Skipper Trick #1: Seek the Storm
Skippers want adult life now, not after years of waiting. They want to get out a shovel and dig the Grand Canyon instead of sitting around while the Colorado River does its slow work. Skippers look to those who have gained mastery in sudden bursts. Here are a couple examples.
A recent post discussed how skippers have a lot in common with the Greatest Generation. Skippers relate to these men also through the concept of immersion, by learning skills by being surrounded by the need to know them. Some of the most heavily immersed, most in-over-their-heads people in history were the soldiers, sailors, and airmen drafted into WWII.
Drafted from their civilian jobs to a 24-7 life of battle, these men were completely unqualified for the tasks before them. Like skippers, they took on responsibilities that they were unprepared for. And they won. Those who survived left the military with myriad new competencies, skills they’d been forced to master almost instantly. The storm shaped them.
Another classic example of men shaped by storms is the 1972 Uruguayan rugby team. A plane crash left 16 of them stranded in the heights of the Andes without provisions, largely without hope.They weren’t Bear Grylls-type survival enthusiasts, they were young men who had no mountain climbing experience to speak of.
Two members of the team, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, trekked hundreds of kilometers to get help. They weren’t distance runners or professional orienteers. They simply faced a storm. Through it, they gained mastery over skills they never thought to develop.
The Skipper Trick
The skipper trick is to do what the draftees and rugby players did, but instead of letting a random storm come and shape him, a skipper seeks a storm of the right type.
If a skipper wants to become a man of business, he doesn’t study to be an intern and work his way up. Instead, he practices the work of a businessman. How? Volunteering, creating his own business, finding a startup that can barely pay and freelancing on his off hours–anything. He puts himself in situations where he must be the businessman, and in that, he gains mastery.
If a skipper wants to be a great father, then he can read the books and babysit, and that’s fine, but he won’t be a great father until he starts practicing fatherhood.
If a skipper wants to be a pitcher, he doesn’t start out in the outfield. It may be a step up from the stands, but it’s the basic approach. The gradual approach. Not the skipper approach.
What the Trick Looks Like
Aim too high. Apply for jobs you’re not qualified for. Take on tasks you don’t understand. Talk yourself up so people think you’re capable of more than you really are. Make unrealistic expectations for yourself. Other people will challenge you to prove yourself. And if you let the storms shape you, you’ll gain mastery. Take my story:
I studied history in college, and it wasn’t until after I graduated–right after, conveniently–that I decided I wanted to be a writer. I got a job as a history teacher and contacted a startup history/politics magazine and told them I was an expert who could write for them. They couldn’t pay me at first, but I did it anyway. Eventually they paid me. Then the magazine went under. But I had the articles I’d written as proof that I had writing experience. I was under-qualified. My first articles were pretty terrible. But I learned fast. Now I’m a writer full-time.