What Are Your Skills?

Are skills innate or learned? As an identical mirror-image twin, this question has always interested me. There is so much online that argues one way or the other.

If you Google the words “improve your skills,” you will have hours, days, weeks, or even years worth of advice (61 million hits in .08 of a second). In fact, I just read an article in the Harvard Business Journal stating that if you don’t have a skill now, you never will. But then another college study I found claims that with diligence and practice, you can gain almost any new talent. Which is correct?

Here is what I know: we tend to want to do the things we do well. Something you do easily might take me hours to figure out. Have you noticed that you typically like to do things you are good at more than things you’re not so good at? Why is this? We all want to feel successful. In the business world, a smart leader will hire employees with different skills than their own.

I stink at directions. I call myself directionally dyslexic and rely on either memorizing where I need to go or hoping the person with me will take care of it. (Is it any wonder I married an incredibly directional person?) For the life of me, I still can’t figure out if I’m on the inner loop or outer loop when I travel the Washington D.C. beltway — and I’ve lived in this area for more than 40 years! (I know, I know, for those of you who live in D.C., you are simply shocked at my ignorance.)

But I do know what I do well. I’m incredibly organized, highly productive, and really enthusiastic. So in my personal life, that means I’m the one who plans the activities and I let someone else get me there. In my professional world, I know I’m not the most creative or clever, but give me a job and it’ll get done swiftly and efficiently.

So if you want my unsolicited advice — do what you do, and do it really, really well. Figure out your best skills and do them better than anyone else. And let others help you with your less than desirable traits.

Just don’t ask me for directions.