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  • Maria Wade

Lessons Learned: No Such Thing as “Useless” Skills

I found a photograph the other day. In this photograph, I am sitting on the porch of our first house here in America. I am removing the paint from kitchen cabinets. I remember that it took hours. I was so proud of myself once this project was complete. I repainted each cabinet; I made them beautiful.

I don’t know if I’ll ever need to use this skill again. I’m not sure if I’ll ever need to remove paint from cabinets or do any type of kitchen refurbishment. Looking at this photo again got me thinking: Does that mean this was a wasted skill to learn?


I remember hearing this sentiment a lot as a child and maybe you heard some version of it, too: “When you leave school, just forget about what you learned, because you will never need it again.”


This stuck with me.


And, the comments continued.


“When you come to work, forget everything you learned at university because you won’t use it.”


What is the message here? You are investing a lot of time in learning, but you won’t need this in your life.


Do I agree? Do I feel that skills obtained that go unused have been a waste of time? Something worth forgetting?


It might not surprise you to hear that I say “no”... My take is that there is no wasted learning or wasted skills because you never know what you can use in the next moment.


Sometimes it will be a direct connection and sometimes it will be indirect.

For example, I learned how to milk a goat. Yes, it is true. And, where can I use this skill again? I don’t plan on spending too much time around livestock any time soon...


But here’s how I think about it (and this is where the “indirect” connection comes in): It’s not exactly what I learned. It is often the mindset, perspective, experience, or secondary skills gained that are what sticks with us the most. Often, a lesson learned may even be (unknown) preparation for something awaiting you in your future.


When it comes to that cabinet work? This showed me that I can do physical labor and I enjoy doing this. It really calms me down and has helped me see that whatever happens in my life, I can deal with it. I can take on challenges and overcome the unknown.


Another example: baking. How to make a perfect cake is not the only thing I have learned from baking. I also honed my ability to appropriately allocate my time and attention, to complete several tasks simultaneously and to pay attention to many items in my head while keeping the big picture in mind. Said another way: I applied my project management skills to a new hobby.


Ultimately, we don’t know what, when and how we will use the many skills and experiences we pick up, but I dare say there’s no such thing as a useless skill.


And if you happen to hear of anyone needing their goat milked… you know where to find me.


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