Pillars of a university as a metaphor to mastering your skills

Master your skills for a life of purpose (ikigai)

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Any success you gain, however magnificent, will eventually lose its appeal if it is not earned. Passion alone will not bring satisfaction to a purposeful and fulfilling life. In other words, to find your ikigai and live a meaningful life you must apply and develop your talents towards it. You must master your skills for a life of purpose.

It starts with educating yourself and building your skills so that when you engage your passion, you are striving towards meaningful accomplishments. The more you succeed in accomplishing your goals, the more motivated you will be to challenge yourself and go beyond your initial expectations. This is known as growth.

Without such growth, you might find that only exerting minimal effort is less appealing and has a weaker impact on your happiness. Over time, you may lose your drive and risk losing your ikigai.

Curious child picking up a leaf
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Pursue a child’s mind when learning new skills

When it comes to talent and skills, some are lucky enough to have strong personal attributes that come naturally, such as physical or mental advantages. They may have an innate ability or a certain knack for a specific skill. Perhaps they have a predisposed personality for talent or just good genes.

Others, however, may need more regimented training. They might find that development through knowledge, training or hands-on experience is more effective. Some people may feel that structured training is necessary before becoming comfortable with their skills. They may need to build confidence to pursue our mission in life.

Needless to say, there is one thing in common with both types of people.

Whether you were born with natural abilities or have to work on them, you should always pursue a child’s mind, meaning you should always be curious and in a learning mode.

Everyone learns from zero

Fortunately, you will find that just by being active, mastering your skills will naturally marry your passion over time. In that sense, rest assured that there are no skill or attribute prerequisites when searching or following your passion. Simply, you don’t have to possess any particular talents or already be an expert in the field to start. You only need to find something you are passionate about and begin to pursue it with integrity.

You can begin much like a child does, by enjoying the moment, educating yourself and developing your skills.

Of course, it is no coincidence that passions start out as simple interest. It is only through practice and study, that as you dig deeper into the things you enjoy. Essentially, as you work towards your goals and you build your skills and knowledge. It is through the learning process where you begin to see the finer details and learn the intricacies that move you from being a novice to a more intermediate level.

Over time you become more adept in what you are doing, and in turn, you motivate yourself to continue. Soon you will find that living out your passions and finding your purpose in life is not out of reach.

Comparing skills

Surely, when starting out there is always some uncertainty especially when you see others who are might seem more proficient than you. One thing not to do is to compare your skills to others.

Know this: there will always be someone who knows just one thing more than you do. And, there will always be someone who knows just one thing less than you do.

Comparing yourself to others is dangerous and truly a self-defeating path. Should you continue down it, you may never realize your full potential. Worse yet, you may never be satisfied with what you have or where you are. Never compare your talents with others or believe for one moment that yours are inadequate. Don’t give it another thought.

That is not to say that if you want to master your skills, you shouldn’t be mindful of your talents and work hard to improve them. Indeed you should. But, by accepting what you are currently capable of doing, by default you allow yourself the opportunity to grow without the baggage of others.

Understand that you will always be better than you once were and not as good as you’ll ever be… and that is not unusual.

Child learning how to play the piano skillfully
Image by Vlad Vasnetsov

Passion shows you what skills you need to master

Knowing yourself is, in part, knowing your ikigai. Self-awareness is perhaps the single most important component in living a purposeful life. Once you are sure of the direction you want to go in, it is worth considering your specific abilities and knowledge that pertain to your mission.

For example, if you know your passion is the piano and your mission is to bring your music to the world, it would be essential to actually know how to play the piano. Furthermore, you would need to work hard at improving your skills through practice and performance. Without such ability, it would be difficult to experiment with new techniques or even develop your own style. It would be quite unlikely that you would be able to sustain such a purpose without such growth in talent.

Assuming that you know what you are passionate about and the initial direction towards what it is that you want to do, your next step should be clear. Become curious and seek adventure. Dig deeper and enhance the skills, techniques, and knowledge in that area. 

Fortunately, there are only two main categories of skills for you to consider, hard skills and soft skills. Most people fine-tune either type of skill in parallel with the other.

Man learning new computer skills
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Master your hard skills

Hard skills are the type of talents that are objectively measured and easy to quantify. Usually, they are often easy to identify as they usually take the form of a specific discipline or knowledge-based skill. Some examples are computer programming, selling, graphic designing, operating machinery, and of course, playing the piano. The more adept you are in a certain skill, the more capable you are at producing something with precision.

