The skill set of the future: Seven essential habits to own and hone for greater success

The business world gets more competitive every day. To stay in demand in this tough environment, you need to perform at a higher level than ever before. You have to get better results (and get them quickly), instantly recover from missteps, and garner the confidence to thrive in times of uncertainty. To do this, you need a modern-day skill set that gives you the edge over your competitors and helps you efficiently reach your goals. There’s no time like the present to start focusing in on the qualities that can make you more successful than you ever dreamed possible.

In today’s business climate, you’ve got to give your peak performance 100 percent of the time while upholding your values and building trust with your clients and associates. It’s no longer enough to just show up and put in your time at the office. Employers today expect more from you … and so do clients.

In addition to perfecting the hard skills you need for your industry, you must also focus on developing trust and engagement, two components lacking in many business interactions today.

And there’s absolutely no room for timidity or fear. You must be confident enough to bounce back when things don’t go as planned.

I am no stranger to adversity and loss. Following early success in the clothing industry, I experienced a financially devastating bankruptcy that forced me to rebuild my life from scratch. I went on to join Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, where I created an impressive financial portfolio and won multiple “Top Agent” awards.

In my book The Success Code, I lay out the no-fail formula that took me to the top of my industry. The best thing about the habits I outline? Anyone can master them. Whether you’re just starting out in your career, looking for a better job, or already dominating in your industry, they will help you thrive and surpass your own expectations.

Keep reading to learn my best practices that will bring you unprecedented success.

Fine tune your focus

Today’s employees have greater responsibility and less time to complete their work. This forces them to multitask, yet most people are terrible at multitasking. Plus, they are constantly interrupted by email, smartphones, and social media. Success often comes down to your ability to tune out all of this “noise” and get focused.

To help you stay disciplined, get rid of distractions and temptations until your work is finished. Turn off media, remove clutter from your desk, and limit office chitchat anytime you have a task to complete. This creates an environment that best allows you to serve your clients and get your work done.

Engage with your clients

Building and nurturing solid client relationships is the cornerstone of any successful business. To foster engagement, commit to a personal code of integrity to ensure clients that you will work hard for them and that they are in good hands.

Strive to be honest and authentic with your clients and your associates. People will always be able to tell if you’re being friendly just to make a sale or establish a connection. You will earn your clients’ trust if you are upfront about products they don’t need and honest about the products they should use. Finally, show up for them in thoughtful ways. Get to know your clients and show genuine interest in their lives, and check in even when you have nothing to sell them.

Get some grit

From time to time, you will inevitably fail, lose, or experience some kind of a professional or personal setback. When this happens, you’ve got to deal with the loss and move on. There’s no benefit in wallowing or succumbing to fear or anger.

If you are resilient, you can bounce back from anything and get on with your life. You have to believe that you can overcome anything, and then put that belief into practice. Take a short amount of time to mourn your losses and process your emotions — just don’t dwell on them. Next, take responsibility for where you are today and resolve to address any behaviors that need to be changed. Finally, get back to your normal routine, and do it better than ever.

Work smarter, not harder

Do an audit of how you currently spend your work time. Take a moment to identify your most important recurring tasks, determine how long they take, and identify tasks that could be completed more quickly. Then, learn to prioritize your daily goals. Create a to-do list and divide your tasks into three categories: critical, high-priority, and low- priority. Tackle each task in order of priority.

Another good rule of thumb is to stop reinventing the wheel. Make a habit of reusing and modifying resources already at your disposal.

Never stop competing … with yourself

I recommend using a practice I call “the push-up principle” to achieve personal goals by starting at your current skill and ability level and consistently moving up from there. This process naturally leads to self-improvement through small, manageable steps.

If you can do only five push-ups today, try doing six push-ups tomorrow. The push-up principle is incredibly simple, but it can create a long legacy of achievement. Set some reasonable goals and immediately start working to achieve them. Once you’ve proven to yourself how simple it is to execute your goals, your confidence level will begin to rise, and you can continually build on this momentum.

Hone an ideal image

Your appearance should reflect the quality of your services. Therefore, it pays to think of your health and wellness as an investment in your success. Without a strong, fit body, it’s difficult to have the stamina to do your best at work.

Be sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and have given up bad habits like smoking or excessive drinking. Then, once you’ve got your health under control, build a wardrobe that communicates the exact message you want to send to clients and associates. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but your clothing should fit well, and your eyewear, briefcase, purse, phone, and other accessories should be stylish and contemporary. Remember, everything matters.

Become a whole person

Your success, and ultimately your happiness, lies in your ability to become a “whole person.” This means having a balanced and rich life in all areas of your existence. No matter how much fulfillment you get from your career, you still need to expand your life and enjoy all it has to offer.

When you are happy in life, it shows in your confidence and in your work performance. Make time to be present with your spouse, your kids, and your network of friends. Develop a few hobbies outside of work and find some ways to enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you want to give something back, you can even do some volunteer work. Another great way to round out your life and find deeper meaning: explore your spiritual side through worship, prayer, or meditation. It’s a great way to connect to your purpose.

No matter where you are in your career right now, you will absolutely benefit from adopting the habits that lead to a successful life and career. You really can unlock your potential and be as great as you dare to be. Stop waiting and start becoming the best you yet.

Paul G. Krasnow is the author of The Success Code: A Guide for Achieving Your Personal Best in Business and Life. He is a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he has been a top producer for 40 years.