Gold Star Moments

I have a very particular skill set.

Can I knit? Yes.

Can I crochet? No.

Can I cook? Yes.

Can I grill? Nope.

Can I walk, run, cycle, snowshoe, do aerobics, and fake karate chop an invisible enemy? Yes and yes!

Can I ski, skateboard, rollerblade, swim, play any team sport known to man, or real karate chop an actual enemy? God save me if I even have to try!

I can even make *homemade dog biscuits*. Don't think I can't see you quaking in your boots!

Re: cooking– I can even make *homemade dog biscuits*. Don’t think I can’t see you quaking in your boots! (Just don’t ask me to grill anything.)

The good news is that– while particular and totally random– my skill set isn’t static. Thank Baby Jesus. I haven’t always known how to knit, for example, and I’m sure one of these days I’ll finally become a Crochet Wizard… just like I’ve always dreamed! (I have taken three Learn to Crochet courses so far but have yet to carry my mad, granny square-making skillz outside of the watchful/patient eye of my instructors. Keyword: yet.)

Anyway. I was thinking about what I’m really good at today, and I guess you can say that all of my non-skills at the moment are really just a matter of choice. After all, technically, I can learn how to do just about anything. Not only that, but I freaking LOVE learning and will hunker down and absorb knowledge just for the sake of it. Hooray for learning! Huzzah to knowing things!

Do you want to be a kayaking pro like me? Let's make it happen!

Do you want to be a kayaking pro like me (or at least look like one in photos… like me)? Let’s make it happen!

Case in point: Back in my Office Job days, I was promoted to Accounting Associate without any working knowledge of spreadsheets, debits, credits, auditing, or essentially anything to do with numbers and finances besides counting. (Even crazier than the promotion itself was the fact that I took the job. I might as well have agreed to become the star ballerina in Swan Lake or a heart surgeon off the street. “Yeah, that sounds interesting. I’ll do it!”)

What's that? You want to promote me to orange toga-wearing Spartan? Sure, sounds interesting! I'll do it!

What’s that? You want to promote me to orange toga-wearing gladiator? Sure, sounds interesting! I’ll do it!

I had to be briefed before my “interview” so that I could answer questions about accrual accounting with something more convincing than giant question marks in my eyes. (And by “something more convincing”, you know I mean saying, “Wow, that’s a great question… [extended silence]… Yep. A really thought-provoking question!… [painful, awkward silence]… Accrual accounting, hey?” THE END.) I felt like I was in a bizarre dream for the interview itself– showing up for a big exam without having studied or remembering to wear clothes– and I’m sure the other person on the interview panel was thinking, “Nice try, Dana” the whole time. Anyway. My boss clearly saw something “accountant-y” in me that was all but invisible to my self-reflective eyes at the time. And suddenly, I was Accounting Associate and fielding phone calls about receivables, invoices, and– worst of all– quarterly payouts to charitable organizations. Eep!

Save for a traumatizing stint as a lingerie department cashier/clerk, I had nothing even tangentially related to accounting on my resumé, and boy, did I know it! So, to avoid outright humiliation and to at least minimize my frequent “deer in headlights” looks at staff meetings, I enrolled in a basic Excel class. This class covered the lowest common denominators of spreadsheet making– the auto sum formula, data sorting, cell formatting, etc.– but all of it was 100% new to me and I really, really needed wanted to impress my boss. (Call me crazy, but I didn’t want to give her any proof that she had made a GIGANTIC MISTAKE by promoting me.) Heh. Long story short: within 3 weeks, I went from having zero accounting skillz to making bar graphs, spreadsheets, and pie charts for fun. (Not joking.) And if I can go from “what means deductions?” to a Spreadsheet Ninja in less than a month, imagine what else I’m capable of! And just think of the skills we can all master, much to our own amazement and horror delight!

OK. I’ve shared my Gold Star Moment with MS Excel. Here’s what I wonder: what skills have you learned or picked up recently? How have you surprised and delighted yourself? I’m a sucker for stuff like this, so please don’t be shy. 🙂   

I made you a pie chart. Because I love you.

