What are some skills that everyone should have by the time they’re 30 and how can they be mastered?

Answer by Deepak Mehta:

This is a problematic question as it treats the entire population segment above 30 (40-50% of the world population) as one entity.

There are huge differences in people across the world. For people on the lowest rung in the economic spectrum, survival and foraging 2 meals a day would be of utmost importance.

So, let's assume you are talking about the average middle class person with a decent job and a stable income, sufficient educational qualifications and enough resources at his/her disposal to not worry about food, clothing, shelter etc thus having time to focus on other higher order needs.

(Sample set: People over 30; with their psychological needs taken care of)

Skills "everyone" should have:
1. Cooking
Should actually be taught in schools as part of the curriculum. Cooking isn't a job as most people think. Neither is it too hard a skill to acquire. All you need is a few lessons in the basics, knowledge of the important spices, condiments and seasonings used and a good sense of taste and smell.

I have seen people surviving only on restaurant food or fast food when their spouse is away or if their maid is on leave. All they need is to learn how to cook a few basic meals.

Some people complain it is time consuming. It is not. Like any other acquired skill, it will take you longer to make a meal in the beginning, but as you practice more, you can streamline the process and make it more efficient. When I started out, it would take me anywhere between 1-1.25 hours to make a simple meal. Now it takes me less than 20 minutes. I have a rough algorithm to categorize, prioritize and schedule the various activities.

I started out by learning the very basic of cooking an Indian meal – rice, dal, chapattis and a few veggies. Now I have expanded my platter to include non veg preparations (multiple varieties of chicken, mutton, fish, prawns, eggs and bacon), Italian food (pasta, pitabread, , desserts (gulab jamun, porridge, cake, cheesecake etc), breakfast (pancakes, fruit juice etc).

There are a host of websites and apps that are extremely helpful.

2. Driving
One should know the basics of how to drive a 2 wheeler as well as a 4 wheeler. Less expensive than renting a taxi on a vacation. Useful in case of emergencies.

3. Money management
Everything we do is to earn more money. However, with the same amount of money, you can save more and get higher returns if you are judicious.

Know about:

  • Good and safe investments
  • Do not get a credit card
  • Learn about the basics of investing in the stock market (and never get too greedy)
  • The basic tax laws and how you can effectively minimize your tax liability by a mix of investments
  • How to plan your budget and track your income and expenses
  • How to get the best out of a deal (bargains, cheapest prices, eBay etc)

4. Ability to strike up interesting conversations
Conversation-making is probably the most underrated skill. People spend a lot of time travelling and/or waiting. Why not utilize it to talk to the guy/girl next to you? Do it, they won't bite.

What you get out of it?

  • An interesting acquaintance for life (and probably a friend)
  • Stories and insights from a stranger (everyone has one)
  • 30 minutes well spent
  • A good laugh maybe
  • Business connections

As a shy person, I always found it difficult. But one day I decided I would take the plunge and see what happens. That day, I had one of the most interesting conversations with a stranger during the train journey. The other person had tales of his youth (years before I was even born) to tell, a few heart-wrenching personal accounts and some wonderful life advice.

So instead of asking a question, "What life advice would a 60-year old share with 20-year olds?" on Quora, go out and talk to a 60-year old.

5. Basic survival training
Imagine you are in an accident or a crash. Your chances of survival will solely depend on how well you can analyze the situation and use everything at your disposal to help you live and get out.

What you should know?

  • Knowledge of plants and animal – edible, poisonous
  • Knowledge of the major ecological spheres – forests, oceans, deserts, snowy mountains.
  • How to conserve water
  • How to build a shelter
  • How to build some basic weapons
  • A good signalling mechanism
  • How to avoid predators

6. A secondary marketable skill
What if you were an investment banker and suddenly found yourself without a job after the 2007 crisis?

Always have a backup. What else can you do except for trading and valuations? Can you code? Can you design something? Can you write? Can you work as a salesperson?

You should always have a secondary skill you can earn with. You might not be as adept at it, the industry might not be as well paying, but it will still save your skin in times of need.

7. Basic working knowledge of essential tools and technologies
Know how to use a cellphone, a computer, a scanner, how to fix a broken equipment or a stalled car, a wrench, a bow and arrow etc.

Apart from the above, other useful skills could be:

  1. Emergency medical training (CPR etc)
  2. Sign language
  3. Basic grasp on the major languages in the world – English, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi
  4. Programming
  5. Self defence

I will leave you with a quote from Robert A. Heinlein.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein

What are some skills that everyone should have by the time they're 30 and how can they be mastered?

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