What’s Your Hidden Skill?

Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-hour-rule” may not be state of the art anymore, but there is still some truth to it — the more you do something, the better you’ll be at it.

When I was 13, a friend of mine called me and told me: “dude, you gotta come over, I’ve got this crazy new card game, let’s play!” I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, but hey — why not.

This card game turned out to be “Magic: the Gathering”, and from day 1, I was hooked. From there, I proceeded to spend the vast majority of my free time (and money) on Magic cards, Magic tournaments and reading Magic articles.

I got better very soon, since I invested so much time and always played to win. Two years after I started playing, I had a breakthrough moment, when I won a tournament of 80+ people. It even got so far that at age 16, I finished top 32 in the German national championships.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Reading about the achievements of a teenage trading card game player isn’t something I’d spend my time on either.

No, I want to talk about “hidden skills”.

I’ve always had a knack for writing and decision making. I simply thought I was talented — some things are easier for some people than others.

But the more I thought about it, both are skilled that I practiced every day in my youth, without noticing it.

Playing Magic: the Gathering is the pinnacle of the art of decision making. You constantly have to weigh your odds, you have a million options and you have only a slight idea of what your opponent may or may not have in your hand. And since games are timed, you have to act quickly. If you do this for four years straight for every day, eventually you’ll have a skill, no matter how non-talented you may be.

The same goes for writing: my first job in high school wasn’t to be a waiter, distributing newspaper or anything like that. I made my first money as a writer for a Magic online portal (which is dead by now, so well, it wasn’t the most popular one — but hey, I made money).

At the same time, I was a moderator in a German Magic forum, and had roughly 5,200 posts over four years.

That, my friends, is a shit ton of practice. And maybe explains why I feel comfortable writing. That’s not to say there isn’t any room for improvement — when I read here on Medium, I’m nowhere close to some of those guys and girls that I read. But you gotta start somewhere.

It took me some time to realize that I had spent so much time in my youth honing those particular skills. That’s what I want to ask you, dear reader, too.

What’s your hidden skill?

Did you do anything excessively in your youth that you can now leverage in your life?

Think about it — as children, we can get very passionate about one thing, and then later brush it off as “child’s play”. That’s not what it is. It’s preparation for the life ahead of you.

So go ahead, bring out those memories and see if you can find something. And if you do — use it. Make the most out of your assets.

Oh, and why did I quit? I eventually realized that there are also girls on this planet (something that you tend to forget when you play Magic). I had found my next challenge.

Entrepreneur | Athlete | Writer. Reflecting on life’s challenges and figuring out ways to overcome them.

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