Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Magical skill and not trait

My series (1, 2, 3, 4) about the "magical" skill, that almost alone decides who will be successful and who will fail is closing to it's conclusion. However I want to emphasize what's written in the title: it is a skill and not a trait. Let me explain:

Traits are qualities that you are. You are tall or short, male or female, belong to a race, nation, religion (or not). While these things can be changed with enormous effort and huge sacrifices they are usually fixed. You mostly born with them and normally you have to live with them.

Skills are things you learn. No one born with knowledge of a language, mathematics, computer sciences and so on. We all learned them. There are skills you don't have (for example I don't speak French and have no clue about marine biology), but you can learn them if you want to.

The "magical skill" that will be described in a few posts this week is a skill. Those who have it are maybe lucky to bump into someone who taught them, but it's not "fate" like "I'm 160 cm high, I'll never be basketball star". It's more like English language. Some people were lucky and born in a family where English is the native language and learned it at early age. I wasn't that lucky, so to communicate with more than only 0.27% of the mankind, I had to learn English later. It took time from other studies and I will always speak with a bad accent. This was something out of my control. However I could learn English well enough to be able to communicate with colleagues, to participate in international conferences and have a blog in this language.

Language is a great example also because parents don't teach their kids to speak. They just speak in their presence and the kid "magically" get this skill. The same way, some people get the "magical" skill by watching others using it, mostly parents. It would take huge effort for you to just travel to a foreign country and learn the language from zero just by interacting the people. However languages have a structured teaching system with textbooks and teachers who follow protocols how to teach a language. They don't just speak whatever they have in mind, they start with sentences that have very simple grammar and poor vocabulary, and move forward to more and more complex grammar with more and more words. That is what the "magical skill" lacks. While you can see people around you who are "magically" successful, learning from them is just as hard as learning Chinese by standing in a supermarket in China. There is no school, no textbook, no teacher who would teach you in a proper manner.

I do not claim that I am more than the "ordinary people", I claim that I know something most don't (because they have not learned it yet).
I do not claim that I invented something new. Millions of people know and use it every day. I claim that I figured out how to break it down into simple basic pieces to form a learning protocol that people can follow.

As Brann said: "Take a moment and relish this with me. Soon... all will be revealed".


Sean said...

I'm going to make a guess what Gevlon believes this "magical skill is". It is related to "playing to win". By "win" I mean to succeed.

A good series on it is by David Sirlin:

nonameform said...

It starts to sound like you're going to sell us some guide.

Gevlon said...

@Azzur: good guess, however "playing to win" sounds obvious, as no one claims to "play to lose". Sirlin (like all the "bone storm and you" writers) stated something obvious. The good question is what the losers play for, why and how can they be fixed?

@Nonamefrom: no, it's perfectly free.

Anonymous said...

Now now, we WILL have to pay something - attention.

Unknown said...

My children didn't "magically" learn to speak.

A large amount of time has been spent with both of them, repeating words to them, correcting pronunciation, correcting sentence construction, encouraging them to make the correct sounds.
Children learn language because they are taught. They start making noises to try and emulate the adults around them, and the adults give positve or negative feedback to the sounds the children make. This is what teaching is.

A better analogy would be a child learning to roll over, crawl, walk. These are things that are a lot harder to actively teach.

Language is a very bad analogy of a "magically" aquired skill. Any parent will tell you that.

thoumyvision said...

@mat You've missed the point, the skill he's talking about isn't "magically" acquired, he's just using that word because to many people it appears that successful people have some "magical" quality about them that makes them better at whatever they do.

@Gevlon Your English has gotten a lot better over the last couple months by the way.

Anonymous said...

Religion is no trait. Changing religion is as easy as snapping your fingers. It's a simple decision.

Playing to win is great. I quote it all the time.

Gevlon said...

Playing to win is great AND useless.

"the scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations “cheap.” " ... "Why? Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion is ridiculous from the start."

By giving up on trying to explain why the scrub does his nonsense, he gave up on changing any into non-scrubs. Since the non-scrubs are already non-scrubs, Playing to Win has no other target audience than "non-scrubs loving to hear that they are great".

He confesses it openly: "The sad irony is that those who do not already understand the implications I will spell out will probably not believe them to be true at all. In fact, if I were to send this book back in time to my earlier self, even I would have trouble with it. "

Claiming that the losers don't play to win, or that they play (live) wrong does not make you a prophet. It makes you Captain Obvious.

Inquisitor said...

"However I could learn English good enough to be able to communicate with colleagues, to participate in international conferences and have a blog on this language."

learn English *well* enough

blog *in* this language.

(One of the things you're getting out of this blog is feedback on your English, right? Question is, am I a fool for spending the time to provide it when someone else likely would anyway? Quick game of Iterated Prisoners' Dilemma, anyone?)

Gevlon said...

@Inquisitor: the question is originally "does the less mistakes on the internet (therefore the better English in general) worth my time or not".

If yes, you should correct them, if not, not.

Xaxziminrax II said...

