About Timeless Lifeskills

After over 12 years in the e-learning industry (three with a leading Indian e-learning company and nine with Enabling Dimensions, a bespoke e-learning and knowledge management company that I co-founded), where I got an opportunity to be associated with the development of custom learning solutions for corporates, non-profits, K-12 and higher education, I started feeling that most education and learning focuses on what I would call ‘vertical skills’. Be it functional skills like sales and marketing or knowledge in a particular discipline.

While what seemed to matter more for thriving in life, especially in today’s world, were ‘horizontal’ skills like independent thinking, self-learning, emotional maturity, a lifelong yearning to learn, ability to reinvent yourself… and more. The sort of things usually expressed as life experiences or what life teaches you.

It seemed to me that the 20th century paradigm for success, where education meant stockpiling knowledge and acquiring basic cognitive skills to get lifelong employment had suddenly become irrelevant. The explosion in knowledge and cheap and pervasive computing for information storage and analysis implied that a different set of skills and competencies were now needed. Furthermore, it seemed to me, more and more people want to go beyond material success and are looking for meaning and purpose in life.

I started wondering if these ‘horizontal’ skills could be taught and learnt in a compressed time instead of relying only on ‘life being a good teacher’ and then lamenting on your death bed… ‘if only I would have been a bit more empathetic in my life I would be dying happier and not so lonely…’

I started looking around if there were wise people who were also advocating that different skills and values were indeed required for flourishing in the 21st century and were there any successful learning programmes to impart such dispositions.

I found a report by UNESCO titled “Learning the Treasure Within – Education for the 21st century”; the US-based programme ‘Partnership for 21st century skills’; Daniel Goleman’s CASEL was a good example of a programme to improve emotional intelligence; books like Drive, A Whole New Mind, Flourish, Switch, Social Animal, The Happiness Hypothesis… were all endorsing that new and different skills were now needed to survive and thrive.

Convinced that I was on the right track I started putting together a framework of skills, values and dispositions that I thought were needed in addition to what the 20th century formal education was providing. To understand these skills better myself I started creating bite-sized multimedia presentations, mostly synthesizing what I was reading and learning and sometimes adding a thought or two of my own.

I started putting these presentations on Scribd and SlideShare, free under Creative Commons license and sharing them with my friends on Facebook. The number of views, downloads and comments I got inspired me to keep at it.

Now, a year down the line, I realize I have quite a lot of content so I have put it all together in a ‘Timeless Lifeskills’ framework on this website:

Why and how is 21st century different from 20th century and what skills will be needed for success?
– Learning to Learn (self-directed learning skills, especially using online learning resources and tools)
– Learning to Think (creative and critical thinking skills, problem solving, decision making)
– Learning to Tell (narrative skills for multi-sensory communication)
– Learning to Collaborate (empathy and accepting diversity)
– Learning to Earn (financial literacy and philanthropy)
– Learning to Be (well-being and happiness, setting life goals that go beyond self-interest)

My plan is to provide a combination of face-to-face workshops and online learning on each component of this framework, directly and through partners.

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Atul
London, July 2011