Simple skills, like learning to count…

Luckily for me, I learned how to count in early life… probably elementary school. Or sometime… (This used to be called math, for those of us who are not math majors.)

I find now that learning to count was a pretty good skill, once I learned how to apply the skill.

I am a pretty forgetful person. Perhaps it’s my age. Perhaps it’s my nature. (Perhaps it’s irresponsibility.) For whatever reason, remembering details is not one of my strong characteristics. This used to manifest itself when I’d go somewhere, and forget my wallet, or keys, or cell phone… So now I count to 8.

I count to 8 thusly:

  1. Money clip with credit cards
  2. Office keys
  3. Car and house keys
  4. Apple iPhone
  5. HTC Incredible Android phone
  6. Flip mino HD video camera
  7. Olympus 7600PC digital voice recorder
  8. Samsung Bluetooth headset

Usually this is accompanied by a pat-down of self as I physically verify as I’m counting that each item is in my possession. (Your number would likely be different from mine.)

OK, this is pretty trivial. But you can’t believe how often this has saved me from a missed opportunity. Any time I see or walk through a door (office, home, car, etc), I do a quick mental count to 8. This habit had to be learned in at least 3 steps.

  1. First, I had to realize this would be a useful habit to establish. (need or problem-driven realization)
  2. Then I had to decide how many items would be on this list. (design the solution)
  3. Third, I had to develop the habit of actually applying the counting skill (knowing WHEN to recall this skill and practice it)

Learning a skill and Learning WHEN to apply a skill are two separate cognitive contexts.

I went through too many years of not applying this counting skill though I clearly KNEW how to count since before I was riding a bicycle. Learning that this skill could apply in real life took a while longer to integrate into my habits. I had to pass through too many locked doors to realize that “passing through a door” was a key trigger that made counting a relevant skill. So now it’s a habit I’ve cultivated that’s made life simpler and made me look less forgetful.

In the larger picture, so what?

I’m in possession of a lifetime of acquired skills. I’ve gone through (more than a couple decades of) schooling and job experience.

I wonder what other skills I am sitting on that I’m not yet applying yet to make my job performance or life experience “better” in some sense? Simple skills get ignored or overlooked too easily. Too often, I think that the hard stuff is the important stuff. In actuality, the easy stuff can still make life and job results significantly better, if we only realized the “new” contexts in which to apply the skill.

What skills and simple practices have you and your team found effective in past contexts, but are not currently applying in your current position / project?


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2 thoughts on “Simple skills, like learning to count…”

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    I’m looking forward to the day when I only have to count to one to have access to all this technology. Just one very smart device that projects its display into my eye and reads my mind to take commands.

    So, how do you carry all this? Do you have a bat belt?

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