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20 Basics Life Skills That Most People Lack

20 Basics Life Skills That Most People Lack


Workaholic, self-absorbed, entitled, unmotivated. These are among some of the titles that can be used to describe the typical adult; the biggest culprits being Generation Xers and millennials.

Do not be deceived by their tech know-how, most of them lack quintessential skills. Most of them lack manners while a majority can’t cook. Others can’t sew back a button, while a big chunk lack common sense.

But what could be the matter? Is it the over-reliance on technology? Of course, that is the biggest culprit: automation, gadgets, and apps. This leads us to the question: can this population survive in a non-digital world? It is highly unlikely.

It may be surprising, but the reality is that you will find an adult getting uncomfortable when faced with a basic math problem, or being unable to comprehend a single paragraph of text from a book. Even though some may excuse themselves and claim they lack the required numeracy or literacy, a sizeable number has at least basic education that should make it possible to acquire the most basic skills.

And research shows that the magnitude of this problem is so immense that it cannot be overlooked. Can we say that teachers have failed their students? Maybe. Or maybe it’s the government to blame.

We cannot solely blame teachers because learning is a continuous process that goes beyond the confinement of a classroom. Long after school, any adult should continue to seek knowledge in any way possible because that is the only way to get empowered about your surroundings. In fact, it is the individual’s responsibility to be better.

What happens when you lack core competencies? You are going to experience difficulties performing simple tasks like reading. Conversing is going to be a problem because you are not able to adequately address a group of more than two people, and decision-making may be a challenge.

People need to start developing manners and common sense on their own. They need to learn to be patient and to develop emotional intelligence because such skills have no manual and are hard to teach.

It is upon you to understand how much money you are going to spend in a month and to stick to that budget. In theory, we know we need basic skills, but in reality, we lack those skills.

Here are 20 basic skills that most of us lack:



This is one of the most valuable skills in emotional intelligence. It is mainly being able to listen to others and see things from their perspective. It is fundamental in human reaction and can bring you many rewards, but it is not a skill that is in abundance, sadly.

Only a handful take an interest in other people because most humans are narcissists who never care about others’ feelings.

The world would be a much better place if humans would be able to empathize with other people’s situations and understand things from their perspective: situations, moods, mindsets, and expectations.

When you can empathize, you will be able to relate better, and you can get a sense of how they are experiencing the world. Humans may not know, but empathy sometimes requires that we only pay attention to what others are saying and to read their body language. People appreciate when you relate to them and understand what they are going through. It means you care and they appreciate that.



You belong to the minority if you can sit in a lecture hall and pay attention for two straight hours.

You will see a driver trying to maneuver a car in a jam while simultaneously speaking on the phone. Most of us find it difficult dedicate full attention to a single task. One minute you are streaming a video, the next you are talking on the phone, and before you end your conversation, you are trying to open emails. In the end, nothing gets done.

If you can improve your focus, you will be fascinated by the amount of progress you can make in your life. This is because when your attention is fragmented, you are tasked with mentally reconstructing whatever you were thinking, and this means taking too much time to accomplish one job. It also means you lose fundamental insights because your mind keeps wandering.

Technology has been greatly blamed for our short attention span. There is a technology overload that is taking away most of our time. You may find one person in a cafeteria trying to manage five devices: an iPod, a Blackberry, a tablet, and a laptop. These devices are always popping with notifications that need attention and have more value because it’s 2017!

Our short attention span results from a number of things: lack of job satisfaction, lack of exercise, stress, and lack of sleep. At least these are the major ones.



It’s all about instant gratification these days.

When you look around, everyone is impatient. No one wants to wait for someone or something; people want to achieve success in the fastest way possible and are eager to make a step without carefully analyzing it. When you are standing in line at the grocery store, you will be surprised by the number of humans who will try to ‘jump’ yet there are only six of you waiting to be served.

The demand for instant results has become part of our lives. And it is not just Gen Y; it’s baby boomers; the young ones, and retirees. Don’t be surprised to hear a 60-year-old yelling at a cyber attendant because his favorite site is taking too long to load, or his Skype call seems to be lagging.

Today, retailers have introduced same-day delivery services because they have discovered it is an unexploited part of their business models. Consumers don’t mind paying more for these services. Populations are finding more fun streaming from Netflix than from reading books or magazines. The quick fun is much better because patience is a skill that people lack.

The focus on immediacy has also affected how masses save as it eliminates the need to think about long-term goals.



Manners embodies respect, how we talk, maturity, character, and mostly how we carry ourselves around others.

The reality is that more individuals are rude. Very few know how to handle others because the level of manners has seriously diminished.

