“How little do you mind”
-Quran, 7:3 and many other verses
No its not creativity, it is not public speaking or problem solving. The most useful skill, and also arguably the hardest, is the skill to- learn. Wait learning? That’s all? That’s the most useful skill?
Okay to be fair, I should rephrase: the most useful skill is to take lessons from every observation, information, and experience you gone through in your life. This is what I mean. It can also mean reflection, introspection, self-evaluation.
For example, our reactions when seeing poor people working hard differ. Most people react in a way by having pity for those people. Some people say “that’s how life works”. Some do not even have a reaction. But for those who take lessons will ask themselves: “Why are there some people who are poor and there are some people who are rich?” or “Why God chose me to have some wealth instead of him? Why God chose me?”
I remember asking myself why God gave me many advantages ahead in life. Many would agree if I said I am 10 years older than my physical body. – and that’s what made me started this blog, to share with others my observations with the hope that others will have the courage and inspiration to think.
How to acquire the most useful skill?
The key is to ask: What can I learn from this (event/experience/observation)? What should I learn from this? Why should I learn from this?
Once you know the lessons to be taken from this, then evaluate yourself. Am I applying this in my life? Am I doing what I am supposed to do?
Once you evaluate, don’t stop there. Take action! It is very simple right? But most people will find it hard except those who are sincere.
The next time someone tells you something don’t try to think you know everything. Listen, observe, and think.
When someone tells about how much he loves his mother, ask yourself do you love your mother as much? Why does that person love his mother? How can you learn from him to love your mother more?
When you see other kids getting involved in social problems, drugs, etc don’t just say “How rotten society is!” Ask: Why are they getting involved in such things? How did I not get involved in such things? If a part of my life were to change that will make me be involved with those social problems, then which part of my life it is? Why am I lucky that that part of life was not different?
When you see someone who is so stupid and arrogant, ask yourself why did he become that way? Am I that way either? What would change him? Was he exposed to (information like) what I am exposed to?
Why is this the most useful skill?
This is the most useful skill that will not only significantly improve all of your other skills, either life skills, professional skills – but also more importantly this skill will give you a higher sense of awareness and being. What do I mean by this? I mean that it is this skill that will make your life meaningful!
If everyone has this skill I think the world should already be at peace. The act of constantly asking questions, rechecking, reviewing yourself is the act of constant improvement and also the act of being true to yourself and discovering yourself.
This is a very undervalued skill.
It is because I begin to ask questions to myself I stopped being a playful child and wanted to help people. It is because of these questions I am much more grateful to God and more grateful for realizing this fact. It is because of these questions my relationship with God becomes nearer.
Skills like creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, although they are listed as the 21st century’s most useful skills, they are useful because they get you a job. They do not help your life to be more meaningful as to how this skill (taking lessons from everything) does.
The most useful skill is also a meta-skill.
meta-: prefix denoting more comprehensive : transcending
skill: the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance
metaskill: a master skill—a skill that magnifies and activates other skills.
Whatever your profession is, your expertise, your job, your passion, this skill of constant learning and reflecting is what will move your existing skills to a higher level.
Let me give an example. I’m a law student. Learning through classes is not only bloody boring but also does not open your mind (unless you got an unconventional teacher). You’re stuck with only one way of learning. Whenever I’m learning I have questions, not questions like “what is the law for so and so” but higher questions “why is the law so and so”- which is hardly, if ever, taught in law schools. And you know, you can ask your teacher these questions but it is not as satisfying as looking up for the question yourself.
This act of asking questions and seeking to know why is the main driver of my understanding of the law. I can just simply memorize what I study and save myself from the hardships of having to read more books, but at the end, although you get more marks, the appreciation and understanding of what you learn is not there and that makes you a slave to the corporations that hire workers, instead of thinkers (that’s why modern education system sucks).
And Allah has brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers– you did not know anything– and He gave you hearing and sight and hearts that you may give thanks.
– Quran 16:78
From the ayah above we learn that it is not only recommended that we constantly use our hearing, sight and hearts (learn, reflection, taking lessons) to our full ability. It is in fact, an obligation to do so. It is because many people do not think about their purpose of life, about their blessings, about their own creation, that is what makes them people of the hellfire. And make no mistake- many of these people are also self-declared muslims.
To be human is to be endowed with the ability to maximize our hearing, sight, and hearts so that we constantly learn from our experiences and ascend to become higher beings. Those who do not use them are in mass error. They are arguably not even human.