There is no such thing as useless knowledge.
Take a second to internalize that…
Nothing you know how to do, no fact you’re able to remember long past its alleged usefulness, no unmarketable skill or interest, is devoid of value.
Every proficiency you’ve ever earned – from PC Tetris excellence to being able to bake perfect chocolate chip cookies – all form and affect the consciousness you inhabit and think of as “yourself.”
Generally speaking, clinical psychology considers there to be two veins of intelligence: fluid and crystallized.
Fluid tends to refer to things we think are innate – like having a natural ability to make friends and obtain trust, or being great at solving riddles, or having a great sense of direction. This kind of intelligence is abstract, hard to quantify, and usually more akin to a talent than a skill.
Crystallized intelligence, however, is something learned – like how to study forensics, or how to lay an even brick wall, or driving a car. This intelligence has to be gained through experience and application, is measurable, and would more often be considered a skill than a talent.
Building upon those two intelligences, there are nine accepted intelligence types that can contain fluid or crystallized intelligences…
- Spatial: understanding the three-dimensional world around you and how the parts relate to each other
- Naturalist: understanding the way nature works and how life thrives within it
- Musical: understanding pitch, tone, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and sound.
- Logical/mathematical: understanding which way to quantify things, form hypotheses, and prove them
- Existential: understanding which questions to ask about who we are and what we’re doing here, and how to find the answers
- Interpersonal: understanding how to sense what people are feeling and why, and knowing what they need
- Kinesthetic: understanding how to coordinate your mind with your body’s efforts and output
- Linguistic: understanding which words to choose to effectively convey your thoughts and feelings
- Intrapersonal: understanding yourself, your motives, your wants, your needs, and what they mean
That’s a lot of information, right?
Let’s distill it down to what we’re talking about…
Thinking about building skills through the lens of intelligence varieties is an interesting strategy.
While we’re all at home during the pandemic, more and more people have been struggling to find new hobbies and skills, and getting discouraged when they find their chosen skill difficult to develop.
Some of us have fluid kinesthetic intelligence, but crystallized linguistic intelligence. The combination possibilities are endless.
In choosing a new skill to learn, or a new hobby to try on, it can be very helpful to narrow down the field of possibilities to micro skills you may already have that use the same intelligence varieties as the skill you want to learn.
Typing – Piano Playing – Cross-Stitching
How fast can you type? If you’re an office worker, probably pretty quickly. Think about the micro skills you need in order to type that fast…
Muscle memory. Seemingly intrinsic knowledge of the placement of keys on a keyboard. The ability to think of words as quickly as you can type them. A sweeping understanding of punctuation.
That sounds like… linguistic, kinesthetic, and spatial intelligence.
A skill you may be taking for granted could help you in learning to play the piano, thereby adding musical intelligence to your arsenal. Or helping you learn how to sew and cross-stitch, since you already have finger-deftness and strength.
Remembering Intricate Details from Books – Identifying Nature – Computer Coding
Did you read Game of Thrones and remember how all of the characters were related? Can you speak a latin-based language? How familiar are you with learning languages? Not just the kind we speak, but the kind we use to name flowers in nature, the kind we use to speak to computers?
Think about the common skills uniting all of the above… Rote memorization. Mental organization regarding the order in which words go. Quick analysis of minute differences. Holding pieces of knowledge in one place, just waiting to connect to others.
That sounds like… linguistic, naturalist, and mathematical or logical.
If you can do one of those three things, it’s likely you’ll have a leg-up learning the other two. If you can speak French or Spanish (even English), you have a better understanding of Latin roots than you think! Learning the technical names for wildflowers is a hop, skip, and a jump away.
If you can memorize those names or language vocab, you have a stronger memory muscle and might have an easier time learning to code.
Baking – Massage – Sculpting
How’s your kneading? The number of people baking bread from home has skyrocketed since the pandemic began… Maybe you’ve really gotten a feel for how long you need to knead, when and where to apply more pressure, which parts of your hand are more effective at sculpting, rolling etc.
That sounds like… spatial, kinesthetic, and logical.
What if you applied the same principles to sculpting, with a little ball of clay? To use your muscle memory to train your hand in where to apply pressure to someone’s back, someone’s shoulders?
Every micro skill that fuses with another in intelligence chemistry can be fused with yet another to expand your skill set.
Try this simple exercise: write a list of every skill you have. Riding a bike counts! Remembering how to swing dance counts. Cooking rice perfectly counts. Try to hit ten.
Then, write another list for each of those skills elaborating on the micro skills built into them. Try to come up with five for each mega skill.
What repeats are you seeing? Where do your strengths seem to lie? And what could you build out of what’s already in front of you?