People can’t wrap their heads around the fact that others grew up in different environments and have different cultures. This means they need to be handled differently because their experiences, values, and upbringing are different.

Unfortunately, what we commonly see around us is a lack of respect, attitude, and bad behavior. Maybe parents can be blamed for failing to introduce proper manners to their kids. How can you expect adults to have good manners when they have never experienced it?

Lacking manners means finding it difficult to apologize. Terms like “thank you” or “please” sound so foreign that we cannot utter them. This is why you will find a 25-year-old scrambling for space with a 70-year-old, or someone will sneeze in your face and not say “excuse me.”

16. MATH


Tons of people suck at math.

And it is not the technical stuff like algebra, or geometry, or calculus. It is the simple things like knowing how much change to expect from a Walmart cashier or being able to perform simple additions and subtractions without needing assistance.

But today, dividing 27 by 9 means rummaging through one’s pocket to look for a phone or calculator that can be used to perform such a simple calculation. Multitudes just lack fundamental math skills. This explains why some adults are unemployable.

The thing is most people have a negative attitude towards mathematics, and that hinders any learning or any thought to solve a simple math problem. Math skills are crucial when you need to do some budgeting, saving, or when you want to monitor your credit card debt.

When you need a device to do simple addition or subtraction, chances are you lack a basic math skill, and you need to change your attitude.



What you see in movies is entirely different from what happens in an isolated parking garage.

When the assailant grabs you from behind, you will try to jab his head with a handbag or maybe try to kick him in the groin. In films, the woman will probably manage to disentangle herself from his grip before getting into a car and speeding off.

In reality, the enemy expects you to attack and will probably block your kick, or jab. What happens next? He will slam your head with a club sending you off balance. And if you are still struggling, he will mow you to the ground and make sure you are immobilized. So, you are basically at his mercy because you can’t get away.

What most people don’t understand is that self-defense does not usually mean fighting back. It means doing everything in your power to avoid fighting. It is all about using your head to get yourself out of trouble. In fact, it is safe to say that self-defense means getting away to avoid injury. After all, you never know the training the other person has undergone.

Most women are unaware about how they lack self-defense skills until they are vulnerable. Others think they can mop the floor with pretty much anyone because they attended martial arts classes. Fighting should be the last resort, and it should only be considered because you have no other options.



Keeping fit does not mean you need to be a gym freak. The average person should be able to run across a field with ease. Fitness skills are ideal for burning calories and can save your life in some cases.

Some people think that fitness is a talent that cannot be learned. Wrong! Fitness is a skill that needs refining. Obesity is at a level high because humans lack fitness skills and are not willing to acquire any.

These are the folks who complain they cannot use the treadmill because they lack motivation. Or they will join the gym in May, promising to work out all the way to December. However, they will be missing in action by the first week of June. When approached, they will look for another good reason to defend their non-compliance.

They probably do not understand that fitness is a skill just like learning to play guitar or learning how to drive. The first thing is to have the right mindset then take action. Achieving success in fitness mostly requires that you develop other habits like discipline and commitment. You need to learn to stick to a schedule no matter what.

It is an outward transformation that first requires you to be transformed on the inside.



Most people have a problem sticking to their budget.

Not when there are hundreds of gadgets on eBay waiting for new owners. In the end, we get stranded during emergencies or even go broke after working for decades. You will be surprised by the population that is unaware the paycheck is supposed to last a month.

And it does not matter whether you have a family, a good job, or you are the head of a corporation. Money management is a major skill that so many people only dream of. Citizens have blamed their schools for not incorporating personal finance in the curricular, but schools aren’t human factories, they are academic institutions and are never in charge of our personal decisions once we are in the outside world.

Financial literacy should be a combination of skills that are rarely taught in school. Fewer persons understand that starting to save early will means early retirement. Critics have argued that a majority have a tendency of investing what is left after expenditure, and this is usually wrong.

The most important thing is to understand how to control income and expenses. Poor money management has left people living outside their means and running into massive debts.

Money management may seem like something that a five-year-old can figure out, but it has discombobulated men for centuries.



Only a few can sit on their own and read a book, watch a movie, or just lie in bed and meditate. This is the reason why most of us end up with unnecessary relationships and fake friends. The problem is that once we realize we need to be alone, we try as much as possible to find someone to keep us company.

Enjoying one’s own company does not mean becoming an introvert. It means being able to take care of one’s ‘need for others’ by looking inside ourselves and figuring out why we are desperate in the first place.

While some may argue that humans are social beings and it is their nature to socialize, sometimes we need to be alone. This is the time to stop texting and to spend an hour or two doing yoga without feeling the urge to call friends.

