement work in tandem to increase one’s self-assurance. These two forces combined will set the cycle of lifelong learning and growth in motion.

By sharing knowledge, we enjoy an upsurge in self-confidence, which will drive us to keep learning so we can impart valuable knowledge in the future.

Finally, we devote around a tenth of our time to formal learning settings. Imagine if you invested most of your time in a classroom. Beyond a certain threshold, any second attending a class is useless. Effective learning happens with a balanced combination of self-study, lectures, and inquiry.

If you have ever considered yourself a lousy learner, you can experiment with the 70-20-10 method and see the difference for yourself.

Time Management Skills

As a limited, fixed, and irreplaceable resource, we can’t buy time, nor can we recoup those we have wasted. Few of us ever learn how to manage it.

For you to advance toward your long-range goals and create the life you want, learning to set our priorities is essential. Don’t let urgency make a task a priority. A task is not a priority because it’s urgent, but because you have assessed its importance meticulously and have decided that accomplishing such an activity will take you one step closer to your long-term goal. Effective time management will give you peace of mind, enrich your life, and relationships.

Read this article to learn four timeless time management techniques.

4 time management skills


standing man beside camel on desert
A camel representing humility

Be modest is a reminder that we don’t know everything. We live in a culture where people are taught to shine at all costs. This often creates a sense of grandiosity in many.

To offset the occasional sense of superiority that comes with learning, try to teach others. Find someone in need, share knowledge with them continuously. You may know more than your protégé, but you need to exercise a great deal of sophistication to listen, understand, and acknowledge their ideas.

That way, you can improve your empathetic listening, patience, which will make you more humble. Humility can help us stay creative and open to learning opportunities.

In the ambivalent, messy, and volatile society we live today, we can’t afford to let time pass us by while wasting time in despair and complaining.

Bachir Bastien


There are days when life will hit us hard. Setback is that unpredictable, yet expected friend that knocks on our door on our journey to achieving our goals. Knowing that failure is a given, the effective strategy is not to prevent it from happening, rather to cope with it when it visits. That’s where resilience, which is getting back into the game quickly after a defeat comes into play.

To build resilience, it’s paramount we learn to fail, fail early, and fail as much as possible. There is more wisdom to be gained from failure. The more you fail, the more resilient you become. When failure strikes, the natural tendency is to go down in laxity, self-pity, and destructive behaviors, but the tenacious person is the one who lets go of those negative emotions speedily and moves forward.

In the ambivalent, messy, and volatile society we live today, we can’t afford to let time pass us by while wasting time in despair and complaining.

Interpersonal Skills

Without sufficient social skills, we are less likely to maintain friendships, romantic relations, and more likely to experience low self-confidence and anxiety. Therefore, learning basic interpersonal skills, i.e., respect, active listening, and empathy, is critical.

These three articles can help you heighten your interpersonal skills:

How to Make Friends and Improve Your Social Skills

The Million-Dollar Breakup

How Do I Improve My Listening Skills?


Skills such as creative thinking, analytical skills, problem-solving, decision-making are relevant, but the five skills are the foundation to everything we need to succeed personally and professionally. To help you remember those five skills, I have come up with the mnemonic device called THRIL.

  1. Time management
  2. Humility
  3. Resilience
  4. Interpersonal skills
  5. Learning

What skill would you add? Why? Let us know in the comment below.

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