I have to admit this one has me a little distressed. At first I was excited because I love to learn new things but then he brought up something that was deflating: you learn best when it is something you are passionate about (there’s that word again) but, and it is a big but, it has to be something that the world needs.
And that is my problem. It feels like the world doesn’t really want my skills, despite being really good at coming up with solutions for problems that arises at work. I excel at how to get data, put them together, display them and analyze them. I also excel at getting things done. You would think, at least I did, that those skills would be needed, but that is not the message I’ve been getting.
What if the stuff you love to do and are pretty good at the business world sniffs at?
The last chapter in the book discusses the need to be able to learn on your own. Currently, in the US, we are taught to receive and regurgitate information but we are not encouraged to go off and learn “deeply”. We just memorize and the repeat back. The author says if you really want to learn something deeply, you will have to go off on your own. Some examples he provides are: apprenticeships, workshops, special projects, volunteer work, on-line tutorials, self-prescribed reading regiments. The world is changing so much that you are going to need to know how to learn in order to adapt quickly.
” ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write,’ said Alvin Toffler in Rethinking the Future, ‘but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’ ” Metaskills, page 208, hardcover version.
The author also said something interesting: high IQ is probably the result of solving hard problems. It kind of does make sense. So you have to confront hard problems in order to get better. But you do still have to have some level of ability.
So, to become a master, you have to reach flow and you will have an easier time of it if learning it is more like play. But, if everyone else is also passionate for whatever it is you are going for, then passion alone is not going to lead you to success. You need to differentiate yourself and provide what the world needs. Two quotes in the beginning section of this chapter leap out at me:
” Why invest time into your skills if you have to fight everyone else for the privilege of applying them? And why work hard at something the world doesn’t need?” Metaskills, page 213.
“The world really doesn’t need another software designer, artist, actress, economist, athlete, attorney, food writer, activist or TV host. But it does need Jack Dorsey, Ali Weiwei, Viola Davis, Muhammad Yunus, … These are people who have found a unique mission to express their life’s purpose.” Metaskills, page 214.
I’m back to square one, trying to figure out what to do next.
I finished reading the rest of the chapter and there is really not much to elaborate on except the author does provide 12 principles to use to aid you in learning.
- Learn by doing. The best way to learn is to do, not by reading. That makes a lot of sense to me.
- Find worthy work. He has a great quote: “It’s too hard to work with one hand holding your nose.” (page 218 in Metaskills)
- Get into the habit. Repetition embeds new skills so that they become an automatic part of your skill set.
- You need to focus – don’t get distracted by the Internet, TV or other shiny things.
- Learn strategically – you are going to have to pick because you only have so much time. Supposedly you can learn anything (I question this) but you don’t have the time to learn everything.
- Cultivate your memory – basically that knowledge needs to be readily accessible in your brain.
- Increase your sensitivity – after you learn the basics, you need to work on learning what makes something outstanding as opposed to merely good.
- Stretch your boundaries -in other words keep learning new things.
- Customize your metaskills.
- Feed your desire – or “The Big Want”.
- Scare yourself.
- And finally, practice, practice, practice.
(From Metaskills, pages 218 – 220, hardcover version.)
The rest of the chapter discusses the bridge concept where once you become an expert in your domain, including the craft at the bottom of the bridge, then you can transfer your skills across the bridge into other domains. The author also talks about “unplugging” in order to access your creativity. You need some alone time to reflect on the problems long enough that you get past the easy, common answers that may not be the best answers. He gave an example of Instagram where you feel artistic but you only applied an artistic filter. Applying the filter is the easy route. The same idea of doing the hard work applies to learning – there is no short cut.
Finally, he says “the race goes not to the swift but to the adaptable.”
Okay, this is the end for what kind of skills we are going to need in the age of the robots. To summarize, they are: social intelligence, systems thinking, creative thinking, how to make things, how to learn.
Are we having fun yet?