People do not enjoy their own company because they cannot stand being alone. They don’t know why, but they just need humans around. One of the reasons may be because we like to run away from our feelings. We are always afraid of what we may find out when we are left alone with our feelings. For this reason, we try to keep ourselves busy so we can ignore these feelings.

But the result can be disastrous because those feelings sometimes manifest themselves in the most unlikely ways.



Critical thinking only requires that we assess information and reach reasonable conclusions. Forget about the philosophies of René Descartes or Gottfried Leibniz.

Imagine where the world would be if most people had this skill. There would be peace, prosperity, and happiness. Individuals would not be held back by their inability to be rational.

It is also important to note that thinking rationally does not mean everyone comes to the same conclusion. It is being able to accept that someone has made a mistake in thinking or that individuals have different priorities and values that alter their rationality. It is okay to think and arrive at different conclusions. It is also crucial to admit that your opinion isn’t always correct, no matter how badly you think it is.

But masses lack this skill; that is why a disagreement in opinion will likely be interpreted as a personal attack.

This skill is particularly useful at a time when we are exposed to vast information, and we are required to evaluate this information and make relevant conclusions.

Excellent critical thinking skills will always make you stand out from the crowd.



Since the advent of the internet and computers, learning basic computer skills has almost become a necessary skill.

But it’s surprising that in a digital age, someone cannot figure out how to move data from a flash disk to a compact disk. Forget about the simple tasks like formatting a hard drive, performing basic functions on a word processor, or appropriately starting and shutting down a computer.

This is regardless of the fact that most solutions are available if we can take time and Google. But we are not patient enough. 90% of computer problems can easily be solved using Google; we just need to know how to search for the particular problem. But staff members will bombard Tech Support with emails about how to reset their browsers or how to stop pop ups when they are browsing.

Digital skills are not only necessary when looking for a job; they are 21st-century skills that make it possible to use and appreciate the available tech. Therefore, individuals need to come out of the “digital darkness.” Today, being able to troubleshoot a computer and use the internet is almost the same as learning Mathematics or Physics.



This is another skill that people assume they have only to get surprised when they are required to address ten strangers in a board meeting. While we are experts in texting, most of us have a problem with oral communication: how to be articulate and to join our ideas so they can make sense.

This skill comes handy when you need to speak to a large group. Before talking to such persons, you need to know what you are going to say. Otherwise, expect to fumble and to take too much time with a single idea; or you may just end up wasting people’s precious time.

Let’s use public speaking as an example. It requires that you are able to speak persuasively, clearly, and in an organized manner. This is an important skill that can be developed but a majority of us lack.

Speaking fluently comes with some advantages: it makes it easier to sell, negotiate, and to express our ideologies. It also makes it easier when we are trying to persuade a member of the opposite sex.

In other words, it brings numerous opportunities.



This is the process that bridges the gap between analyzing a situation and taking action. Decision making means knowing what you are supposed to do after analyzing the available information. Being a better decision maker means not being too critical or over-analyzing a situation because both methods may give negative results. It mostly means applying the tools of patience and discipline before making a decision.

When you can respond swiftly and efficiently, you become a doer and not a wannabe. Unfortunately, this is a skill that a majority of us lack.

First of all, people hate uncertainty because it makes them uncomfortable. For this reason, they will make decisions based on what they believe; ignoring the relevant information that may be available. In fact, most of our decision-making process takes place unconsciously. This is why we keep running into the same problems in our life: because we make the same decisions over and over expecting different results.

To most of us, it is tasking to set up procedures that can guide us in making a decision. So, we expect things to fall into place without any intervention. We are mostly lazy, and sometimes we are stuck in the past.

Other times, we lack the technical knowledge to differentiate the good from the bad.



Most people are miserable cooks, but thanks to restaurants and prepackaged food we can still eat.

Microwaving a burger or pizza does not qualify as cooking because doing both does not require any skill. And this does not mean that you have to be Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver. Most of the time, you are only required to follow simple procedures. In fact, food recipes are all over the web and in books. But we just ignore to learn the skill because cooking is too much work.

Cooking isn’t difficult; it is a skill that needs to be practiced regularly if we are looking for better results. While some do it for fun, and others to show off to their friends, it is a skill that can make us independent. This is why most college students face difficulties when they are no longer in the custody of their parents.

The common excuse that you are likely to run into is “I always get home at 9 pm, and I am usually too tired to do anything.”



An adult should at least be able to change a tire, understand what certain lights mean, and be able to check the oil.

But alas! That is far from the truth. Most drivers will gladly hit the pedal and increase the mileage, but when it comes to the basic stuff, they will claim it is too hard and needs to be left under the care of a mechanic.

