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Skill to Do Comes of Doing. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quote: "Skill to do comes of doing."-Ralph Waldo Emerson

According to dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster.com:

Skill can be defined as the ability to do something well; The ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc. to do something well.

Comes, is the plural of come, referring to approach or arrive by movement…movement can refer to an evolving from one state or one place to another; a developing, or a development of something…

Doing is referring to action, performance; execution.

These words in relation to the other can be interpreted as saying that skill, the ability to do something, arrives or is developed by the action of executing the desired ability.

To explore further, keep reading…

Skill to do comes of doing is interpreted as saying, in order to know where we are in reference to our desired skill, we have to demonstrate the desired skill. This may lead us to question, how do we recognize where we are in reference to our desired skill? For one, by observing someone with that desired skill and then attempting to replicate that skill in the same fashion. Two, and notably, by utilizing a coach, trainer, instructor, leader or mentor, who is in a position to guide and give you relevant feedback.


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To continue, a relevant example, in-regards to our topic, is our skill to walk. When we first learn to walk, we all don’t automatically walk perfectly the first time. We have to stumble and fumble, and wobble and fall. Every time, we all get back up and continue to put one foot in front of the other. Until we find our own equilibrium- the sense of balance, in motion. In other words, the skill to walk. This can only be discovered in the action of doing, in this case, walking.

A simile to describe how our brains function, especially in the application of skills. Our brains are like computers, needing a program installed first to know how to operate and/or use a particular function. The program instillation is the process of doing, whatever that desired function may be… That is how we encode in our brains a skill, the skill to walk; the skill to do anything.

Further, we are programmed to function with automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to do something without thinking about doing it. Our brains are truly only capable of consciously functioning with one thought or activity in mind at any given time. For instance, try it out, if we think about all the different thoughts that we can think about… all the activities we do. Notice the mind shift. Shifting from one highlighted concentration to the next. We are never actually concentrating on more than one thing at a time. How does this relate to, skill to do comes of doing? …Keep reading and we’ll see!

Simply, when we recognize how our brains work in the application of thinking and doing, especially in reference to skill, we not only see the value of developing that automaticity, but also when we achieve it. It is indicative that we have put in the doing to reach that point of automaticity. Why? …Precisely why we don’t have to think about walking anymore, or why we don’t have to think about each step in the process of drinking a glass of water… We have done both activities enough times that they have become automatic.

To reiterate, skill is the capacity to execute an activity with little effort or conscious thought. In other words, when something is done with ease, it has become automatic. In order to make something automatic, we have to do it first… The question then becomes, where, when, what, and/or how do we start the doing to develop a desired skill? …We have to start somewhere.

In consideration, when we start somewhere, it may be for the first time. When we start something for the first time it is, more often than not, accompanied by error and mistakes. This individualized yet shared experience should never deter us. Why? …Because, each time we make a mistake we are receiving valuable input from what we are doing and how we are doing it. It is paramount. The input is actually our opportunity to adjust to get us closer to whatever skill we are pursuing. It is our opportunity to adjust until the doing feels effortless, automatic.

For example, if we want to be skilled at dribbling a basketball, we have to pick up the ball and start dribbling the basketball first. We have to see what it feels like, see how we handle the ball, see how we coordinate the movements. We have to find out where we make mistakes, and then make adjustments based on the feedback we get from both our mistakes and our coach. The doing is the only way to truly program our dribbling skills.

To emphasize, if we never pick up the basketball, we have no reference point to know how we interact with the basketball. We don’t know where we fumble with our hands, where we put our feet, where we concentrate, and/or even where we need to shift our concentration. To name a few. We simply haven’t practiced. In other words, there is no basketball dribbling program installed in our brain that allows us to even begin to develop the automaticity.

This is how automaticity, skill development, works with everything, regardless of what activity we want to be skilled in. Another example, if we want to sing, although different from dribbling a basketball, functions under the same principles. We likely don’t belt out, in perfect pitch, note for note, with ease the first time. It goes back to the example of when we first learn to walk, we don't walk for the first time effortlessly. This is normal amongst all humans.

Most all humans have the aptitude in their neuro circuitry in their brain that enables them to develop most any skill they apply themselves to, within their means. This means, we have to do the activity first to develop any skill. This is due to the fact in how our DNA programming operates. There is only so much programming that can occur without our doing. Specifically, our automatic functions, referring to such functions as that of the lungs and the heart. For instance, most of us don’t have to learn how to breathe… We automatically just start breathing when we are born, and are first exposed to the air around us.

Further, our DNA operates in this manner from an energy standpoint, it is considered genetically inefficient to put energy into developing any circuitry that is not “necessary” for living. Simply stated, this means that in order to develop, or program, any skills outside of our automatic functions, such as breathing and eating for example, we have to put our attention on it and actually do the desired activity.

In continuation, to develop our skill to sing, we have to start singing. We have to see how we use our voice and what muscles we engage. For one, we may discover the muscles that we use with singing are specific to singing, and they may not be engaged otherwise… In other words, if we haven’t sung before those muscles may be weak or may not even work. If we have not sung before, we have to figure out how to activate relevant areas that may have not been activated prior or in this manner... Notably, we also have to start singing to see how we sound. We have to recognize how we hear our pitch. We have to discover where our weaknesses may be and get feedback from our coaches. We can then strengthen those areas and develop skill.

To emphasize, to do our desired activity, whether it be dribbling a basketball, singing or anything far and in-between, allows us to make the mistakes we need to make through that doing, in order to recognize where our weak areas are present. After we recognize where our weak areas are, we are in a position to adjust them and get closer to the feeling of having that skill, the effortlessness; the automaticity. On the same note, if we do start singing, and we do happen to sing perfectly the first time, the only way we discovered that is… surprise, by doing it!

In summary, to truly be skilled at anything we have to have reference for that skill in how we know it’s actually there… it is not just an idea in our head. As mentioned, the way we do that is by doing. The doing is what allows us to know where we stand in our skill development. The trial and error, the improvement on the feedback we get from ourselves, coaches, trainers and teachers, which again, can only happen if we do the activity. Our doing allows us to make each doing progressively easier than the previous doing, until the doing become's effortless, automatic, skill.


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