I started to think about how drilling of skills in sports compares to how we drill skills on a professional level. Should we be doing thinking and problem solving drills and exercises repeatedly to stay sharp? Should be so well versed in these skills they are ingrained into every experience? This might be like on a soccer field, where you think of and then do a move on an opponent almost instantaneously.

(Reflecting on my experience in soccer, I could usually think of one move, pull it off, and be psyched. Or I would react to my opponents’ maneuvers. But, I wish my moves were quicker, sequential, and proactive.)

There are also all the social skills related to emotional intelligence (“EI”). According to Travis Bradberry, the preeminent writer on EI, a person improves their EI with practice. Likewise, should we learn skills like ‘active listening’ and ‘social perceptiveness’ through training and preparation so it is ingrained in us? Applying skills becomes part of our behaviors.

The answers to these questions are rhetorical. Acquiring skills is the most important aspect of education and learning programs for career success. It is just a matter of how much. One takeaway in comparing practicing sports and professional skills is the necessity of experiential learning. Every experience is an opportunity to apply skills.

I usually separate talent and skills. Put them in competition with each other: talent versus skill. Talent, to me, connotes an innate ability – something you are born with and cannot change much. There is no denying someone who has talents and creates something; it seems like magic. But thinking about talents can be discouraging: many of us fear trying something because of our pre-conceived talents or feeling we have to become a master to be successful.

Skill, on the other hand, is acquired. If you put the time and effort to practice a skill properly, most people feel they can learn it. I do not disagree with a naysayer saying you may need some talent to acquire skills. Still, I think it is like comparing a growth mindset (skills) with a fixed mindset (talents).

The author of Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking came up with similar conclusions about acquiring foundation thinking skills (a similar way we acquire skills in sports). He sums up his philosophy in a catchy phrase: will, skill, and drill. You need to have the will – a growth mindset. This is one critical element of my Skills Culture. Practice underlying methods and applications to acquire skill. Finally, conscientiously drill through your thinking and social skills in every experience.