I’ve decided it was time to make a post that stepped outside of the Leadership category… at least a little bit.

San Clemente, CA
ProGear Open 2010 x Nakama Brand x Pete Ulatan Photography

The Marines are always training and academics are always learning, be it the Commandant of the Marine Corps or a tenured Professor with a doctorate.  In my experiences being exposed to both, I have come to the unfortunate realization that – skills are perishable.  Just about all skills are perishable, and if not used more often than not they get “rusty”.  That is where the much abhorred term many of my past Marine Corps Martial Arts Program [MCMAP] students hate hearing becomes necessary: sustainment. Nobody likes sustaining because, “We know this already”.  However, sustainment is a PROactive habit to ensure you retain the ability to use the excuse “We know this already”.  A lack of sustainment turns, “We know this already” into, “Wait, how does that go again?”

We maintain certain diets, we put money into savings and budget for monthly expenses (well, we at least try to right?), and we make or have repairs made around the house.  We do all of these things to sustain what we need to live, and hopefully live happily.  So, why does the idea of sustainment, when referring to the skills we’ve learned over the course of our life seem so daunting?  It shouldn’t be, and I hope to help anyone reading by making sustaining a little more endurable, and possibly invigorating.

Set Goals.  I know, goal setting is supposed to be for achieving new levels, new concepts, new accomplishments, right?  Well, if we have not been doing well at sustaining the skills we have already learned at some point why not set a goal to increase the size of our buckets?  You know, THE bucket.  The one we cram with information right before an exam or performance test, filling it to the brim and then spilling contents out to the point that we forget our mother’s birthday… Sorry Mom.  Well, there we go, while it may be hard to specifically measure, we can use SMART goals to increase our skill retention, or the volume of our proverbial buckets.  SMART goals, as a reminder or for those who have not heard of them, are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Sensitive.

Here is a SMART goal for retention:  I am going to read one book that I have already read before each month.  It is specific, it can be measured (1 book per month), one book is realistic to start with, and a month is easily measured, and you can set reminders in your task organizer or Google Calendar (I’m a huge fan of Google Calendar and my Android Phone).  Now your SMART goal can be even more specific if you know there is an area you once were competent in and now are just unhappy with.

Hold Yourself Accountable.  If you find yourself saying, “I used to have this down pact, and now, I’m just getting too old for this” then you just excused yourself from being accountable.  A more appropriate, or productive response would be, “Wow, I haven’t done anything to keep myself prepared for this, I need to ensure this doesn’t happen again”.  Harboring the power that our peers have on us can be good or bad.   Try doing something as simple as making a Facebook post about something you want to make sure you do.  It is a great way of adding a control to help hold you accountable.  How many times have you held yourself to your word and did something you didn’t really feel like doing because you had already told a friend you would? We were all taught how horrible peer pressure is in school.  Well, now we can also use it for good!

With that, I say, use SMART goals to increase our SMARTS!  That last “S” now stands for “Sustain Results”!

One thought on “Skills Are Perishable

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