The importance of skills

December 10th, 2010

Skills are crucial to everything we do.

How to ride a bike, how to cook a great dish, how to play guitar, all these require specific skills and knowledge.

Even a simple thing like dismantling an old lock, I found the hard way, requires skill.

On a recent trip to Malaysia, I had to replace an old lock that had jammed. No big deal, I thought, I’ve replaced quite a few locks in my life. But I’m used to American locks where all you have to do is unscrew the lock and the thing comes off automatically.

Not these Malaysian locks, there’re no screws to be seen. After tinkering with it for a while, I managed to get the cover plates off, but how do you get the rest of the darned thing off?

There was absolutely no way to get it off. In frustration, I violated my most sacrosanct principle, which is never to force. I took a hammer and literally beat that battered old lock through the hole.

It took a great deal of effort and I almost took the door off its hinges knocking the lock.

With the lock off, I went to the hardware store to get a new lock. Inside the box, I found detailed instructions on how to install the new lock and, to my dismay, instructions on how to remove the old one as well. All I needed to do, apparently, was take a small tool (which was  included in the box) and pry off a little pin holding the whole thing together.

That’s what I mean by skills and knowledge.

A little knowledge would have saved a great deal of grief and effort.

In a sense, my whole life has been centered around finding these skills and knowledge. I’ve written elsewhere about looking for that magic trick that enables me to do what I need to do in the simplest and easiest ways possible.

From acing exams to playing scales and tremolos on the guitar to interacting with my fellow human beings, my life has been a constant journey of searching for new ways to streamline my life and create a more optimal experience.

And I’ve found that there are basically four ways to acquire these skills and knowledge:

  1. From constant practice and experimentation.
  2. From watching others do the act.
  3. From teachers.
  4. From books.

One book I would recommend is the AOV for guitar, which is a book of skills on how to master different techniques on the classical guitar.

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