Skill or Character

They're Different

Housekeeping : A new color for highlights making it easier to comment on and share the newsletter. Don't hold back ... and let’s get the dialogue going!

Post-publication addendum. So many comments, that I wrote a follow up newsletter.

Last week I delivered a small rant on the inadequacy of magazines, journals, futurists et al when it comes to providing guidance on ‘Jobs of the Future’. Read it here. This week I move the conversation on by talking about the ‘skills’ that this same group of people say we will need. No need for more research - it’s all here.

I have some questions. Is ‘Authentic’ a skill? Is ‘Opportunistic’ a skill? How about; ‘Emotional Intelligence’, ‘Ethical’, ‘Authentic’, ‘Cognitive Flexibility’?

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It seems to me that the lists of ‘skills’ that we apparently need in ‘the’ future are actually a conflation of ‘skills’ and ‘characteristics’. Maybe this is the old nature -v- nurture argument, but to me, there is no doubt that a skill is something you learn, your character is something you are born with. Moreover, the traits and characteristics that you are born with will result in it being easier (or harder) to learn skills.

For example, if a skill of the future is something that they seem to be calling ‘lifelong learning’, how much easier is that if you are by nature inquisitive, interested and curious?

Anyone can learn to drive. That is a skill. You are not born with it. How advanced your driving skill is will no doubt depend on practice and that ties deeply into who you are. If you are innately a ‘controlled risk-taker’, love speed and start jumping into go-karts at age 6 and winning competitions by age 8 … that is more than skill - that points to a characteristic. Not saying that someone without those characteristics can’t train themselves to be a Formula 1 driver and rise to the level that Lewis Hamilton has - but it is going to be very hard without that inner drive. (pardon the pun!)

We need to separate out the two as we map out ideas for the future and provide guidance.

Not into Formula One? How about a PhD in biomedical materials engineering?

It’s an 8-year-old video - but as relevant as ever. Listen to the story. As a kid, she thrived in taking things apart - or as her dad told her … broke things. Listen to the guidance she received and map that guidance into who she was and has become. She became who she is despite the advice she was given.


The same guidance continues to be dolled out in schools all over the world.

I’ve referenced a similar story before which I heard earlier this year and posted over on the blog.

The Solution

Before you start thinking about what skills you need for the future, start thinking who you are - and then start the process of how that maps into the skills to do not just what you need to do, but what you want to do.

Coincidentally just this week - my friends over at Gaping Void published this post.

Dr. Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist has found that people don’t do a very good job predicting their future, not because they can’t… but because they don’t! The reason why, from Gilbert’s research, is that very few people spend much time imagining their future selves!!! Instead, we assume that who we are today is who we’ll always be.

Once again, we find ourselves on similar pages.

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Next week …. the story continues.

As always my thanks and appreciation for your continued support, comments and attention. Please like the postshare through your social channels of choice and forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey and don’t forget to send me your thoughts. Inspired? Why not comment on the post itself.