The 3 Most Important Skills for Life to Acquire

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Stop Apologizing" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the three most important skills to acquire if you aim to start your own business? How does Hollis’s advice match up to the advice from other experts in the field?

In her book Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis says that some of the most important skills you should practice are persistence, positivity, and leadership. Those three skills will help you develop your goals, stick with them even when times get tough, and lead your team when it starts to grow.

Continue reading to learn more about the three skills.

Skill 1: Persistence

The first skill to acquire, according to Girl, Stop Apologizing author Rachel Hollis, is persistence. Hollis states in her book (and in several interviews) that nothing significant in her life came quickly. She stresses the importance of sticking to your plan and riding out challenges. She contends that the skill of persistence is vital to success.

Hollis notes that several of her goals took her five or more years to accomplish, demonstrating how her skill of persistence paid off. For example, Hollis had a lifelong dream of being on The New York Times bestseller list; her first five books didn’t land there, but her sixth book did. Had she given up, she wouldn’t have accomplished that dream.

To build persistence, Hollis says you need a total mindset shift. For every goal you have, prepare for the long haul, expect rejection, and avoid the trap of comparison.

(Shortform note: Angela Duckworth, author of Grit, analyzes in-depth the importance of perseverance (persistence) in the face of adversity. In her research, she found that grit was a greater indicator of future success than IQ. Duckworth defines grit as a combination of persistence and passion, so it stands to reason that having a strong “why,” or purpose you feel passionate about, and the willingness to fight for it is your best bet at achieving any dream.)

When You Lose Steam, Return to Your Why 

In addition to facing outside challenges, sometimes we need persistence because we have lost motivation. Hollis contends that it isn’t enough to know what your dream is. You need to have a strong why, or reason for pursuing it. Return to this why when you find yourself lacking motivation.

According to Hollis, if you have started and stopped this dream several times before, it’s because your why wasn’t strong enough. For example, do you want to be rich so that you can buy a fancy car? Or is it because you want to quit a job that is negatively affecting your quality of life? What is the real, true, deep reason for wanting what you want?

(Shortform note: Could you be losing steam because your goals are too attainable? Author Grant Cardone addresses this in The 10X Rule, in which he theorizes that when our goals aren’t lofty enough, we lack the motivation to chase after them. For a goal to be inspiring, it must have a strong why and also be a challenge. If a goal is easy, you either would have done it already or you don’t have a strong inner reason to do it.)

Skill 2: Positivity

Hollis argues that by choosing positivity every day, you will recognize the abundance of opportunities and blessings at your feet. As a result, you will have greater success in any goal you aspire to accomplish. She believes that having a positive attitude is a choice that can be developed, and therefore it is a skill.

Hollis acknowledges that we can’t control the hardships that come our way. However, she notes that we can control how we respond to these obstacles, disappointments, and catastrophes. 

One way that Hollis believes you can practice positivity is to control your inner dialogue. Your running mental dialogue is the soundtrack to your life. She believes if you criticize or pity yourself, even if it’s just in your thoughts, these feelings manifest as a negative attitude. 

When you feel the negative inner dialogue creeping in, Hollis advises you to redirect the conversation in the same way that you could shift a conversation happening out loud.

For example, imagine you’re late for work again. You might chastise yourself internally with thoughts like, “You’re always late! Why can’t you be on time? What is wrong with you? You’re lazy and unreliable!” But would you ever say this out loud to somebody or allow someone else to talk to you like that? What if a colleague were speaking about another person in such a way and you were bearing witness? Could you step in and redirect the conversation? You certainly could and probably would. So when you find yourself thinking in such a way, imagine how you would respond in that situation and do the same thing inside your mind. 

Toxic Positivity: When Is It Okay to Have Negative Vibes?

While the benefits of positivity have been well-documented, it can be taken too far.
Since the time this book was published in 2019, the topic of toxic positivity has garnered attention. Toxic positivity is the belief that we should feel positive emotions all of the time, regardless of the circumstance. Rachel Hollis has faced criticism for encouraging positivity to a level that many people find unhealthy. 

How do you know when positivity is healthy or toxic?

Numerous studies show that people who have a positive outlook enjoy longer lifespans, less illness, and healthier relationships. As Mayo Clinic points out, however, there’s a difference between approaching situations with a solutions-mindset and ignoring life’s problems altogether.This is when positivity is actually false and toxic.

The dangers of extreme optimism include:

-Minimizing other people’s valid emotions when they’re going through a difficult time by encouraging them to “look on the bright side” or count their blessings
-Suppressing your own negative emotions which can lead to unresolved trauma 
-Damage to healthy communication within your relationships for fear of judgment for being negative
-Feelings of guilt or shame for feeling negative; you might feel as if you don’t appreciate what you do have.

Skill 3: Leadership

The final skill that Hollis advocates developing is leadership. She notes that you don’t need to have subordinates or followers to be a leader. Rather, leaders are examples to others of courage and integrity. They’re true to themselves and encourage others to live their truth as well.

(Shortform note: Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says that a leader is anyone who sees potential in others and is willing to help them actualize that potential.)

Hollis points out that part of being an effective leader is being inclusive. She encourages you to keep this in mind as you go through life and make sure that your table is diverse. Hollis specifically mentions including diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, age, size, and physical capability. She encourages you to strive for diversity not just from a professional perspective, but in your social and personal life as well.

(Shortform note: One study shows that we are naturally attracted to friends who look like us, so it will likely take intentional effort to diversify the people in your life. Rather than “search” for people who don’t look like you (which has implications that are uncomfortable at best), you might try recognizing this homophily bias, and the next time you meet somebody who could be a friend or professional acquaintance, avoid dismissing them subconsciously. For example, if you want to go for after-work drinks, it might not be your first instinct to invite a colleague who is twice your age. Give it a shot.)


The 3 Most Important Skills for Life to Acquire

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Rachel Hollis's "Girl, Stop Apologizing" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Stop Apologizing summary :

  • Rachel Hollis's lessons she learned while building a multimillion-dollar company
  • Why "having it all" isn't something you should aspire to
  • Why women need to stop trying to fit society's idea of a "good woman"

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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