Hard Skills are Like “Sitting Targets” – Soft Skills are More Like “Moving Targets” – Thoughts on Learning Skills…


(This post started out as an introduction to some book recommendations.  I decided to let it stand alone).

Hard Skills, Soft SkillsThere are two kinds of learning.  We typically divide these into “hard skills,” and “soft skills.”  To oversimplify — a “hard skill” is something you learn to “do,” and once you’ve learned it, you know how to do it.  Let’s call this a “sitting target.”  

For example, I know how to write a blog post.  I type words, (usually in my Word, or now Pages program), and then copy and paste into our WordPress blog site. I know how to place words, images, and even embed YouTube videos in my blog posts.  So, I’ve gotten good enough at this skill that I have posted 1,988 blog posts on this blog — this is post #1,989.

(This is not much to brag about.  I have friends who are tech wizards — most of them younger friends.  My self-taught blogging, tweeting, LinkedIn-ing skills are child’s play to them.  It took some work for me.  I am envious of my younger, tech-wizard, digital native friends.  I have a friend who has taken to answering my phone calls with the words “Personal Genius Bar.”  I call him with my Mac and IOS questions.  He knows the answer — every time.  I need him — I rely on him — I’m in awe of him, literally.  How does he know all of this stuff?!).

So, posting a blog post is a “hard skill.”  I know how to do it.  I do it.  I may learn a few new tricks along the way, but the skill is now learned.  I have “mastered” this skill well enough to do it on a regular basis.

Writing good, useful, helpful blog posts — putting better words together, in a way that genuinely helps people who read them — well, that is a different matter, and a true life-long pursuit.  I hope I write better blog posts than when I first started.  I want to get better at choosing what to write, and how I write, so that my writing will be useful for others, and help them in their pursuits.  In other words, I want people who read my posts to feel like it is worth their investment of time.

This skill is never quite fully learned — I have not mastered this skill.

Most of my book synopses presentations are of this ilk.  I read books, present synopsis of books, that are about areas of pursuit that are never quite fully mastered.  I don’t choose books to present on how to fix a leaky faucet.  That would be a hard skill.  (A skill, by the way, that I should learn).  I choose books on how to innovate, how to lead and motivate people, how to develop strategy.  These are “skills” that we never quite master.  Let’s call these “moving targets” skills.

That guy I call with my Mac/IOS questions.  We talk about this kind of stuff too.  I can at least hold up my end of the conversation with him in the “soft skills – moving target” arena.  He’s well-read, insightful, but neither of us would claim genius status on any of these issues.  We know we will keep learning for a lifetime.  We’ll never quite master this in the same way that we can master the  “sitting targets” skills.

These “soft skills” may be the toughest skills to learn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s