The 3 Most Important Skills to Learn Now to Thrive Before 2020 | by Danny Forest | SkillUp Ed | Medium
That’s what we’ll look like 6 months from now, right? (source)

The 3 Most Important Skills to Learn Now to Thrive Before 2020

It’s not too late to make 2019 your best year yet!

As I look at my calendar on this insomniac night of mid-June, I realize that half the year has gone by already. I still remember celebrating Christmas on the beach on San Andrés island and flying right into a dreadful Canadian winter for five days for New Years. It really feels like yesterday.

I didn’t want to spend the winter in Canada. I had been in Colombia for three months by that point, and I ended staying another three. Coming back to Canada was hard. I had been a nomad on and off for three and a half years. I thrived more than I ever did as a nomad. Every single year has been better than the one before. So coming back for me felt like a step backward.

Yet since I’m back, I realize I’m still thriving. It turns out, what made me thrive wasn’t necessarily the nomadic lifestyle, but rather a set of skills I’ve acquired along my journey abroad.

Now, I bet you’re wondering, is it too late to learn them to still thrive in 2019?

In the wise words of Three Days Grace:

“It’s not too late. It’s never too late.” — Never Too Late, Three Days Grace

Life will never be what you expect it to be. That’s the truth.

Who did you picture you would be growing up?

I’m guessing that, depending on your age, it’s quite far from what you expected, right?

There’s no way that I could have predicted what would make me thrive in 2018 would be writing. Before January 2018, I had never really written before. At least, not publicly.

In 2019, my focus is on working on the disruption of Education. This is a damn ambitious project that’s way beyond myself, and I thrive on that. I’ve connected with people I never imagined I would ever connect with. People you and I put on a pedestal and see on a very different level in life.

I’m saying that because, only two years ago, I had one ambition — release a video game about a talking skeleton. I’m dramatically dumbing it down, but it goes to show that things can change, and truthfully, that change is within your own power.

Screenshot of Soul Reaper

My goal with this piece isn’t to motivate you, because as I’ve seen through 18 months of writing, motivation doesn’t work. Or it doesn’t last at least. You may keep pumping yourself up watching inspiring videos on Youtube or reading articles on Medium, but the truth is that it changes nothing.

If you want to thrive before 2020, it’s not motivation you need, it’s the following skills.

Skill #3: You gotta learn to take goddamn action!

Apologies for the blasphemy, but how many times must you hear it before you do it? I’m telling you. Other writers are telling you. Youtubers are telling you. Your freaking heroes are telling you!

Yet here you are, sitting on your ass and not taking action.

My friend Maarten van Doorn wrote the best ever article on how to effectively read a book:

Of the tens of thousands of people who read the article, I’d be surprised if even 1% started following his steps. Heck, I’d be surprised if even 100 people took action on the lessons!

People who started following his advice went from retaining at most 10% of what they read to at least 50%. All they had to do was start a new set of simple habits. Sure, reading a book now takes them twice longer. But for retaining five times more, this seems like a fair compromise to me!

The internet is full of incredible free advice like that. The problem is, we don’t value what we get for free or for cheap. If you’re a gamer like me, I’m sure you’ve bought tons of games on sale and never played them.

When I released the Limitless Toolbox (a set of productivity tools) on my website, I initially thought about charging $10 for it. When came time to release it, I decided to 10x the price, just to see what would happen. People bought it for $100. It changed some of these people’s lives.

Then I did an experiment. I dropped the price to $20 to see if I’d sell five times more. I wasn’t surprised to see my number of sales go down, not up. Moreover, fewer people wrote back to me saying it changed their life.

You know why?

They didn’t do shit with it!

It was a cheap product they dismissed.

You’re a coach and you’re not getting clients? Up your price by at least 3x, and they’ll take you seriously. I know I made the mistake of not charging enough before.

90 percent of people wait for other people to tell them to do something or give them permission to do something. I totally made that statistic up, but I’m sure it made you realize that it’s how you’ve been living most of your life, right?

Hey, I’m certainly guilty of that too!

I’m actually stoked to get coached by Tony Robbins’ team to be telling me exactly the same damn thing I’ve been writing about for 18 months. It’s the same thing I was telling my own clients…

And I consider myself good at it. For the most part, I jump out of bed every morning before 5am. I get shit done, day in, day out. I plan weekly, prioritize daily, and reflect every single day.

