Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lifehacker: To Figure Out What You're Good At, Become an Explorer

It's a question I've hit upon more than once: What on earth are my skills? What am I actually good at?

Skills Like This
Skills Like This (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In April of 2013, Dan Shipper's post was reprinted on Lifehacker.
Some people conclude that because they can't come up with an answer to that question immediately, it must mean that they're not good at anything.
Oh, yeah. And if you make that point to people, and they say, "Well, that's not true!", they're not likely to have counterexamples in mind. But in my experience, if you make that point to people, you're on a downward swing anyway, so that may not be the best example...
The process is almost "lean" in the sense that you want to try a lot of different things, and develop a strong feedback loop for what works for you and what doesn't. But what's really key is to not be discouraged by the fact that if someone asks you what you're good at, you can't give them an answer right away. You weren't meant to be able to do that. Figuring out the answer to that question is an organic process that unfolds over a long period of time. Expecting anything else is unrealistic: no one's power's of introspection are so strong that they can plumb the depths of their head and find an answer immediately.
That's true. We have to try plenty of things to really know where we excel -- and what we're passionate about, for that matter. But who has time for that? We need to have careers now.

Great, now I feel like I wasted my 20s, not having tried enough stuff to figure this out.  But did I? I don't feel comfortable saying what I'm good at, but I've got a decent idea of what I'm definitely not bad at, including but not necessarily limited to:

  • Having financial conversations (just not in the phone-monkey model)
  • Blogging (but blogging things anyone wants to read...?)
  • Proofreading
  • Reading comprehension (yeah, that pays the big bucks)
  • Figuring stuff out on Microsoft Publisher (but not Photoshop)
  • Turning mass mailings into assembly lines
  • Hydrating
  • Befriending elderly men
  • Holding an alto part in a six- to eight-part harmony
  • Making salad
  • Wrapping presents
  • Knitting up to a certain skill level
  • Standardized testing (well, I'm confident saying I'm good at it, but we all know it's meaningless)
  • Writing dialogue
  • Learning systems

I have no idea how to turn that list into a career, but there it is.

And this article has made me feel needy, so I'm going to ask those of you who know me: what am I good at?!

But I also want to hear what you're good at. Toot your horns! Pat your backs! Give me at least three things, and then if you need to be needy, I'll see what I can do about adding to your list. Mutual admiration for everybody!

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