Rethinking soft skills – Are they a super power?

Soft skills are my super power, what’s yours? 

If this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon “soft skills” and you’re wondering what in the world are those, here’s a definition you’d probably find when you’d ask our friend, Google: 

“Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence” 

My simple definition would be – the skills I wish I would have learned in school or when growing up – things like emotional intelligence and its components, how to communicate effectively, is leadership a job title only, what are my values, how do I tell a story, how do I build and cultivate meaningful relationships and most importantly how do I cultivate a great relationship with the person that matters most – myself. How do I become confident, how do I persevere in the face of adversity, how do I adapt and change and how do I cultivate a growth mindset. I mean …heck if someone would have told me that perfection is as stupid myth, I would have avoided years of self doubt, pain and that horrible feeling of “not good enough”. 

But then again, there wouldn’t be a story to tell, right? If you, like me, have struggled to figure out these things about life and about yourself or might still be struggling now, read on. You know what they say:

Smart people learn from their mistakes, smarter people learn from the mistakes of others

Before you move on, just for clarity, the feelings of fear, self doubt, feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes, or which path you should follow, are things that won’t necessarily go away and that everyone experiences at some stage in their life. However, in time, if you equip yourself with the skills and invest in your self development, you will become better at mastering this uncertainty. This only comes with self awareness and the courage to challenge yourself and push out of our comfort zone, especially when you feel like doing the exact opposite. 

I like to actually call these power skills as one thing that is becoming more and more obvious is that our minds are really powerful and, as such, being able to access what’s already inside us becomes an important piece of the puzzle. 

Don’t be fooled… there is no “perfect” stage and life doesn’t come with an instructions manual (as you already know). It is going to be messy and you have your own path and that’s the beauty of it, as corny as it might sound. 

The sooner you understand you’re the leader of our own life and it’s up to decide how you show up every day, the quicker you’re able to take responsibility when things don’t go your way. In other words, be your own Hero…get PROACTIVE. 

You have the power to choose how you respond to situations….ALWAYS! 

Take a moment and think about your own life so far. 

What has stopped you from achieving certain milestones?

I am willing to be that most times YOU might have stopped yourself from achieving your goals. 

Since I moved to Cambodia to teach these power skills, my students have shared many such stories and it honestly breaks my heart to hear things like: 

“I didn’t accept a scholarship abroad because I didn’t think I was smart enough”

“I feel like my opinion doesn’t matter or offends people so I stay quiet” 

“Everyone is ahead of me/I score low on quizzes – I must be dumb”

“My English is not good”

“I should know what I want to do with my life”

If I look back on my journey, I can most certainly recognise that I, too, have stopped myself more times than I can count. 

Firstly, as a recovering perfectionist – if an article wasn’t perfect, it couldn’t be published. What did perfect mean anyway? Perfect by whose standards? That, I cannot tell you. Not to mention, no one really cared anyway (typically people are too busy thinking about themselves) but I was so convinced they did.

If you’re familiar with the “perfection bubble”, you know as well as I do, that its sole purpose is to stop you from progressing; it’s the perfect tool to use if you want to procrastinate, feel stuck and paralysed. 

Secondly, that damn confidence in sharing your story, in realising that your voice matters, your experience matters. Having different skill sets than others is what makes you unique and cool and weird and quirky. 

Having spent over 6+ years in a startup incubator where I was surrounded by developers and all sorts of self proclaimed business/marketing gurus, made me feel stupid and inadequate for almost 2 years. But then I came do realise, I made myself feel stupid and inadequate by not trusting my own abilities, not understanding that my super power was being me and having my own skill-set – I was relatable and I was engaging; I was connecting and teaching the community by simply being myself. I was inspiring people (their words, not mine!) and I was being a role model without me realising it. And it took even more years to comprehend that. I mean my inner critic was saying “Who the hell do you think you are? You have so much more to learn. Read more, invest in more courses, do more coaching sessions, run more workshops, learn more about behaviour, write more, do more, be more….and then maybe you’ll be qualified to talk.” 

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve realised that fully or will ever realise it as we can’t see ourselves the same way others see us. Again, thanks to the people in my community who provide constant feedback on how I help exactly and of course the amazing data scientists in the making, that I interact with on a daily basis, I start to realise more and more the impact that imparting knowledge can have. 

If you’re currently going through you own journey of struggle and self doubt, I want to remind you of a few things that I’ve learned on the way: 

  • Investing in your skills set, upskilling, learning, truly is your most precious possession; you might not know exactly how your life will end up looking in the end and that’s okay 
  • If you don’t have the hard/technical skills necessary, don’t worry, you can totally learn provided you have a growth mindset and work on understanding better these awesome power skills – Some of our trainees here at DataU Academy came from backgrounds that are completely different from Data Science and in 3 short months they are excelling
  • Which brings me to my next point  – Everything is figuraoutable as Marie Forleo puts it. As I always say, everything comes down to our mindset and perspective even when we fail to realise it 
  • Take action steps – don’t expect to get motivated, that doesn’t really happen. Consistency is key, not matter how big or small the steps are… keep going 
  • Have the right systems in place – in the words of James Clear, Atomic Habits, cultivate those good habits that will enable you to reach your destination 
  • Be proactive – Don’t blame everything and everyone around you – You’re the hero of your own movie. If you don’t like something, get up and change it, no one else will do it for you 
  • Realise that looking after yourself is a must! You can’t give from an empty cup – so before helping others, help yourself …IT ISN’T SELFISH 
  • Finally….enjoy the ride!!!! Have some fun, don’t take it all to heart. Life is random, sometimes might seem unfair but realise YOU have the power to choose how you respond. Stressing about everything and everyone, especially what you can’t control, won’t really help you (quite the opposite)

Remember there’s no such thing as the perfect timing…time is now! Regardless of what’s happening in the world. Don’t make excuses. Take action steps towards what you want. It’s never too late to change and learn, NEVER! 

Finally, I want to leave you with this: 

“How would you behave on a daily basis if you had all the confidence in the world?”

Author: Ioni Spinu