Skills that Last a Lifetime – Anything but Soft!

Life Lessons

Think back to your time in 1st grade. For me, there are two vivid memories and life lessons. The first was to think (or look) outside the box. My mind was always wandering, and it saw an opportunity when Mrs. Williams briefly stepped out of the room. The low bookshelf near the window would make a great runway to practice my skills of being an airplane. I jumped at the opportunity! I failed to recognize, however, that another teacher on recess duty just outside the window had a clear view of my test flight. The second lesson involved my observation that although sharp crayons work better; the pencil sharper was not the tool to use to accomplish that goal. Whether or not you have vivid memories of those days, foundations for life-long learning were laid.

There are countless articles predicting that the jobs that will be filled by today’s 1st graders do not even exist yet. Parents and educators may be overwhelmed at the prospect of preparing young people for these unknown job descriptions. Predicting those skills is not an exact science in our age of rapid change. However, some skills that we begin to learn at a young age are enduring and essential to our success. In a 2016 World Economic Forum report, industry leaders from around the world identified these three skills as essential – collaboration, communication, and problem-solving (Soffell, 2016). These skills are often called soft skills which I believe is very unfortunate. The word “soft” does not communicate the strength and impact of these essential skills.

Anything But Soft

I have been looking for an alternative to the word “soft” to describe these skills. I believe that pediatrician, Dr. Laura Jana, has given me that word. In her book, The Toddler Brain, Dr. Jana identifies seven Qi Skills – Me, We, Why, Will, Wiggle, Wobble, and What If (Jana, 2017). Do not let the Sesame Street sound of those words fool you. Dr. Jana chose the word Qi for its connection with the Chinese concept of a life force and for its similar pronunciation to the English word, key. Over the next several posts, I will address how each of these skills is anything but soft. They are key skills necessary for building the strong skills that will be in demand no matter the specifics of your future job description.

Jana, L. (2017). The toddler brain. Boston: Da Capo Press.

Soffell, J. (2016, March 10). What are the 21st-century skills every student needs? Retrieved from World Economic Forum: