What one skill should I focus on most for a successful life?
I was a bit surprised, yet impressed with the foresight and maturity of this question from a soon-to-be high school graduate. I wrongly thought his concerns would be shallow and confined to “weighty” topics like the latest video game or skateboarding.
Surprisingly, without little forethought the answer came to me. “Develop a deep vocabulary and learn to speak well,” I responded in a sure tone. Even more, he seemingly understood my reply and wanted to know more.
With his interest peaked, I was careful not to come off as ostracizing the younger generation. I explained why speech command is in short supply and therefore valuable, and that the virtues needed to acquire it can be applied and foster success to many other areas of life.
Here are the key points I offered:
Developing language skill takes discipline and long term commitment.
Both attributes often run counter to human nature and its tendency to choose the easy, comfortable path. Those willing to forego gratification today in order to become something higher and better are indeed a rare breed.
I also believe that developing these virtues essentially re-wires one’s thought habits toward improved problem solving skills and creativity. This in turn can translate into improved grades in school and significant contributions to an employer later on.
Speaking well is foundational to successful, productive relationships in business and industry.
The ability to succinctly explain a complex technical concept, articulate a marketing strategy, or deliver a persuasive sales presentation all require highly developed language command. These real-world applications show how this skill is a keyway to advancing a career and achieving prosperity.
How one speaks telegraphs to the world about one’s education, breadth of knowledge and even his level of intelligence.
Like it or not, people judge us by our speech. And similar to a certain biblical metaphor, one’s speech is a window to the soul.
People like to be around those who are articulate and have a command of the language.
It’s a great way to enrich relationships in general and lead a balanced life.
I wrapped up our conversation with an admission that good vocabulary and speech are not the end-all to personal development and a quality life. Honor, integrity and spiritual maturity are obviously no less important.
But among the passions and goals in life, sow these communication skills. As they are mastered, one brightly distinguishes himself from the masses, is positioned for success in life, and … may even attract a pretty date for Saturday night.
Yes, develop a deep vocabulary and learn to speak well. It’s worth it.