Two Life Skills Every Young Person Should Learn

confucius quote trees

Life skills, like values, are best learned at an early age.  In today’s stipped-down, minimalistic educational system, values and life skills are not taught, let alone reinforced, so as parents, it is our duty to prepare our children for success in life. And television or social media may be doing just the opposite, creating false expectations without teaching skills.

So, if we are to prepare children for success in life, whatever their chosen profession or occupation, what life skills are fundamental foundations for success?

I believe there are two critical life skills every young person must learn and master.  Skills that support both personal and professional success. And these skills need to become life habits.  A good habit becomes a shortcut and makes life easier to navigate.

We are what we repeatably do.  Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.  ~Aristotle

The first good habit is the use of Checklists

Most of us believe we can keep everything in our heads, like things we need to do or to work on.  After all, what’s the brain for?  Well, reality is different. And the mind of a young person is especially jumbled and forgetful.  When she young my daughter was constantly running up the stairs to her room to get something she should have gotten in the first place.  We have even been out the door, in the car and down the street when she suddenly blurts out: “Wait! I need my ——-“, then she dashes back into the house once again.

Sound familiar?  And when we get older and the brain synapses and cognitive centers are more fully developed, we also have more things to deal with, like a job, bills, friends, kids, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc.  The list of things to remember becomes overwhelming and it is not uncommon that we have to make up some excuse for missing an appointment or forgetting a friend’s birthday, or worse, a wedding anniversary.

pilot-checklistEnter the checklist.  Aviation accidents took a dramatic decline with the introduction of the cockpit checklist.  Relying on the mind to remember and recall all the correct procedures for takeoff and landing proved to be fatal, even with highly experienced pilots. Even today with all the modern technology that allows an airplane to takeoff and land by itself, the pilot checklist is a critical step in accident prevention. There are even several pilot checklist apps on the market now.

So, at home it is easy to begin the habit of checklists.  On our front door we have taped a checklist that reminds everyone: keys, cell phone, bus pass, wallet, driver license, student card, umbrella, shopping bag, violin and music, and a big category that says: THINK – Anything Else? This simple front door checklist has reduced the number of trips back upstairs or driving back home to retrieve a forgotten item considerably.

If you take the time to make your daily list of important things the evening before, your subconscious mind will work on your list as you sleep.  Many times I have woken up in the morning with ideas and even solutions to things I put on my list the night before.

Without a written checklist for the day it is all too easy for less important tasks to take up valuable time. I have listened to many an executive complain that they just can’t find the time to work on the really important strategic issues. My reply is not very sympathetic. You make time by putting it on your checklist and diligently working through your list. If you don’t write it down as an important To Do the evening before and review your list at the beginning of each day, it is easy to either subconsciously avoid or get involved in day-to-day business issues.  If you want to get something done, put it on your checklist!

Sound too simple?  Who cares; it’s effective at getting things done!

Everyone must choose one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.  ~Jim Rohn

The second good skill habit is Backwards Planning (in my next blog)

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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3 Responses to Two Life Skills Every Young Person Should Learn

  1. Agree. I would add public speaking to this short list.


  2. Pingback: Opps! A Third Critical Life Skill: Effective Public Speaking | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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