Futurist Kevin Kelly Reveals the Superskill of the Future

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

We all want to thrive in life—to be healthy, happy contributing members of our communities. 

Yet, we live in a time of exponential change. We hardly know what skills we’re going to need next week, let alone in five, ten, or twenty years!

So we have to zoom out. When we understand the overall patterns of change we can more clearly pinpoint what we, or our kids, will need to thrive. Wired Magazine founder and futurist, Kevin Kelly, detailed these patterns of change in his recent book, The Inevitable.

One of the clearest points he made is that in this new world, we are always in a state of “becoming.” We live in the age of the present participle—words ending in -ing that mean the action is in process. Everything is in a flowing, changing state. This flux turns us into continuous learners. 

Kelly points out that we are all “newbies” all the time. How true that is. How many times just in the past week have your apps updated, resulting in a new feature or interface?  

After reading The Inevitable twice and recommending it to everyone I know, I set up a call to talk with Kevin Kelly about his thoughts on learning. He shared with me what he thinks is the superskill of the present and the future: learning how to learn or optimizing our own learning

Do you know how you learn best?
How about when it’s something hard and frustrating? 

To start learning about your own learning, observe yourself in the learning process. You can do this as a scientist, recording your insights in a notebook, or you can do it casually to get a general sense. Look first for meaning and purpose

When you are in the midst of the learning experience, notice what makes it meaningful to you. When the meaning is in place, is the learning process more enjoyable? Do you have more drive to stick with it? 

Then, notice what makes you feel frustrated. Did you lose your sense of purpose about the task? Did the meaningful element disappear? If so, in what ways might you reclaim that connection?

I wrote a piece here about my experience trying to learn how to belly dance. It was hard for me, having rarely taken a dance class. But once the instructor started using metaphor to explain the movements (“make a little rainbow with your hips”), I clicked with it. I felt like I could make progress (another key point). 

I love words, I love metaphor, I love poetic language. I also love making connections across disciplines. It was exciting to think of word pictures in relation to dance moves. When the instructor used metaphor, I was able to connect something I love and understand (words) to help me do something that was awkward and irritating (tiny, isolated body movements). 

By using metaphor, the instructor made learning meaningful to me. Yet, I didn’t re-enroll after the series because there was something missing for me: purpose in taking the class. No one was making me take it, and I was busy. However, if there had been a greater purpose behind it I likely would have persisted.

We have to find our source of meaning and define our purpose as the first step to optimizing our learning. These deep motivators support our drive to continue when the going gets tough, as it always does when we are growing in a skill or craft. Whether we have to memorize volumes of information for an exam or we are trying to move from novice to amateur in tennis, it won’t happen without a lot of hard work driven by internal motivation.

One way to begin to find meaning and purpose is to connect with creative strengths. We all have our own constellation of creative strengths. For example, if humor is one of your top creative strengths, jokes or relationships or activities that involve humor are probably meaningful to you. When you know your creative strengths, you have a basis from which to begin connecting to meaning. I’ve created a Creative Strengths Spotter workbook to help you find your own, or your kids’, creative strengths. You can get the Sparkitivity Creative Strengths Spotter for free here

We often try to just buck up and get our work done. This can work in the short term for some tasks, but it doesn’t sustain our long-term effectiveness. We expect the same of our kids: “Do your homework so you can get good grades so you can get into a good college so you can get a good job.” While this statement might be meaningful to adults, it says nothing about an individual child’s motivations. Kids who are just going through the motions to stay on the predetermined pathway are not being driven by meaning and purpose. We have to help them not only find their motivations, but make deep and lasting connections to what they are learning by tapping into their creative thinking. When they learn to do this, they are well on their way to developing their own future superskill. We can do it for ourselves and lead by example.

In what ways do you learn best? 

Read more here about how to harness student creative thinking in science to optimize learning.

Want the quick-start guide to the science of creativity to help support your best work? Get Creativity for Everybody here. 

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