If you haven’t yet taken eParachute’s JUMP self-inventory, you may not realize that you don’t just have one or two skills - you have dozens and dozens of skills. But while you may readily see the skills of other people, you’re probably blind to your own unique skills.
So why is that? It’s because you’re a garden. A skills garden.
Think of skills as the fundamental building blocks of all your activities. You use a skill whenever you perform a task. You use your skills with information, with people, and with things. You build a skill - even a small part of a skill - whenever you learn something. Even thinking is a skill.
As I said, you were born with dozens and dozens and dozens of skills. You just don’t necessarily know what all of them are, yet. Think of your skills as seeds, lying dormant inside you. But just by being alive, and reaching your current age, you’ve already used a huge number of skills. You just didn’t necessarily know you were doing it. To you, they were hidden, under the ground.
In a real garden, what does it take for seeds to thrive? Four things: Good soil. Sunlight. Water. And enough space to grow. A good gardener knows how to make sure all of these are available, to have a healthy garden.
So that’s what seeds need to grow. What does it take for you to grow your skills?
The soil is your Environment. Wherever you’re given the chance to start experimenting with the kinds of things you’re interested in, and to find out if you enjoy doing them, that’s your skills environment.
Now, sometimes having poor soil - a poor environment for your skills - just means you have to work harder to learn a new skill. But a good environment, good soil, is really helpful to begin growing your skills.
What else do you need in your garden? Support from other people. Having permission and encouragement from others is crucial for many people, to understand and to grow their skills.
When someone you care about encourages you, when someone sees what you’re doing and compliments you on the awesome job you’re doing, that can help your love of a particular skill to grow.
But if someone close to you doesn’t give you permission, or doesn’t think you can learn, then you’re not in a supportive environment for learning. And you probably need to go find better soil.
When you discover that you’re curious about something, or you find a topic that looks cool, or you read an article or a book on a new subject, or someone explains something really interesting to you, then you’ve had light shed on that subject or skill.
Suppose you’ve always been curious about a subject, but never had the chance to learn more. Suddenly, you read an article, or take a short course.
Now you know enough to be dangerous on the topic. Sunlight comes pouring in, and your interest has the chance to grow.
Or, let’s say you’re given the chance to do something you’ve never done before, like draw a cartoon, or make something with a 3D printer, or lead a project. Think of that as having light shed on a subject, as well.
Now even if a seed has good soil, and sunlight, it usually can’t grow without water. Think of water as the love of using a particular skill.
When you’re learning about something that you love to do, you’re giving that subject the water it needs to grow.
The more you love using that skill, the more you’ll want to keep using it, and the more it will grow.
Having Space to grow is - well, having space to grow. You need the time and circumstances that allow you to develop your skills. If your time is crowded with work and with the distractions of everyday life, you’ll find it far more difficult to grow the skills you most love using.
Even with encouragement, and exposure to new ideas, and a love of a particular skill, the other tangled plants and weeds of your daily activities can choke any new opportunity for developing a skill before it has the chance to grow. You have to give yourself the space you need to learn and grow.
So. To grow your skills garden, it’s really helpful to have all four of these things - support for learning your skills, exposure to new ideas and topics, a love of the skills you’re using, and the space in your busy schedule to learn and grow.
And if you haven’t already used JUMP, give it a try. You’ll probably find skills in your garden that you never knew about.