If you don’t act, you don’t get. It’s that simple. Nothing meaningful comes to you for free.

How to learn to take action

Take notes. Your memory is not good enough to recall things you’ve heard or seen. When you can refer back to a thought you had, you’re statistically more likely to act on it. Take notes in class, while watching videos, while listening to podcasts, while talking to people, etc.

Journal your heart out. Sometimes there are too many decisions to take and that clouds our judgment on what we should act on, leaning us to more often than not work on urgent but not important tasks. Journaling is a great way to free your mind and be aware of all the decisions that are “required” from you. It also helps with your daily, weekly, and monthly planning (see Skill #2).

Do things for others. That’s an easy but greatly overlooked trick. Aren’t we just so much more motivated to do things if it benefits other people? Or even out of obligation. It brings a sense of necessity. So whenever there’s something you want to do, think about what it brings to other people. I’m no people pleaser but it helps to think that way. Even for things you think only benefit you. I learned to rock climb to help fight my fear of heights. I seem to be the only benefactor in that, right? Not really. Now that I’m less afraid of heights, I can do more activities with other people involving heights. I have also a new activity I can practice with friends I meet around the world. If there’s something you procrastinate doing over and over again, think about the benefit it brings to others.

Do these things consistently over the next few weeks or months, and you’ll notice that not only you’ll act more, you’ll also act better. But remember the number one rule to action:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Skill #2: You gotta learn to be aware of your goddamn actions!

Apologies for the blasphemy, but how many times must you hear it before you do it? I’m telling you. Other writers are telling you. Youtubers are telling you. Your freaking heroes are telling you!

Yet here you are, sitting on your ass and not raising your self-awareness!

The repetition above is intentional. Trust me, it will help you let it sink into your subconscious. Years ago I was following Tai Lopez’s 67 steps. At the time, for me, that was groundbreaking. I learned this morning that my friend Ayodeji Awosika also started with the 67 steps. Look where he is today!

While many complained that he just kept babbling and repeating the same thing over and over, it worked. Those who followed through let it sink into their brains.

Speaking of which, here’s what you should let sink into your brain if you want to thrive before 2020: what went right, what went wrong, and how can you improve. Every. Single. Day. You gotta honestly reflect on how well you’re doing towards what you strive for.

Have my actions today led me to bring the fight forward towards a better Education for all?

Yes? No? What did? What didn’t? How can I do better tomorrow? Repeat weekly and monthly.

Now, of course, you need the father of all weapons at your side: knowing your why. Without it, you’re spoon-carving a mine you could dynamite.

That all sounds easy but it isn’t. If you can answer in less than a combined eight hours of reflection on your first journaling session, you’re likely not thinking deep enough. I repeat, it isn’t easy and it shouldn’t be. Ask yourself “why?”. Not once or twice, but up to seven layers deep!

You know what we’re all good at? Lying to ourselves. We say that things are going well when everything is going south. The reality is too hard for us to handle, so we ignore it. We don’t think and we certainly don’t talk about it.

Stop lying to yourself. It may feel good at the moment, but it won’t in the long run. Dare to ask yourself the hard question. Dare to be aware that not everything is perfect. Accept it. Change your self-talk from “I can’t” to “How can I…”.

When you truly become self-aware, “I can’t” doesn’t exist anymore. “I don’t want to” becomes a possibility. Once you know how you can do something, choosing not to do it isn’t cowardly, it’s smart.

“Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge wish for more wisdom.” — Jim Rohn

How to learn to be self-aware

Get into the habit of putting actions in your calendar. That’s the first step towards knowing where your time is spent and where you have actual free time. In your daily planning, always leave room for important but not urgent tasks. From 5am to 9:00am, I exclusively do things that are not considered my main job. I write, go to the gym and practice 3 skills.

Do daily, weekly, and monthly planning. Every Friday or Saturday, I plan my activities for the next week. As mentioned above, that gives clarity on where my time is spent on my productive activities and hobbies. But everything is not set in stone. Every evening, after work, I review my priorities for the next day and move things around as needed. And every end of the month, I write down my goals, both professionally and personally, for the next month. I try to be as specific as possible. How much mass do I want to put on? How much money do I want to make? How many new followers do I want to have? When you have goals you firmly believe in and you review them at least once every week, you align your plans with your actions.