I made you a pie chart. Because I love you.

32 responses

  1. I fear being a Ninja of nothing. But, gosh, you are impressive with all of your accountant acumen–all of it obtained on the fly. I’m working on my Spanish. Gotta do that. I just say shit, whether it’s grammatically correct or not, and mostly I’m understood.

    Hope you and Marty had a great weekend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • You are already a Ninja ornament maker, a Ninja expat, a Ninja writer, and a Ninja artist overall, Kathy. Imagine when you can add Spanish-speaking Ninja to that already impressive resume! 🙂

      I am checking out the Ecuador flight scene today. I would LOVE to make a trip down there happen in the next month or so!

  2. I took a job last summer because everybody – that felt bad that I didn’t get the job I really wanted and would have been perfect for – told me it would be a piece of cake, I’d be able to do it along with whatever other jobs I was holding, and it paid well. I have been struggling ever since with feelings of severe incompetence (which I generally avoid by not attempting anything too far out of my comfort zone), imposter complex, anxiety at being found out, anger at those who told me this would be easy and frustration at all the things I have to learn…while doing all of my other jobs! I know just how you felt, Dana! I wish there was a class to get me up to speed! Thanks!

    • Wow, Cindy. I feel your pain! Maybe your friends see something (wonderful and competent!) in you that you haven’t quite noticed in yourself yet. The learning curve is always difficult to get over, but in the meantime, you can take comfort in knowing that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has imposter syndrome at some point, and usually at many points. I’m sure there is a valuable lesson in this situation for you– either a pot of gold skillz waiting for you at the end of this rainbow, or maybe the gilded knowledge that you never want to do anything like your current job ever again… Good luck!

  3. When I took my current job as Data Analyst, I knew nothing about manufacturing and VERY little about Excel… So I did what all good little nerds with Creative Writing degrees do – I went to the library and got a book on Excel! Fast forward six years and I can programmatically create sub routines and write custom functions as well as find my way around SharePoint Designer for intranet data reporting. And when people ask me what my technical background is after they’re astonished by my crazy-mad skills, I grin fiendishly and say, “None.”

    • Wowza– you’ve got me cowering in fear with your supreme Excel skillz! I’m a master of Excel Lite, but your learning prowess takes the ultimate cake!

      That’s the best thing, though– if you know how to learn (and you enjoy it), nothing is impossible. Go, Data Analysis! 🙂

    • Although, if we’re looking at recent skills acquisition, I’d go with Zen Doodles or acrylic paint & Mod Podge collaging. Well, the SharePoint stuff, I’m also hip-deep in learning more of that craziness, too. YouTube videos are great – I learned how to roll California sushi that way, plus how to spin yarn from roving (after I made my own top whorl drop spindle with two old CDs and a few other cheap things from Home Depot). Yeah, you and I are simpatico.

      • Oh, YouTube. That’s my latest foray into skillz building. Time lapse videos? OH YES! We made the first one back in December (maybe you saw on Marty’s art FB page?) and I am currently on attempt #3 at the second vid. (Timing looks fine until I upload to YouTube, at which point all the sync gets out of whack. Even Google can’t seem to figure out why. STILL TRYING, THOUGH.)

        I think we could be besties for sure. Super nerds unite! 🙂

  4. Coming to validate your existence by leaving a comment, ha ha ha ha ha! New skills? You’ve got me stumped. I know how to shovel snow. Stoke fires. Write blogs. Do accounting (and even like it), go figure. Could possibly come up with some more skills but it’s getting darn cold and must go stoke wood stove again. And again, and again. Until May.

    • You know what, Kathy? Making and stoking a fire in a wood stove are impressive skillz, period. When we lived at the cabin for 5 months back in the day, I tried a number of times to get the fire burning in the morning and all I got was ash and smoke. Marty is the reason why we didn’t freeze into icicles that winter. So there you go– you win at fire making!