I look forward to this continuing series.

Dogmeat said...

I think the 'magical skill' is discipline. Having the discipline to do what needs to be done every time. It doesn't matter what you're talking about, sports, your career, raiding. The really successful people aren't the ones who try sometimes but do a half-arsed job when they can't be bothered. They're the ones who are disciplined enough to do things the right way every time they do it.

El said...


May I say you write better English that 90% of the people born to the language, and I include myself in that as I often think in computer programming :)


Gevlon said...

@Dogmeat: and how does one without discipline get one?

Maladroite said...

Gevlon's language analogy is quite correct. Your opinion on how children learn to speak is too Western culture-oriented. Just because most western nations teach their children to speak by mostly one-on-one conversations, simplifying grammar and vocabulary, correcting errors etc. etc, that doesn't mean that it's the universal way of teaching children their first language. Far from it.

In my linguist studies we read about many different methods used by different cultures to teach their children their first language. The only thing they had in common was that all the children, no matter where they grew up, ended up being competent in their native language.

This is because children have an innate ability to learn languages. This ability fades away with age, although not as much for everyone (which is why some adults have an easier time learning languages than others).

Perhaps the "magial skill" that some people have that makes them successful is innate, like language learning is for children. Some people simply are born with success in their blood. However, just like adults can learn a new language, unsuccessful people can learn the "magical skill" and become successful. It will simply take them longer and they need guidance, while naturally born successful people had a good headstart.

Sjonnar said...

'and how does one without discipline get one?'
Have it beaten into you by the drill Sergeant? :P

Your english has improved measurably since you first started the blog. You still use 'shall' instead of 'should' a lot, though.

I'll take a stab at the 'magical' skill: the ability to accurately self-analyze. That is, to look at what you're doing and determine honestly whether it's good or bad.

TheGrumpyElf said...

I am really looking forward to reading this one when you add more to it.

The funny part is, if this is going where I think it is, I was talking to someone about it the other day after a few really stupid wipes where we should have never wiped.

Vegard said...

I'm surprised you take a few stabs at Sirlin's series about playing to win. The way he differentiate between someone playing to win and someone who doesnt is by and large the same way you differentiate M&S and non-M&S.

Anonymous said...

Gevlon, if you look at the end bullets in your second post about the magical skill, it seems like you are being contradictory. You said:

"'Magical people' have no idea what they have. They have it and feel it natural. They can't describe it more than you could describe how do you see, and their attempts to teach people to be like them fail the same way as you'd fail if you'd try to "teach" a blind man to see. Curing blindness can only come from fully understanding how an eye works and fixing the bad eye of the blind."

So there's two options here.
1. You yourself possess this "magical skill" and are therefore a special snowflake in that you know what constitutes it and are going to explain it to us, despite saying that those with the skill cannot explain it.
2. You do not possess the "magical skill" but have a deep enough understanding of it to explain it to us. However, since you say it's a skill that can be learned that would imply that you have learned it and belong in category 1.

As to what the magical skill is, I doubt that it can be explained in a simple sentence or phrase, so I won't take a guess here.

Bristal said...

If it's fear of the drill sergeant that drives you to succeed, is it "self" discipline you are learning?

chewy said...

You're creating tension Gevlon, like the pregnant pause before the winner is announced on one of those game shows.

But I'll give it a shot; "Adaptability to change" that has to be the answer ?

(and your English is excellent, odd grammatical error here and there but very good nevertheless)

Anonymous said...


You said: "...I'll take a stab at the 'magical' skill: the ability to accurately self-analyze. That is, to look at what you're doing and determine honestly whether it's good or bad..."

I think quite a few people can do this. Very few can actually act on it however.

Dogmeat said...

Some people are naturally disciplined, but it also something that can be learned. I suppose it's also about willpower. If you don't have the willpower to make yourself disciplined then you will never learn it. So yea you're right Gevlon, discipline should be described as a 'product' skill.

Duskstorm said...

I'm going to take two stab at the "magical skill."

Stab #1: Slow it down. Like Neo Does.

It's game speed. Meaning, how "fast" you perceive the pace of the raid encounter. Skill in raiding is an acquired ability to perceive every meaningful aspect of the encounter at an increasingly manageable pace.

One of the first benefits of this is to be able to manage your rotation optimally whilst also managing to avoid mechanics that kill you (e.g. "the fire"). That's being reactive.

Later it becomes being able to plan your activity around events that you know are coming. That's being proactive.

Stab #2: Find What's Broken And Fix It... Rinse, Lather, Repeat

In the raids I lead (which have been moderately successful), we have a mantra we repeat.. wipe, analyze, correct. The same applies to individual play.

Understand what needs to improve, and then how to improve it. If your DPS is way lower than another player with the same gear, you have to figure out why. Then you have to correct it.

The cycle of understanding what's wrong and correcting it never really ends.

Anonymous said...

Sirlin contradicts himself,
first he says people who call things "cheap" are losers than he bitches about akuma beeing op and people who take him are cheap...