Hard skills are learnable, typically through formal training in a classroom, through a mentor, textbooks or on the job experience. They are usually verifiable through an objective evaluation of sorts and are accompanied by a certificate or license.

Improve generic attributes

Though the variety of hard skills is virtually endless, you might also consider other types of “generic” attributes, which are equally important when expanding your repertoire.

For example, let’s say that as a musician you would find that organizational skills to set up and manage your schedule are quite useful. Or perhaps, negotiation skills to get an agreeable price for your live gig. You should improve these talents to expand your ikigai beyond just a hobby.

Improve fundamental attributes

There are also core or fundamental skills such as language and mathematics. From there we can expand to essential skills include typing, research, management, accounting and more. Nowadays, computer skills and technology skills can be added to the list.

Improve physical and mental attributes

Finally, physical and mental attributes will support your well-being and stamina. Gross and fine motor skills help to maintain balance and control when moving. Attention skills, audio and visual skills, and even your five senses are integral to your ability to master your skills for a life of purpose.

Woman using communication skills in a meeting
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Master your soft skills

Soft skills, on the other hand, are skills based on quality and are measured subjectively. They are often known as “people skills” or “interpersonal skills.”

Some people may be naturally inclined towards such abilities. Others, however, may need support. Soft skills can be refined and developed through formal coaching and hands-on experience.

Enhance interpersonal skills 

Interpersonal skills involve interaction with others. They are core to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships that are positive and productive. Such skills are realized in your ability to collaborate with others to reach common goals, accept different social or cultural attributes, resolve differences and understand complex beliefs.

How well you support others or advocate for them is seen as positive interpersonal skills. Consider how counseling, teaching, or even becoming a mentor, can enable you to serve the needs of the people close to you and in your community.

Enhance verbal and non-verbal attributes

Interpersonal skills enhance the ability to connect with others through verbal and non-verbal communication. These attributes not only come in the form of output such as guidance, advocacy or public speaking but also in the form of input such as listening and observing. Together the output and input can result in effective consultation, persuasion, and negotiation to identify practical solutions to achieve desired outcomes.

Enhance managerial and leadership attributes

Strong managerial and leadership skills lead to positions which can be useful for you to accomplish team-oriented goals. The ability to outline a mission or strategic vision that motivates and empowers people to engage more or commit themselves to a higher standard will ensure that the team as a whole is doing their best to achieve excellence in performance. Furthermore, with the confidence to follow through with the decisions you make, a sense of trust and loyalty can be fostered throughout any organization. It will help you to instil confidence with all stakeholders.

Enhance problem-solving and analytical skills

Problem-solving and analytical skills allow you to research, process and analyze data to produce results and direction based on fact. Your ability to identify problems and define solutions or approaches lends itself well to leadership skills. Furthermore, as with many of the soft skills, analytical skills such as data collection, record management, and budget computation/forecasting can overlap with hard skills such as accounting or project management. Some go hand in hand.

Enhance creative skills

Then there are creative skills. These skills are not just simply expressions of artistic or aesthetic forms, but also thinking beyond rational thoughts, brainstorming or stepping “outside the box”. Combined with processes of connecting ideas or concepts to form something transformative such talent will facilitate new insights and initiate new concepts.

Library to learn new skills
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Start mastering the skills you need 

Not all skills are equal when pursuing your ikigai, nor are they consistent.

As your ikigai changes so does your need to master new skills. If you are just starting out, technical skills may be needed, whereas if you are ready for taking your mission to the next level, you may find that you need new skills or strengthen the ones you have.

Take a moment to reflect and be mindful of yourself. Identify the talents you possess and the ones you might find useful for your next steps. 

Consider various skills and ask yourself how well you do in each area as it pertains to your ikigai. Assess whether or not you can further perfect your strengths and build on your weaknesses. You and your abilities are valuable assets and should be continually nurtured as you grow.

Consider what might be the path you take from here to require new talents. There are a number of avenues you can take to enhance all of the specific skills you require. You might want to look into classes and seminars at your local university, on-line learning courses, books, blogs, and video sites.

Above all, be persistent. You will get to where you want to be with time and effort. It takes commitment and persistence, but it is not out of reach for you. Believe in yourself and know that if you apply yourself and work hard at developing both your hard and soft skills, your talents will naturally master your skills. 

Give yourself permission to be a beginner once again to learn something new.

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