It’s an odd question to ask of an amateur, seems much more suited to a famous person like Steinbeck or Hemingway. You know the guy penning memorable prose while smoking endless cigarettes as he occasionally sipped some good Kentucky whiskey.
That’s sure not me. For me writing is just a way telling stories about the things I’ve learned.
When I was younger, I vividly remember reading Gary Paulson’s “Hatchet”. It’s a story about a kid stranded in the wilderness by a plane crash and his epic struggles to survive. How fascinating is that?
If you’re stranded or lost in the wilderness, you’d need some skill and lots of luck to survive. If not you would rapidly succumb to hypothermia and die if you weren’t rescued quickly.
Chances are that you and I won’t be in that situation any time soon, but we all face a challenge maybe not as dramatic but just as unforgiving.
Real life… And in real life there are different survival skills
I’m endlessly fascinated by life and the lessons it teaches. Formal schooling bored me. I sure didn’t take it seriously, but the hard knocks of fortune alongside my head got my attention. I can say with perfect assurance that the good times never taught me much, but the pratfalls and mistakes I’ve made over the years provided an effective curriculum. I found that Pete Segar was right when he spoke on the difference between education and experience: “Education is when you read the fine print experience is what you get when you don’t”.
I’ve gone through three major career/life changes. All of them proved to be traumatic. All of them were blessings well disguised. In all of them I went from expert to neophyte and very slowly back to expert.
Not a single one of them turned out according to my plans.
I was unprepared to deal with the first two changes, the last was smoother, but none of them proved to be the romantic renewal experience I’d read about.
Conception proved to be a lot more fun than the process of birth. The learning curve of change is very steep.
We start out so dumb we think we’re smart. Oh, we’ve had lots and lots of knowledge pounded into our head by years of formal schooling. We’re loaded with hard skills. Maybe we are engineers or accountants or welders or mechanics. Hard skills hard won…
I write and work with people on the soft skills. The ones most of us are poorly equipped with. Skills like the ability to listen well or the ability to network effectively. We’re poor organizers or we can’t sell ourselves. Or we don’t have the deliberate habit of lifelong learning. Nobody taught us to manage are work/career properly so we end up working too hard for too little. The hardest job I have is convincing a someone that they are not innate, they can be learned…
Soft Skills are the behavior skills. They are the survival skills necessary to flourish in our society. They are the Street Skills we have to possess and practice in order to take advantage of the luck or opportunity that will surely come our way. They are also the skills necessary to keep us afloat when bad luck just as surely comes our way.
Survive in the wilderness probably not, but if you were suddenly dropped into any major city and could you sell yourself effectively enough to find a job in a few days? Lots of folks have had to do just that.
Could you network your way to a career in a few months? Could you go on to build a life in a year or so?
The thing is our grand life plans seldom if ever work out. We start out in one direction and find ourselves on a completely different adventure a few years later. Mostly events are out of our control.
But those so called soft skills last for a lifetime….