Recently I decided to fire up the BBQ. I hadn’t done so in several months despite living in Arizona where one could (and should) BBQ every day of the year because the weather here is fabulous. After stopping at the store to purchase burgers, chicken breasts, BBQ sauce and various styles of buns I headed home, changed clothes, and headed outside to fire up the BBQ. It was then that I realized how rusty my skills had become when I had to read the tags on the various knows to determine which one was the igniter. I was surprised by how rusty my skills had become in the intervening months.
Use it or lose it
We are all familiar with the saying “use it or lose it” and my experience with the BBQ was a reinforcement of the truth behind the saying for sure. If you don’t use a skill for a period of time it will begin to dissipate, and eventually you will lose it completely. In some instances that may not be such a bad thing; I have forgotten any and all of the French words and phrases that I once had to memorize during my high school French languages classes and their loss has never bothered me. But other skills are far more valuable and their loss can be far more devastating. Skill loss is an insidious process because it happens slowly. Indeed, some skills can be lost over such a long period of time that the loss is completely unnoticeable until the erosion is irreparable.
One way to address skill loss is through a process of self evaluation, where you review yourself honestly and note where there are gaps in both your professional and personal lives. When you identify where a skill loss is occurring, or has occurred, you then need to make a decision as to whether you need to take any corrective action. Doing a formal self evaluation annually is always a good idea, but spontaneous self evaluations also have value. A self evaluation doesn’t have to be complex – my review of my BBQ skills took mere seconds – but can be a “stitch in time” that saves you a lot of future rework.