Essential Skills



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Introduction to Essential Skills

First, A story...
My grandmother was born in the year 1900 in central Lithuania. She came to the US as a young girl--an eye infection saving her and her family from possible death in a sea tragedy you may have heard about--the sinking of the Titanic.

At the time of her birth 43% of population in the US worked in agriculture. Automobiles were just beginning to dot the1903, Kitty Hawk, NC. landscape, Henry Ford wouldn't begin to succeed with his radical paradigm changing idea of mass producing the automobile until 1903. The airplane had yet to be invented. The same year Henry Ford applied the assembly line to producing automobiles two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright from Dayton, Ohio, took their invention to a windy hill in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wilbur would die from Typhoid in 1912, the year my grandmother and her family came to Chicago. Many diseases you've never heard of, because they've been eradicated by advances in medicine and science, were killing millions world-wide every year.

The radio had been invented in 1895 by an Italian fellow named Marconi. In 1900 there was yet to be a single commercial radio broadcast. The median household income was $438 a year, that's $8.42 a week, not a lot by today’s standards. The comic book would not appear until 1904, color photography appears in 1907, and mom made most of the clothes the family would wear. Indoor plumbing was just becoming common.

You might imagine that my grandmother was born into a horse drawn world of farmers reading aloud around the fireplace at night after a hard day of laborious toil in the fields. The reality was a bit different. Joseph Campbell was packaging and selling Campbell’s Soup in tin cans in 1890. In 1899 you could buy a box of GEM paper clips via mail order and by 1901 King Gillette, a failed bottle cap salesman, was becoming quite rich from giving away the Gillette Safety Razor in order to sell the blades. The world was changing.

You get the idea: By the time my grandmother was laid to rest in 2001 she had experienced the most radically changed century in the history of the world. The rhetorical question was asked, "What will YOU experience in your lifetime?" And then another question quickly followed, "How can we best prepare for the changes we'll surely experience?"

It wasn't that long ago that our very progressive society assigned very different roles for men and women than we see today. The ad from the 1950s on the right here speaks volumes. Women were treated like petulant children.

It wasn't until the late 1960s that women started to achieve the kinds of equal footing with men that we take for granted today. Equally momentous changes were recorded in race relations, childrens' rights, the way disabled people are viewed by society, workers' rights, and a whole host of other areas that you can discover for yourself merely by flipping through old magazines or watching TVLand...

Serious Paradigm Shift Alert! This type of behavior--on the parts of the women and men--is no longer acceptable.
Peak Performance
So how Do we prepare for a future we can only guess and dream about? The answer is a multifaceted one. Just like the future, it's not easy. One thing for certain is that we're going to have to work up to our potential. It isn't cool to be a slacker anymore.

Dereck Amato is an interesting case study. He's the fellow that was partying around a pool, leaped into the shallow end, hit his head, sustained a concussion, went to his friend John's house, sat down at the piano, and became an impresario--in six hours. The moral of this story: Whack your head really hard, reprogram your brain, and become a professional musician.

John Sarkin was the other case study we examined. Sarkin, a chiropractor, was playing golf, bent down to pick up his tee, had a brain aneurysm, required brain surgery, had a big part of the left lobe of his cerebellum removed, and became a famous visual artist. The moral of this story: Have a chunk of your brain removed and become an artist.

Both of these men achieved a state we're calling Peak Performance by reprogramming their brains. Both of these men unlocked hidden talents that may just exist in all of us. Short of taking a shot to the head or undergoing brain surgery another question arose: How do we achieve peak performance?

Know Thyself...
That leads us to our study of Paradigms. The mental models that filter incoming data. We have developed paradigms that influence the way we think about ourselves, our world, and our future. In a metacognitive sense we are examining the way we fit into the world. The quote that sticks is from Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can or can’t…you are right.” Since we're quoting Ford, there's an inscription on the bench on the front porch of his Ft; Myers home that reads, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." Though old school to the max, these old truisms are still valid. Proof that not all old paradigms are invalid...

Joel Barker, the futurist--business consultant, presented his earth shaking research on Paradigms in a video intended for Fortune 500 companies. The neat thing about looking at Barker is that we put him to the test. He's a futurist, right? Well, how did the things he predicted long ago turn out? We took a look at what he was saying twenty years ago and found that he's dead on! Needless to say, we're borrowing from his playbook to design a game plan we can use to succeed in the 21st Century.

Next up: Learning Theories
If we're going to adapt to changing times we must know how to approach the adaption process. This entails determining our strengths and weaknesses and making the necessary tweaks to how we learn and how that affects our performance. This is some pretty heady stuff with ramifications that extend far beyond the walls of dear old Oxbridge.

I couldn't resist! The changed paradigm centered on smoking...













Thankfully, there's a new "smoking paradigm."

(No, this is not intended to encourage magical thinking...)