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The Life Skills GPA

November 2, 2011

“You should know this. Its a life skill

Life skill as defined by Wikipedia: “Life skills are problem solving behaviors used appropriately and responsibly in the management of personal affairs.”

Life skill as defined by UNICEF (so this is what the UN is good for!) : “psychosocial and interpersonal skills generally considered important.”

As defined by my father: “College”

As defined by my mother: “We only have one family car, and you almost crashed it into the median killing half the family and the one car. Gen-driving is an important life skill. Did I mention I am shaking?”

The word is thrown around a lot.  My mom recently proclaimed that not putting bacon grease down the sink was an important life skill that I needed to know. At age 5 an important life skill was learning that nose picking “if you must” is a private activity.  At age 12, it was learning to talk to adults. Around the dinner table, it seems like college is the final opportunity to learn these precious skills. Post grad is the life skill graveyard- if you don’t have them you will probably die alone in financial ruin hoping the lottery will solve your problems.

Everyone knows life skills are important- but how are we supposed to distinguish which ones are important and which ones aren’t?

Life Skill Rankings and Personal Achievement Record


Based on my experience and interaction with the  post grad world, mastering the art of conversation and networking is going to get you farther than staying holed up on a Friday night for the sake of an A over an A-.  Im not undermining the importance of grades, because in order to be a good conversationalist you have to be conversational on a wide range of topics and interests. Math isn’t my thing, but I feel pretty confident in saying that there is a bell curve correlation (kind of like flat taxes) between good grades and good conversationalists. At any rate, listening, conversing, and most importantly paying attention to detail opens doors to opportunity, causes you to consider different perspectives, and generally makes a person more well rounded.  I definitely get points for practicing, but there are a few things I need to work on.

1. My habit of not getting to know new people. I have this friend (no. it really isn’t me….no I am not talking about my sister either) that is always talking to new people or catching up with old friends. Known for spending hours at a time hanging out with different people at The Outpost late night on the weekend, he even knows the Davidson custodial staff. The kid has it down to an art. Anyway, this isn’t me- if I don’t see anyone I know at the party- I leave the party. This is a work in progress.

2. multitasking conversationalists. Beware the multitasking conversationalists on the other end of the phone or buried in their computer- they don’t hear what you are saying! Don’t be this person! (ahem, father). People are on to your antics. Your psychiatric like questions, “How did you respond to that” keep the other person talking but it does not make you an active participant in the conversation. I used to think that I was good at this. Fact: No one is good at this, get off your gadgets if the conversation is important to you.

3. Remembering names. Maybe its because I grew up around people with odd names (I am not trying to throw urban liberals under the bus….but you have some wacky names for your kids), but lately I have been having a seriously difficult time remembering all the Johns, Hannahs, and Saras around here. I have been told the trick is coming up with a characteristic to go with their name.

4. Understanding what people want to talk to you about. Listen, if you are going to put in the effort to talk to someone, talk about something that matters to them. Don’t talk to a sports fanatic about how Kim Kardashian is getting a divorce or how you think there is a distinct possibility George Clooney might be gay….pick your audience or else you are going to sound like a ditz or one of those arrogant adults on South Park that appreciate the smell of their own flatulence (I think they are prius owners) .

Overall Achievement Record: B+

The Macgyver Skill

The art of thinking on the fly and adjusting to your current situation. Its making connections, and making the unconventional fit into the conventional. What happens when you don’t have train fare and you are stranded in a city where you know no one? Don’t look at me, figure that snafu out yourself, by the looks of it you have a train to catch.

Overall Achievement Record (All I do is Macgyver…I Macgyver all day long because my plans almost rarely go as planned)  A

The Fake It Until You Make It Skill

Pretend you know what you are doing always. Otherwise called confidence. It is one of the most important life skills I learned from my freshman roommate, Alexa Stanley, (this is apart from how beyond inconsiderate it is to sexile your roommate when they are sick and feverish. I am still apologizing for that one).  Freshman dalliances aside, sometimes faking you know something and applying the macgyver skill appropriately actually helps you to learn additional life skills on the fly.  This can potentially boost your confidence in your overall ability to accomplish a goal. I am not going to be kitchy and quote Eleanor Roosevelt “Do something you are afraid of everyday“….but not doing something because you are afraid that you are unprepared or that you might fail is the ultimate failure. Not ready to give that presentation…well you probably should have worked harder on that the night before instead of your conversation skills….but you better slap a confident smile and answer any question you don’t know with a generalized answer ending in a question. This leaves the audience feeling like you answered a question that you weren’t prepared to answer. At least, thats what Barack Obama does, and I think that worked better than the race card.

Overall Achievement: A-  (How else do you make it onto the Model UN International team in high school?)

You will notice that I didn’t really include the classic life skills like driving, cooking, and pouring bacon grease down the sink.

Don’t get me wrong, these are important. You are going to look like a social idiot if you don’t know how to wipe down a counter top or whip up something for a bakesale with premade dough (believe me, I have seen both of those errors)…but let’s be real. if you are a great conversationalist that can think on the fly and is confident in their own abilities…some of these skills are really secondary.  And driving? Look, if you are like me and you have your license but you could only be trusted to drive under dire circumstances….well then look at it as an excuse to always live in a city or as an amazing opportunity to be a damn good transportation finding macgyver. And cooking? Let’s just say- if you are really good at the aforementioned important things, with a little bit of luck and elbow grease you can go ahead and hire yourself a chef…or get those weekly dinner packages. But let’s be honest…if you are always faking it until you make it…you are definitely going to try your hand at cooking one of these days.


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