We all develop skills as we go through life and get older and more experienced. Some of those are of a more temporary or cyclic nature, and some are used daily and are at peak performance. Skills like coping with change, or a sudden occurrence, get used when needed and then left off the menu until they are needed again.
Some are annual, like “How did I put these lights on this Christmas Tree last year?” And some need to be constantly honed or updated, in particular, computer skills. This is a tough one, and in an increasingly computerized world, those who don’t keep up will certainly be left behind to one degree or another.
I’m not exempt from this phenomenon, either. Skills I learned about computers 20 or so years ago are long gone as they are obsolete, and certainly those learned 30 years ago are useless (try finding punch cards or teletype tapes today!). Modern computer skills in particular need to be practices and updated almost weekly in order to keep up to speed. Once I mastered the use of a server and printer, then the Internet and E-mail came along.
Once I got the hang of those to some degree, albeit not mastery by any means, then texting, social media and ads came along, and a whole new set of skills was needed. There’s always something new coming along that needs to be learned and understood, but if you don’t make a conscious effort to find out about new developments, they won’t find you and you’ll get left behind. And nobody likes to be left behind.
I have a theory that there’s a place in everyone’s life where that curiosity diminishes, and you stop making the effort to learn new skills. That date or age is different from person to person, and I suspect there are plateaus that each of use arrives at and must make a conscious decision to either surmount them and climb to the next level or stand pat on what we have and stay there. This date may be strongly influenced by the level of skill needed to maintain the status quo, and stay within our daily comfort zone. When the technology advances so far that it affects our daily functioning and pushes us out of our comfort zone, we are forced to learn new skills.
Everyday things like banking, shopping, finding services and vendors to meet our needs, all have changed and computerized to the point where it’s difficult to interact with those businesses without some level of computer savvy. Even reading the daily paper is a very different experience than it was even three years ago. There are now lists of “most read stories on the Internet” and stories have links and the columnists and staff writers open themselves up to rebuttal by publishing an e-mail address – in the old days, you had to write to them care of the paper, and they could decide whether to acknowledge receipt and reply. You could just delete the e-mail, true, but that kind of direct access gives them immediate feedback on their work, and they can sense and even quantify the reaction to their efforts almost instantly compared to the week or so delay of years earlier.
The moral of the story is that as soon as you lose curiosity, and stop learning new things, you are doomed to lose contact with a segment of our culture, and the more of those you lose, the more isolated and irrelevant you become, in the cultural scheme of things. AS in business, if you’re not moving forward, your dying, piece by piece. Maybe it’s time to return to some previously used skill and update it today – sign up for a class, go to a lecture, read a new publication, find a new book (e-book if you prefer) and keep that curiosity burning . . .
If you liked this train of thought, or if it derailed yours . . . if you’d like more like this, be sure to pick up a copy of “The Marketing Doctor’s Survival Notes”