Drop negativity. Try to drop negative words from your vocabulary: no, not, bad, etc. Here’s a full list: When you think and talk positively, you act positively. When you are in a positive mindset, you are more open to other perspectives. When you are more open to other perspectives, you are more receptive to change. It’s fundamental and not too hard if you practice this on a daily basis. If you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, simply stop yourself and re-phrase.

Set time aside for important but not urgent tasks. Much like above, it’s important to set blocks of time daily (or close to that) where you can focus on yourself. A time where you focus on things you’ve always wanted to do but never do because “urgent” stuff takes all your time. Take that time to learn languages, other skills, read, journal, work out, explore your city, etc.

Skill #1: You gotta learn to up your goddamn habits!

Apologies for the blasphemy, but how many times must you hear it before you do it? I’m telling you. Other writers are telling you. Youtubers are telling you. Your freaking heroes are telling you!

Yet here you are, sitting on your ass and not changing your habits!

I’ve known for a while now that habit building is a really important component of thriving, and there’s no better reminder than when you’re falling off your good habits and suddenly things don’t go as smoothly.

I personally have cycles of good and bad habits. I wish I could report that I only have good habits all the time but that would be a big fat lie. At the moment of writing this, I have been sleeping later than usual, leading me to skip most of my productive morning routine.

That means I skip my writing, skill learning, and fitness sessions. I’m less healthy and my mind is less sharp. And because I now make most of my money writing, I’m making less of it too.

So, if you want to build momentum — if you want to thrive in an “automated” way — you gotta up your habits.

Everything is effortless when it becomes a habit, for better or worse. It takes 66 days to form a new habit. The process is nothing less than painful. For the most part, it is not enjoyable. And I’d argue that breaking a habit is even harder and longer, so it’s better to never start a bad habit in the first place. Much easier said than done of course!

I personally have a set of 20+ micro-habits that, if performed daily for a 3–4 weeks, I build momentum so powerful I call it the Limitless Effect.

What are the habits that allow you to achieve that?

Most people don’t know. Most people have never built that kind of momentum before. But again, it’s not too late. It’s never too late.

“Our habits will either make or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” — Sean Covey

How to learn to up your habits

Have a daily checklist. When I want to up my habits (aka all the time), I use my Start/Stop Calendar. Every day, I schedule 15 minutes of time for my own self-reflection, and that’s when I fill it out. There’s something satisfying about having a checkmark saying you’ve done it! My recommendation though is to start small. Don’t try to change all your habits at once. Start a new one. Next month, drop one. It gets easier with time, so don’t overwhelm yourself to start with!

Be accountable. This one really applies to all three skills in this article, but I included it here because upping your habits has to be done daily. Being accountable means following through on your promises. The best way to do that is to involve other people in the process. Report to someone you trust to tell you that you’re slacking. Become accountability buddies with a stranger. And heck, you could even hire a professional slapper like my friend Maneesh Sethi did. Or, you know, zap yourself for doing your bad habit?

Be reminded effortlessly. That one is powerful. What you want to have are reminders of what and why you want to start or stop a habit. Where? How about everywhere you actually spend time at? Have post-it notes or (motivational) photos on your desk at work. On your car. On your fridge. Next to your alarm. Make sure you don’t go to bed without being reminded. You think you can consciously form a habit? Think again. Your subconscious does all the work. Now make it work for you!


Choosing 3 skills was insanely difficult. There are so many important factors to thriving that 3 just can’t cover everything. As such, and briefly, here are two I strongly considered putting on the list:

Learning to Learn

Check out Barbara Oakley’s course: Learning to Learn

And read this:

How I Learned 50 Skills In 18 Months, and So Can You!

Developing Influence

Check out Brendon Burchard’s book: High Performance Habits

And read this:

How to Build Real Influence in Life and Business


Ready to own that second half of 2019?

I hope you learned something important here and that it’s going to push you to action. Too many people read articles and books, never acting on them. Don’t let this article just be another one of those. If you learn to get to action, become self-aware, and up your habits, you’re equipped to thrive not only for the rest 2019 but for the rest of your life. So start now before it’s too late.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, sharing, and following! :)

Check out my deeply actionable Course on 10 Skills to Improve Your Learning in 10 days. <- my new home. I don’t write on Medium anymore.

Thanks to Stephen Moore

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