You are hereWant to be Relevant? Transfer a Skill

Want to be Relevant? Transfer a Skill

By steve - Posted on 09 November 2010

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.
--Bob Nelson

It matters to matter. If you want to make any real impact during your short time on this small planet, what you do has to matter and to matter you have to be relevant...

To me, the most obvious way to do that is to help someone who needs it. I probably see it that way because I truly enjoy helping people.

Giving someone air, food, or water when they need it is the simplest and easiest form of helping, but like the old saying goes, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, TEACH a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Help someone survive, but also try to think a little longer term.

If I'm going to go to the trouble of helping someone, I strive to make it life-changing. The way to make help someone in a life-changing way is to teach them something or transfer a skill.

Skill transference is a simple formula:

Behavior + Theory + Practice = Skill

The formula is order dependent, but it may seem a little backward to how you spent 12 years of government school and 4 years of over-priced, college-level regurgitation. The best way to learn something is to start with the behavior, then learn the theory, then practice.

Also, you can't take away any of the parts and still end up with a skill. If you don't have behavior and practice, all the theory in the world is worthless. If you have just behavior or just practice and no theory, you have a robot, not a thinking student.

Let's break this down a little further...


Start with having your disciple perform the behaviors that are an important part of the skill to be mastered.

If you are teaching programming, give them a program to type in. If you are teaching an instrument, start with getting a decent note from the instrument (and the basics for holding it, playing, tuning it). If you are teaching auto mechanics, get them wrenching on something.

Start with the behaviors they will need to have to get the skill.


Only after you have some of the behaviors you want started (keep adding them as you go), then add the theory or logic that will be needed.

"You did this behavior because..."

"Now that you've removed the carburetor, you can see that..."

Getting the theory at this point starts to reinforce what they have already experienced.


After the student exhibits the behaviors you want and starts to understand why they have been doing them, now you start working to perfection, and that takes practice.

Work on things like:

  • Do it 10% faster.
  • Do it 10% better.
  • Improve the process or improve the results.
  • Incremental improvements.
  • Constant improvement.

Next Step

Your next step, after you decide what skill you need to transfer and to whom, you need to lay out the steps you'll follow to transfer your skill.

You can do something like:

  • Define the skill and what it looks like.
  • Determine the behaviors of someone with a high level of skill in this area.
  • Determine the theory or logic behind the behaviors (why they add to success for this skill).
  • Determine what success looks like for each of the behaviors.
  • Start working with someone that needs this skill.
  • When you have the person to the level of skill they need, review your process and see where you can refine or improve the process or information.

A word about safety is in order. When you start asking people to perform your skill behaviors, it is important that you not ask someone to do something that would be unsafe at their skill level.

For instance, if you wanted to train someone to drive, it would not make sense (or be legal) to have a 13 year-old drive a car on the highway. However, if you want your 13 year-old to start to be able to develop driving skills, it arguably would make sense for them to start learning to drive a go-kart in a safe environment or even simulate driving with a video game.

The thought of that makes me laugh a little. My kids used to love to play "Crazy Taxi" on the playstation. It's a wild driving game where you get more points the wilder you drive, so it doesn't seem like a very good way to start to learn to drive. However, with a little nudging from me, they came up with the idea of playing the game completely differently--they called it "Safety Taxi". They'd play the same game (in something like 5-minute time mode), but they'd play it with the goal to get the FEWEST points possible. They'd stop at all the lights and obey all the signals. The person with the lowest score (you were disqualified if you just sat there) while trying to drive normally, would win.

So, give out the behaviors only if they are safe for the person at the level they are at. If you have to build up other behaviors first, to be safe, then make sure you do so.

Transfer a skill and change a life. Then you really might be just a little more relevant.

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