Skills Vs. Talents

Skills Are Acquired, Talents Are Accessed

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“What Do You Do?”

“What you do” is not necessarily what you do for a living or what you’re employed to do. Too often your “job” employs only hard skills. These are skills you’ve been taught to achieve a specific and measurable outcome.

Hard skills are things we’ve been instructed to use to make widgets, or sales, or repairs or to turn around and instruct others to use. During the industrial economy, acquiring hard skills were required to enter the job market and make a decent living. But with the advent of the digital revolution, the information age, AI, and what Seth Godin calls “the connection economy,” hard skills are becoming increasingly obsolete. Now we need to employ soft skills, or “talents.”

Where hard skills involved physical labor and mental “smarts,” soft skills employ emotional labor and wisdom. The ability to see, hear, and engage with others with empathy and compassion are at the heart of what talents are for. Talents are less transactional and more tribal. They require thoughtfulness, understanding, and courage.

You began acquiring hard skills in school, but you’ve been accessing talents since birth. Talent development involves wrestling with interesting problems and finding solutions by employing curiosity and creativity. For instance, before you could even string together a few coherent sentences, you were developing empathy and compassion.

Back to Basics

Your early years with parents, siblings, and friends helped you develop the ability to communicate, trust, collaborate and lead. This learning employed basic human instincts and intuition. Learning to walk and talk required yearning, testing, experimenting, failing, reflecting, iterating, assessing, and repeating this process over and over. This is how to refine talents.

All soft skills are human skills, talents you’ve been developing since birth and need to begin employing and improving now. Tapping into your creative capacity is not about learning more or new hard skill, it’s about developing and delivering with the talents you already have.

About the Writer

Scott Perry is the author of The Stoic Creative Handbook. Now available on Amazon or, read the free chapters at

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