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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Life Hack 9: Skills

What are some skills that you have? They can be either trivial or hugely important. So, for example, juggling.  I can juggle three balls ok, but that for me is relatively trivial.  Make a list of 5-10 that you already can do fairly well.  For me, it might be speaking Spanish, cooking, writing prose, memorizing poems.

Now make a list of three or four skills to improve. These are things you can do somewhat, but could do much better. For me, it would be piano playing, meditation, & drawing.

Now, make a list of some skill that are totally alien to you, but that you might think of developing in another life.  Something that has some exotic appeal to you.

What should you do with these three lists?  I suggest that you take one skill from category 2 and promote it to 1.  So if you can sort of draw, begin to draw well.  Remember that the author of one of the top comic strips today can barely draw at all, so drawing at that level is easily achievable.

(The other thing to do would be to congratulate yourself on the skills in category 1.)

Finally, you could take a skill that seems totally alien to you can now promote that to category 2. For me, that would be anything mechanical or handy around the house, or higher level math.   For you, it could be dancing, meditation, or some kind of handicraft.

Everything in life is basically a skill, even falling asleep at night.  Having more skills, generally speaking, is better than having fewer, and developing and cultivating new ones changes the structure of the brain in significant ways, rarely for the worse. Have you ever heard someone say they wish they didn't play piano, or express a wish not to speak another language as well as they do? People are always telling me they wish their Spanish were better.


Thomas said...

There is an important special case of this. I know a guy who trained on guitar at the Royal Conservatory of Music, but then went on to study philosophy and now works in government. "That must be a nice skill to have," I said. "It must be great to be able to sit around at home and play Bach on the guitar." "Oh, no," he said, "I never play anymore. It's not fun to play when you don't have the time to improve." In a certain sense, all that training was wasted, though I don't think he thinks of it that way. He doesn't wish he couldn't play guitar, of course. But he also doesn't think of it as a skill that contributes anything to his life today. At least not in the simple sense I was thinking of when I asked.

Jonathan said...

That would be like being too skilled at something, because the amateur player can get better all the time, at just about anything, just by doing it 15 minutes a day. I suppose it might be bad to be too skilled, because there would no longer be anything fun about it, though probably it says something about a personality type.

Also, if he hasn't played for a while, he is likely to have rust in his fingers and thus improve even in a short amount of time, but probably not to conservatory level.