The cliche of a child falling, babbling, or failing a thousand times before learning to walk, talk, or master a game highlights the key to unlocking your full potential because it illustrates meta-skills.
What Is Meta Skill?
Meta skills enable you to learn other skills. It involves patterns of behavior that generate new skills. It is the foundation of learning and improvement of all skills, across all fields, and at any age in life. It is also not limited to children, adults, women, men, or any category of people. Every human is born with a meta-skill, but not everyone develops it.
10 Examples of Meta Skills:
Meta skills are so innate, and fundamental that it takes meta-skills to know we have meta-skills. We do not even know all the meta skills we need to function, but here are a few popular ones;
- Self-awareness: The ability to identify our own thoughts, feelings, and motivations.
- Focus: The ability to ignore irrelevant information, or the ability to only pay attention to important information.
- Memory: The ability to remember things.
- Language Processing/Communication: The ability to convey our thoughts and emotions to others, and the ability to make sense of the thoughts and emotions coming from others.
- Resilience: The ability to withstand or bounce back from setbacks, and keep behaving in a productive way.
- Courage: The ability to manage or overcome fear to take action.
- Adaptability: The ability to adjust to – or change our behavior to match – changing circumstances.
- Critical thinking: The ability to analyze information and circumstances before making judgments/decisions.
- Creativity: The ability to divide, combine, or go beyond what is normal or available to generate something new.
- Emotional intelligence: The ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
And so on.
It is easy to see how all (or most) of these meta-skills help in developing other skills. For example, it takes resilience, and adaptability for a child to walk upright. It takes critical thinking and creativity to code. And It takes self-awareness, and language processing to lead. Of course, way more than two meta-skills are usually involved in developing any skill (for example, Memory and Focus are at the core of all the skills we mentioned above).
That said, without meta-skills, there can’t be any other skill – just like a house needs a foundation (or, at least, a floor). This also means, if you can walk and speak, you’ve got ALL it takes to learn a new skill.
“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you”– B.B. King
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How Meta skills Help Us Develop Other Skills
I’ve always had a way of sailing through things: When I was much younger, we used to play a lot. Most of the games were on a console, but we also played outside in the sand and field. I remember sitting on the floor watching my elder brother beat bosses or win trophies in SEGA games. And, when it was my turn, he would show me what each of the many buttons did. After which, I was expected to play.
Play, as simple as it sounded, tested my memory (I had to remember the buttons and their combinations), self-awareness (I had to transfer this to my avatar, making it twice as hard), adaptability (as stages change, and difficulty increased), critical thinking (as puzzles emerged), creativity (because I had to outwit the opponent), just to mention a few.
Of course, I lost the first few times I played. But, as time progressed, the button combinations, stages, and behaviors (of both my character and the opponents) became second nature to me and I could play, and win. I had mastered the skill of playing (at least, that game).
Interestingly, being able to play one game, also made it easier to play other games. For a start, I didn’t have to relearn where the buttons were (which is an important skill for playing video games, just as typing is critical for writing). Though, I needed to relearn what the buttons did, the behaviors of the characters, and the structure/nature of each new (game) world.
In other words, when you apply meta skills in any field for long enough, you develop a skill. It could be a hard or soft skill. And, that skill can be transferred to other activities and fields (though you must apply some more meta-skill – like critical thinking, creativity, and adaptation – to help this transference).
- When kids apply the meta-skill of memorizing, language processing, resilience, critical thinking, and more to the alphabet, they learn how to read. After which they can use the skill of reading in conjunction with relevant meta-skills (such as critical thinking) to teach themselves maths, physics, chemistry, and pretty much all school subjects.
- When graphics designers master fonts, colors, proportions, and how to use popular design tools (like CorelDraw), they can easily transfer the skill to designing UX/UI, animation, etcetera.
- When a public speaker masters articulation, storytelling, and body language, they can easily transfer the skill to preaching, presenting, lecturing, etcetera. And
- When a writer masters typing, sentence structuring, and structuring arguments logically they can easily transfer the skill to SEO, Copywriting, Email Marketing, and so on.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”– Aristotle.
How To Develop Your Meta skills
Whilst skills can be developed by simply repeating a familiar set of actions, meta-skills require repeating the behavior that enabled the development of the familiar set of actions. Meta skills are not developed by learning how to play a game, but by playing different games. In simple terms, meta skills require curiosity and practice to develop.
Skills deal with perfecting the familiar, meta-skills deal with embracing the unfamiliar. And, just as repeating a familiar set of actions makes you skilled at something, your meta-skills are boosted when you consistently take on new challenges (that stretch your limits). In video game terms, developing a skill is how you power up your weapons, but meta-skill is how you acquire new weapons.
When I got into the university, I didn’t know how to cook, shake hands, let alone talk to ladies. But, today, I can cook different dishes and have many friends (both male and female). Of course, I didn’t go on to become a chef or the most popular guy in school, but I was able to thrive. I also applied my meta skills in school to learn how to paint, draw, and write. I made (and I’m still making) decent money from all these.
When I got home from vacation, my mom was super worried because I had slimmed down and gotten much darker. She thought I was suffering in school, but I saw it as an adventure. In fact, I didn’t really appreciate how much more stressful school was until I went back home and had nothing challenging to do. No more trying to cook, understand a new course, or talk to a new girl. No more fear and anxiety. No more games. No more play.
And, that is the thing, life is not meant to be comfortable. It was meant to be challenging. Those who always avoid challenges and seek comfort never truly live. Facing challenges force us to discover who we are – they force us to apply our meta skills. And, the joy and benefits of acquiring a new skill or simply overcoming a challenge are oftentimes unmatched.
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun”– Alan Watts.
Ask yourself, “What new challenge can I apply my innate meta skills?”, and “What wonderful future might that unlock?”. Think about it, then start.
If you had always wanted to learn a new skill (say Writing), I dare you to check out our Skills Page and see that you gain a new skill.
Conclusion: Why Are Meta Skills Important?
Meta skills are important because they help you develop the skills necessary to overcome the inevitable challenges in your life. These challenges could be academic, professional, romantic, financial, or something else. And even when there aren’t any challenges needing new skill sets in your life, meta skills will give you the confidence to seek out challenges that might improve the quality of your life if you conquer them.
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”
This is cliche again, but Elon Musk has demonstrated and developed his meta skill by venturing into several radically different fields – such as transportation, neuroscience, social media, space exploration, and most recently, Artificial Intelligence. And it is no surprise he is so rich, well-known, and respected.
“The purpose of life, as far as I can tell, is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant”– Jordan Peterson
So, I encourage you today. Don’t be the kid who is constantly looking for cheat codes and mods to make their game easy. Because, sadly, there is hardly any in life except hard work, patience, and lifelong learning.
If you’re looking to start learning a new skill, then our Skills Page is a good place to start.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)