Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How I Know What I Know

I don't have money... but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. -- Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), Taken, 2008

I fix a lot of things for people, both professionally and in my personal life. Very frequently, folks are amazed that I have these skills and want to know how I learned them. Honestly, acquiring skills is a skill itself, and is one well worth focusing some time on.

There are three basic routes to learning and developing skills:

Find a Mentor
Mentors are the traditional method of passing along skills from generation to generation. Much of this comes in the form of parents teaching children, but other mentors can greatly open your skill set.

My dad taught me most of what I know about fixing things, general construction, camping and fishing. My scout leaders greatly expanded on my camping and bushcraft skills. My friend Kevin taught me how to hunt and track, and our own Firehand has taught me a lot about metalworking.

Finding a mentor can be a bit intimidating, especially as an adult, but joining a club or hobbyist organization for the skills you want to learn makes finding mentors much easier. You can also reach out to friends who have the skills you seek.

Take a Class
Formal classes are an easy way to learn new skills. These classes can range from professional and trade instruction to basic skill overviews. Community colleges, gear and equipment retailers, and enthusiast groups all are known to offer classes in useful skills.

The downside of class work is that it often has an associated price tag. It also cannot provide the one-on-1 focused instruction of a mentor.

Learn Through Independent Study
The third way I've acquired skills is through independent learning. This is also known as Reading The Freakin' Manual (RTFM). Books, schematic diagrams, and videos are great for teaching very specific, niche skills. When I need to take the door panel off my truck or something similar, YouTube has step-by-step videos so that I don't destroy things in the process. When I'm working on a device I've never disassembled before, a schematic drawing makes sure all the parts go back where they belong. Reference books are available for almost any topic, and can teach new methods and techniques even for skills you already have. All of the BCP crew are library types, because there is a wealth of knowledge in books.

Learning something is a skill. Practice it!


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