  5. Good for you tooting your own horn like that! I love the way you convey your excitement in learning new things. In fact you might consider yourself an expert “student” in that regard. Me, I’m pretty good at validation – when I know that’s what’s expected. 🙂

    • Yay! You’re an expert at deciphering not-so-subtle pie chart cues! GOLD STAR FOR YOU! 😉

      Have you ever taken the Strengthsfinder test, Lisa? My Top 5 Strengths, in order, are:
      1. Achiever
      2. Learner
      3. Intellection (meaning I’m top notch at analyzing and over-analyzing everything)
      4. Input (meaning I’m super at getting everyone else’s opinion on things and then proceeding to over-analyze everything)
      5. Empathy (thank goodness– my non-academic saving grace!)

  6. Oh man this is awesome. I need to take that excel course because I suck sooooo bad at excel. I’ve also met at least four seemingly normal people who love excel and make spreadsheets ‘for fun’.
    Things I’ve learned – well the last couple days at work I learned how to detail concrete stairs?
    I can also make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich. There are lots of secret tricks.

    • Woo! The concrete stair detailing sounds like a wonderful party trick, and IF I ONLY ATE CHEESE, I’d be all over your secret recipe. (Do you think it would work with something like Daiya “cheese”, or would that defeat the whole purpose? I can’t even remember the last time I had a grilled cheese sandwich now… at least five years ago?)

      I’m in a special class of Excel wizards: I know just enough to impress a novice, but I don’t know nearly enough to impress anybody else. (But pie charts! I just KNOW Marty loves it when I whip up a chart or bar graph to represent how many times we used our national park pass in 2013 vs 2012. He’s a “visual person” after all…)

  7. What a wonderfully diverse and eclectic set of skills you have! I believe you neglected to mention that you’re a terrific photographer as well — I always enjoy the photos you weave into your posts 🙂

    • Thanks, Laurie! I appreciate the compliment. 🙂 It’s actually been through blogging that I’ve come to be a better photographer. I’m glad you enjoy the random pics I scatter amongst my words!

  8. I am good at wide open-mouth laughing at my computer screen while reading blog-nerdery. (My coworkers love me for it too, I’m sure of it.)

    I’m also good at 3 week long New Years Resolutions, filling online shopping carts and abandoning them, and fawning over photos of beautiful recipes and doggies and Ben Barnes instead of actually doing work.

    Like right now. Hmmmm I should get some work done. 🙂 tee hee…..

    What is Marty’s Facebook page address? I would love to see his work.

    • Mary! I think I saw you for a brief flash of a second yesterday. Do you ride your bike to work? (I was on a bus– randomly– and think I saw you coming out of the office all bundled up in cycling clothes.) And then this comment– synchronicity!

      I hope you guys are doing well these days. Do you still have a student with you?

  9. I love this post. (Yes…I got distracted from the kraut again. At least I found the recipe. I might one day even get around to making it.)

    New skills? I had to think hard to come up with an answer, but I have one!
    I’ve recently become a scheduling genius organizing the mornings of dozens of grad students, hundreds of preschoolers, and various school administrators including interpreters. Defintely not something I ever thought I would be doing, but I enjoy it.

    • Oooh, scheduling! I still have a lot to learn in the scheduling department, mainly because I either overestimate or completely underestimate the time that I should allot to each task…

  10. lol! I LOVE your pie chart. I can’t think of anything new I’ve learned lately. In fact, I seem to be losing skillz rather than acquiring them. I’ve almost forgotten how to knit, something I was just learning how to do when this move happened. Crochet? I used to know how to do that, but can’t remember the last time I used a crochet hook. (It should be noted that I found my crochet hooks during the move, and promptly lost them again. They’re in a box somewhere.) Lest I sound sad and pitiful, I am going to immerse myself in the gardening experience should spring ever arrive. Oh, and I have been learning about this area so maybe there IS balance in my life. Lose a skill, gain some knowledge. Or something like that. 🙂

    • I think you are cultivating the priceless skill of presence, Robin. Reading your posts and seeing how thoroughly you immerse yourself in your surroundings feels so grounding! You also employ the skill of curiosity every day and can boast of not-so-shabby photography skillz, too. That’s just a quick list of the top of my head. “Losing skillz”, pfft!

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