Category Archives for Productivity

Skills are Better Than Goals

Forget focusing on fame and fortune. Or being a famous guitarist. Screw goals.

Instead Scott Adams (from Dilbert fame) suggests we focus on systems, not goals in his bookHow to Fail Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

I always get excited when I hear an idea that sounds strange at first but then makes me think in a new way. I often I evaluate a project based on the possible opportunities/expectations ie. thinking of learning how to write mobile apps so I can possibly earn some income or help some group like the disabled. Another one is debating whether to write an ebook to help people with a particular problem and earn some income.

A possibly better way to think when evaluating what to do with your time is to focus on the skills you will acquire. These skills may provide some benefit in the future, especially if they are combined with other skills. Scott Adams mentions that he combined some average drawing ability with humor and his knowledge of the office environment.

Since some of you are likely guitarists you could focus on the skills you will acquire – songwriting, arranging, learning scales (that can be applied to many styles), being able to focus for long periods of time while practicing, and so on. Every day you can focus on whether you are developing skills instead of whether you will be famous or even earn a living at the craft. This is systems thinking versus goals.

Say you want to start a blog to share your knowledge but you are wondering if anyone will care, if you will make any money eventually and so on. You might benefit from thinking about what skills you will acquire instead such as clear and concise writing, learning how to install or update a blog (and related website tasks), doing ‘Deep Work‘ (less distracted), writing longer more well researched posts, etc. That way it’s always a win even if no one ever reads your blog. You’ve still developed very useful skills that can be re-used in the next venture.

Focusing on the day to day systems and skills you will develop instead of the end result is another way of saying to be in the present moment. A lot of our ‘future based’ thinking leads to stress and impatience as we are unhappy that we are not at our goal. I’ve seen a lot of guitarists, dieters, and entrepreneurs be constantly frustrated and even give up because they weren’t seeing results (their future goals) fast enough.

When I was doing IT contracts my skills with integration work, specifically using webMethods software, was in high demand. And the hourly rate reflected that (plus I always asked for a high rate). I specifically chose to learn skills rather than try to move up the ladder so to speak. I often made more money than the managers who were more generalist in nature (not to mention employees).

This change in thinking also changes the questions we ask ourselves. Instead of ‘Am I a famous guitarist?’, ‘Do I have a hit song?’, ‘Am I making lots of money?’, ‘Do I have abs?’, we can ask ourselves if we are doing the work each day – ‘Did I practice today?’, ‘Did I write today?’, ‘Did I improve a little today?’.

I hope this idea is interesting to you. What skills are you currently developing?