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7 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn Even If You’re Broke

7 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn Even If You’re Broke

Skills are the gateway to a better quality career and life.

The problem is, money is tight for most of us after covering rent/mortgage, car payments, and just maintaining our quality of life. But don’t worry, there are many ways for you to acquire new skills without breaking the bank.

Here are seven life-changing skills you can learn even if you’re broke (and where to learn them).

1. Public speaking

Speaker giving a talk on corporate Business Conference. Audience at the conference hall. Business and Entrepreneurship event.

    When Warren Buffett was asked to give one piece of advice to recent graduates, he said that improving your ability to communicate and speak publicly is one of the most valuable skill sets you can develop.

    Most of us don’t have regular opportunities to improve our speaking skills, but there are cheap options you can take advantage of to start practicing immediately.

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    Where to go: The International Toastmasters organization puts you in a tight-knit community of supportive people with the same goal as you: to improve public speaking skills. Having been a Toastmaster member myself, it’s one of the most affordable ways to get consistent feedback and practice around a great group of people.

    2. Personal finance

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      As basic as it seems, getting your personal finances down is something many people haven’t yet handled. It’s one thing to remember that you should spend less than you make, it’s another to know the details of how much you should be saving, where you should be allocating your funds, etc.

      Where to go: A great book that will teach you how to automate your personal finance is I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi, and as scammy as it sounds, it delivers real value. A free app worth checking out is Mint.com, which automatically integrates your bank accounts and analyzes your spending, budgeting, and income for you in a visual and easy-to-understand application.

      3. Investing

      Making trading online on the smart phone. New ways to make economy and trading

        Once you have your personal finances in order, it’s time to start investing. None of us can get the wealth we want without investing our way there. If you’re not 100% sure which avenue you should pursue (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.), it’s worth investing some of your time to learn about it before you get into the game.

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        Where to go: Check out a tool like Investopedia, which has an abundance of resources to teach you the terminology of investing, and even have a virtual stock market platform that allows you to invest “fake” money into the stock market. Wealthfront is another great option to go to, which automates your investments for you depending on your goals, risk-tolerance, etc.

        4. Foreign language

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          We’re quickly entering a multilingual era, where everything from culture, business, and people are integrating globally. Whether you’re looking to advance your career, form a deeper connection with your family & friends, or looking to travel in the near future, learning a foreign language is a life-changer.

          Where to go: The good news is, learning a language has never been easier. Take advantage of free options like this Learn A Language Challenge, delivering 10 new most common words in your inbox every morning. Or if you’re busy, like most people, you can check out Duolingo, which is a gamified application, or Rype, which offers unlimited private language lessons 24/7.

          5. Web/Mobile development

          A few shots of 500px team working on exciting new things at HQ here in Toronto

            Have a great idea, but no idea how to build it?

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            Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on developers or agencies, why not take the time to learn it yourself? Learning how to code has never been more accessible and affordable, and luckily it’s also in huge demand.

            Where to go: Check out free options like Codeacademy, which has you building real applications and websites on their platform, while giving you real-time feedback.

            6. Speed reading

            Reading room with open window

              Books are a game-changer in our lives and careers. They condense the knowledge of experts and thought leaders into one place, and can significantly improve the quality of our lives. The problem is, books can consume a lot of time, especially if we’re busy with our work and personal lives.

              One way to overcome this is to increase our reading speed. The faster you read, the more books you can read in less time.

              Where to go: First, you should take this quick reading speed test to see where you’re currently at. With speed reading, you can either go the technology route, with apps like Spreeder, or you can try to improve your own reading speed through free courses.

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              7. Meditating

              Yoga exercises at the city park

                Meditating has been scientifically proven to increase happiness levels, reduce stress, and enhance productivity to get more done throughout the day. While it was once an uncommon practice, meditation is becoming more mainstream in our culture–for the better.

                Where to go: There are free (with premium options) apps like Calm or Headspace, which will guide you through a meditation practice if you’re just getting started. All you need is 10 minutes a day, and you’ll quickly begin to build a habit that will positively impact your life.

                Which of these life-changing skills were your favorite? Share this with someone that’s also trying to learn something new!

                More by this author

                Sean Kim

                Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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                Last Updated on January 15, 2021

                7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

                Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

                Posture

                First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

                • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
                • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
                • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
                • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

                All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

                Facial Expressions

                Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

                • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
                • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
                • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

                If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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                1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

                A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

                The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

                This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

                2. Relax Your Face

                New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

                The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

                To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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                3. Improve Your Eye Contact

                Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

                The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

                To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

                3. Smile More

                There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

                Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

                4. Hand Gestures

                Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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                It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

                5. Enhance Your Handshake

                In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

                “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

                It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

                6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

                As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

                Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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                Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

                Final Takeaways

                Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

                If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

                More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

                Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

                Reference

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