Use Strengths to Kickstart Skills

Many of us want to develop new skills, become more resilient. Starting as a complete newbie is intimidating, often to the point of endless procrastination. When the barriers are too great, what can you do?

Borrow from your current strengths

  • What skills and strengths do you already have?
  • Do any of them intersect, or share commonalities, with the new skill?
  • How can the similarities be used to transfer competence from one skill to the other?

Coding example:

When I was first learning to code in Python, after many years of avoidance, I was able to leverage my comfort with Excel. The functions have a similar structure, many libraries use the same terms, etc. With Excel, the default is to recalculate all functions after a cell is edited. This instant feedback was great for experimenting and learning how to use functions in Excel. To enjoy a similar effect in Python, I started with many print functions, and would run my code after every little change. It was slow and tedious, but it helped me through the initial immersion difficulties. I also specifically searched for articles and videos comparing Excel and Python, which helped me avoid certain assumptions in the new format.

Presenting example:

For University, I had many presentations, in many classes. I wasn’t a comfortable public speaker, but I did enjoy pitching various technologies to people in my retail work. I couldn’t write great prose in advance, to recite in front of class. Worse, as soon as I got nervous, I would find myself staring at my notes, unable to look up. The whole point of public speaking is to talk to an audience, not your page. I still start with notes, to develop an initial structure, and highlights to memorize. From there, I immediately improvise a presentation, repeating whatever sounded best until I habitually used the right phrases. As with retail, it helps to test continuously with an audience. I’m still not a great presenter, but these strategies helped me transition from hopeless and terrified to respectable and calm.

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