It mostly starts with having the right tools in your vehicle and some common sense. Sometimes you may need help; for example when you are stuck in the middle of the highway, and it’s about to rain. But most times, you can fix most things yourself. Changing a tire, for example, only requires you to remove four, five, or six bolts then replace that tire with another.

It is worrying that you can trust a car to carry you at 90+ mph yet you do not bother about its basic maintenance. If you think most of the information available online is overwhelming, stick to the car manual. It typically explains the simplest tasks.

You should be able to understand when you have a problem with your battery, fluids, pressure, or engine. Learning basic car care can significantly enhance your safety; don’t entrust all the work to a mechanic who has a hundred more cars to fix.



Most people have poor listening skills and will always bulldoze their way through a conversation. There are those who wait for you to finish speaking so they can answer you with what they wanted to say before you even started talking. Then there are those who do not even bother to wait until you finish whatever you have to say.

This is probably where you need to apply the old quote of having two ears and one mouth and using them proportionately. And do not be fooled, there is a difference between hearing and listening. The latter involves paying attention to what is being said while the former is just hearing the speakers voice and not giving a damn.

Poor listening skills mean you lose valuable insights from the speaker, and in most cases, it will lead to confusion and disagreement. Listening is, in fact, a core part of communication. A conflict emerges when a poor listener interprets things in a biased way.

In the end, a clear message will be ignored or disregarded if it is not in line with the listener. The communication will always fail.



This is the ability to understand and reflect upon what has been read.

Most people have been found to have poor comprehension since they are unable to understand and interpret what they have read. This problem can sometimes start from a young age and can go undetected until adulthood.

Reading comprehension requires that one has grammatical awareness, and knowledge of vocabulary in addition to a range of other skills. Most poor comprehenders also experience difficulty understanding spoken language.

Signs of poor reading comprehension manifest when you are unable to summarize a text; you cannot remember the meaning of words; you cannot extract the central message, and you cannot link ideas from different parts of the text. In most cases, you are also unable to create mental images from the text.

A slow reader will forget what is going on because of poor processing speed and an inability to keep track of thoughts. This reading problem makes it difficult to learn and is the reason why some folks lurk in careers or perform poorly at work.



Most people overlook the need for a diary because they assume that time management is behavioral. But time management is a cognitive process that requires some thinking.

Time management is being able to plan and control how you spend your day in accomplishing your goals. Most of us fail miserably because we are poor with time and are great procrastinators. To be a better time manager, you need to think about the future, set goals and prioritize your tasks. This will enable you to monitor how you spend your time.

One way of becoming productive with your time is continuously improving how you perform your tasks. This means being proactive and looking at the result before executing an action. Having a full diary does not mean you are using your time wisely.

The skill is rare because we are mostly disorganized, absentminded and reactive rather than proactive. Think about the number of times you have to rush to finish an assignment because the deadline is near. This kind of rush will always lead to substandard work.

It may seem difficult, but make scheduling of tasks and appointments a habit.



It is one of the most valuable skills, yet many people do not utilize it, or just seem to lack it.

Common sense is the basic knowledge required to deal with an everyday situation. For example, when you place a pan on a fire source, you need to keep an eye on it, or the house may burn down. If you are using common sense, we don’t expect you to try crossing a busy highway when you can use a footbridge.

Individuals take it for granted, but when you lack this skill, you can get yourself into unnecessary trouble. Applying common sense only requires you to be more aware; to think about whatever you are doing, and to pay attention to the little details around you.

During summer, when it is scorching, parents are advised to avoid leaving toddlers in the car unattended, but alas, year after year, you will hear of injuries resulting from this behavior.

In most cases, common sense just equates to the experience and knowledge that most people have. Grownups don’t need to be reminded that they need to stop texting while driving.

Even degree-holders who run governments fail to use this skill. That is why countries have to deal with incompetent leaders and bogus policies.

Some scholars argue that common sense is better than education.



You must have friends who throw away shirts because a single button came off and they are unable to sew it back.

Probably it’s having too much money or overlooking the fact that sewing is necessary to mend little things. Everyone thinks it’s difficult. Others just admit they cannot sew. This is how some folks manage to make a living: by sewing back torn shirts and buttons that have fallen off shirts.

When you go to thrift shops, you will be surprised by the number of items you can get on discount because their owners were unimpressed by a small tear or a missing button. The reality is that sewing is easy to learn and can save you money.

When you are able to hand stitch buttons, small tears, or hems, you will be surprised by how much you can save. No need for panicking because a button has popped off your shirt. Not when you can learn to sew it back.

When you are able to fix your clothes, you also get the chance to ‘modify’ the garment to your liking. If you notice a small opening in your denim, you can simply transform it into shorts.

You will probably be the only person on earth with that design.


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