The Hall of Honest Skills
“I’ve been told my baking skills are terrible. I try not to cake it personally. At least I still know how to bake a joke.” ~ Anonymous
I wrote in another post about the difference between art and craft, one of which was that craft requires skill. Most of us think of skill as something learned or possibly something for which we have an aptitude, like writing or playing guitar. That was my take on it, as well. I’ve always assumed that it means something a person is good at doing. Since I left my corporate job last year, I’ve been thinking about skills and how I can use the ones I have to get where I want to go.
Part of this process has included being brutally honest with myself about what my skills are so that I can accurately market myself. I’m dubbing this list the Hall of Honest Skills. This is a list of things we truly are great at doing. Taking inventory of what skills I think I possess has opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes we think we’re better at something than we really are. Other times we don’t think we’re very good at something when we truly are. Another part of exploring my skill set has been to ponder what a skill really is.
What makes something an actual skill versus something I like doing that seems to work out okay?
I looked up “skill” in my favorite online dictionary and was pleasantly surprised to find that the definition includes some juicy terms. According to Webster’s, skill means “1) the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well: Carpentry was one of his many skills; 2) competent excellence in performance; expertness; dexterity: The dancers performed with skill; 3) a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity or special training in which a person has competence and experience: the skill of cabinetmaking.”
This is exciting! “Competent excellence.” “Expertness.” I like these words!
According to the definition, there are certainly activities I undertake wherein I do see myself as an expert, or at least excellently competent. Crafting, check. Animal care, check check. Teaching, big ol’ check. But back to the Hall of Honest Skills, there are other things I really like doing that blatantly miss the mark. Photography? Uh, no, unless you want to see another phone picture of my dogs. Sports? I can hit the tennis ball over the net fence. Tap dancing? Cue Elaine Benes!
If I asked each of you what your skills are according to the above definition, what would you put on your Hall of Honest Skills list? And does that dictionary definition bolster your self-confidence, or does it make you reconsider some of those things you might have been including on your resume lately?
This is not an exercise in chastisement, believe me. I manage the flying mind monkeys at any given moment, and they usually don’t have very nice things to say, so the last thing I would try to do is add to someone else’s monkeys. I floated this idea because I think the way we perceive ourselves is fascinating and complicated, and I want to know more about myself and all of you. I wonder where the line is between a skill and a not-so-skill. For instance, how do we interpret the word “well” in that definition? Am I a skilled cook if I manage to make a meal that’s not burnt? Or is the “well” or “skilled” part actually in the eye of the beholder? Perhaps someone else really likes my cooking, even if I don’t think I’m great at making meals. That seems like skill to me.
Food for thought (see what I did there?)…what if we enjoy doing something enough that it doesn’t particularly matter if we’re not, by dictionary definition, skilled at it? How important is it, really and truly and deeply, for us to be experts at what we like doing? Knowing how much I beat myself up over not being excellent at everything (hands up if you’ve caught yourself doing the same thing!), I send this suggestion into the universe for ponderance and discussion: maybe we can give ourselves a break and just accept what we discover through this exercise as simply being who we are, where we are, right now. There’s always room on the Hall of Honest Skills list for something new. It can be infinite. We can all learn and practice and improve our skills! I also think it’s totally okay if something you really like doing will never, ever make that list. After all, tap dancing is fun, even if I look like a marionette.