Skill and Expertise

One of the requirements of being indispensable is acquiring skills. Skills don’t come naturally…they’re achieved. They are the product of curiosity, the desire to make change and an abundance of practice…try, fail, adjust, retry. 

Hard skills like making espresso, piloting an airplane and woodworking will get you noticed. But increasingly (mainly because hard skills are easier to come by) it’s the soft skills, the art, the emotional part of the work that’s seen. Songwriting is a skill. But without the emotional labor of putting it into the world it’s not likely to make much of an impact. The daring work of performing for someone is scarce…yet the stage is available for all of us, everyday.

Everyone should be an expert in something…is more true now than ever before. The opportunity to level up and be remarkable has never been better. It’s a matter of choice…first to lean in…then to pick where to go. Choose wisely…but please just choose to go somewhere.

Expertise, Love and Practice

Expertise is essentially driven by two things…falling in love with a subject and relentless effort to change an outcome…practicing enough to achieve the result you seek.

Consider the young mechanic who spends hours of his off-time learning about the physics of friction and how it impacts the transmission. Or the musician who dives into music theory to better understand the relationship of notes and why some work better together than others. Or the aspiring chef who takes chemistry classes to better understand how sauces change food. Each could certainly do the job adequately without the additional insight. But it’s the love of the craft and the obsession to understand what’s in-between the cracks that creates break-through.

Same goes for practice. Practice is for failing…for failing differently on purpose to gain confidence…confidence which then reduces those mistakes to make room for others, higher level ones. And the cycle repeats, over and over, resulting in higher level mastery.

But it all starts with love…without it, expertise doesn’t stand a chance.

Expertise and Skill

Most experts chose to be there…they worked hard on improving skills until they were the best. They worked through the dips, the disappointments, the monotony until they arrived at the edge. Sometimes, but not nearly as often as people think, talent and natural ability come into play…and give people an edge. Strength, particularly leaping ability, for instance is an important element in the ability to dunk a basketball. But it takes skill also. And where does talent give way to skill? Do you remember Spud Webb? People very often confuse the two. And worse don’t give proper regard to the skill part of the equation. 

You should practice to improve your skills because it’s virtually impossible to compete on talent alone. And it turns out that skills are far more important than talent in becoming an expert on something. Skill overcomes talent 99% of the time.