What is Skill?

The etymology of skill is from the old norse: skil, meaning discernment or knowledge. Nowadays, skill is associated with the idea of expertise, learning how to do a particular task and having the training and experience to do something well. This reflects the old meaning of the word in terms of ‘know how’ or knowledge, but what I like about the original meaning is that discernment is part of the package.

Discernment is in essence perceptive ability, the ability to judge well. It adds a layer to skill that I feel is important which really covers personal attributes. While personality is an innate personal characteristic, there are attributes that can be improved, acquired, modified or learned. The more we foster and develop personal attributes the more perceptive and intuitive we can become.

For example we can work on our attitude. Do we have glass half-empty or half-full thinking? What can we do to develop a positive approach? Do we foster curiosity? Are we resilient? What can we do to develop resilience?

Expertise and job or task related skills can be achieved though education, training and a willingness to learn and be adaptive in work and in life.

The more subtle skills, those that add to our own personal skill set take a bit more work. But they can be achieved by using different tools to grow our own self-development and self awareness.


Some very simple steps are to expand our thinking and knowledge of the world; move out of our comfort zone, read widely and read opposing viewpoints. Question what we see, hear and read. Use the links below and the tools to consider areas that you might wish to develop in your own life.

Finally, I think everyone should read Rebecca Costa’s The Watchman’s Rattle.

Costa clearly posits that the escalating complexity of our personal lives, technological capabilities, and government policies have led to conditions—worldwide recession, global warming, pandemic viruses—that have outpaced our ability to manage them. After indentifying and articulating this dynamic, Costa offers an opportunity to address it. She reveals scientific evidence that the human brain can be retrained to comprehend, analyze, and resolve massively complex problems. We can give ourselves brain tune-ups, cultivate “insight-on-demand,” and make a significant impact on the seemingly intractable challenges we face today.

De Costa identifies that far from being a mystical, unknown happening insight is a skill that can be developed and harnessed by learning how the left and right brain work and how to develop the internal space to birth insight.

Here’s a taster:


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The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Formula©