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Ways To Improve Your Skills And Strengths

personal development
Ways To Improve Your Skills And Strengths

Next June should be awesome. I’ll be heading to Avignon in the south of France with two good friends, John and Grav, an opportunity to develop new skills through travel and exploration. We have similar interests and we’re going there to indulge in three of our joint favourite things. 

I say 'things' but really they're a set of skills we've been developing for a while. The three are cycling, football and wine and I think that if you are looking to improve your social life, knowledge about this holy trinity is possibly all that may be required. I find that if you're interested in a subject, like really really interested and thoroughly enjoy it, it can really help you make sticking to the task easier!

We’ve discovered that during a footy tournament you can spend time developing your skills and knowledge of those three things in France really rather well. 

The UEFA European Football Championships will be held between 14th June and the 14th July 2024. It's not actually taking place in France but that's where the best wines and fabulous bike routes are, so sometime between those two dates we’ll be watching lots of games (on the telly), cycling plenty of miles and sipping plenty of different appellations. Admittedly, these are the types of skills that may not be the most transferable into our professional lives but nevertheless we are, to a man, very happy to work on them. 


Observe And Listen

Every morning we’ll roll out from Avignon on two wheels having determined a route that takes in a few vineyards and ends at an establishment that serves food, wine and has a big telly. It should be a lot of fun.

There's nothing quite like rolling through the tracks, taking in the sights and sounds of beautiful countryside.

There’s also a musical side theme we’re trying to expand. In 1986 The Cure filmed an amazing concert at the Roman amphitheatre in Orange so that’s on the list to visit. It's a grand theatrical showpiece, a moment encapsulating the soft skills of creativity and artistic vision.

In Savoy Truffle The Beatles reference Montelimar so we’ll have to go there as well. Don’t know if there’s anything in Montelimar other than nougat but hopefully when we research we’ll find out there’s something to actually see. 

And if there is then Grav will be taking photos of it.


Ways To Improve Your Skills

Over the years we’ve been on a few trips together and Grav always takes about three cameras on the journey. To say he’s into photography would be an understatement. He's already become proficient  in all sorts of areas but that's not enough.

I suggested to him that he surely knows almost all there is to know, reflecting on the extensive work experience and skills he's developed over time.

He replied simply "Sure, but I want to improve."

Grav's always looking for opportunities to develop his skill set. He's very proactive and I think how you approach learning decides how well you improve the skills you need to develop.

It's Important To Learn New Skills

He’s happy to volunteer his iPhone for the quick and standard shots of us horsing around. But he’s also always got some sort of creative project on the go to learn a new skill or improve a specific skill  he already has and for those photos he brings along the quality equipment. 

It’s usually some sort of obscure camera that was produced for a short time between 1967 and 1973 by a now long defunct company based in Estonia, a testimony to the hard skills involved in mastering such equipment. But for various (insert unintelligible specialist technical waffle reason) it produces a wonderful image. 

If you want to develop that photograph it ain't cheap. Every image he takes costs about fifty quid a pop because it’s printed on special paper made from pulped Norwegian Elk antlers and developed over three years in an Arctic cave.

The resulting images are always stunning though.


Identify Your Strengths

There’s an old story I half remember where a photographer is hosting an exhibition of his work. The walls are covered with amazing images and the guests wander around admiring the display.

One of the guests is a well known writer and he’s studying the photographs intently. He says to the photographer “These are brilliant photos. I guess you’ve got really good camera.”

Quick as a flash the photographer replies “Thank you. I’ve read some of your books and enjoyed them tremendously. I guess you must have a really good typewriter.”


Develop Your Soft Skills And Hard Skills

Grav’s got a really good camera. A few of them. But of course that’s not why the images are good. They’re decent pictures because Grav’s a really good photographer.

The reason he’s a really good photographer is because he’s put in the hard yards. You get good at stuff by doing it repeatedly. Again and again and again.

He's always looking to learn new skills, to learn something new. And if there's a subject where he knows most of it already then he'll focus on improving.

Improve Your Skills

Grav’s been uploading images onto his Flickr page for years. He used to do it on a daily basis at one time in order to force himself to shoot every day and cultivate the desired habit, an approach highlighting the importance of time management in skill development. 

But he doesn’t just take a lot of pictures. He takes them with intention. There’s thought and consideration behind every image.

That continuous focus and dedication has an impact. It fine hones talent and generates expertise.

If you do something again and again with intention then it becomes easier, a principle that applies perfectly to the process of using your skills to improve. It becomes easy to do it well. In fact you don’t do it until you can do it really well. You do it until you can only do it well. You do it until you can’t do it badly. A testament to the time management and dedication required to develop new skills.


Have A Development Plan

I started watching the Beckham documentary on Netflix recently. Like anyone at the top of his game his dedication to learning his craft was on another level. 

His dad impressed on him time and time again the need to improve. To make a career you need to develop your skill set. Take the skills you already have and practice using focus and dedication.

Delivering a perfectly paced and flighted cross was the most natural thing in the world to him. But only after years and years of intentional practice. He spent years improving skills that would help him become a better footballer. Beckham couldn't always float the ball across the pitch with precision but with practice he became the best.

His dad gave him honest feedback too. If you want to become proficient you'll need to get feedback.

So this issue's top tip is to turn up. It often is isn’t it?! Simply turning up is a great first step to developing your knowledge and skills. 

Choose The Skill You Want To Improve

Choose what you want to do, which skills want to become good at, and how many skills you need to work on. Then think about how well you want to be able to do them. And then turn up.

If you want to be really really good at it then you need to put in the time and the effort. It's a great way learn and develop, probably the only way to definitely improve. You need to put in the hours and the intentionality. You need to identify your strengths, to see what skills are needed, make sure you're focusing on the relevant skills. That will help you build and increase your chances to achieve your goal or goals whatever they are.

Not all of Grav’s photos are brilliant but because of the expertise he’s gained from repeatedly turning up over the years many of them are. Because he's always looking to improve he'll never become stagnant.

When you turn up each time it doesn’t always need to be a top top performance you're giving. You’re allowed to be average a lot of the time. Not always having to be at peak performance can help you stay the course. That’s the idea of my sign off each week on my Top Tips email, the exhortation to ‘have an average week’.

Have an average week. Always.

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