Underestimate Your Skill

You won’t be disappointed.

I don’t drive as much as I used to. I miss driving and then I don’t, but since the lockdown started in March, I have been working from home. Even so, I still have to take my vehicles in for service, and when I do, I drive the freeways. And there is one part of the journey that has a long offramp with sharp turns. On that offramp, there are skid marks on the road and on the concrete center divider. When I look at the skid marks, I see the mark of someone who overestimated their skill.

I have been underestimating my skill my whole life and I feel like that perspective, that attitude has served me well. As a teenage driver, I tended to underestimate my skills for obvious reasons. I’m blind in one eye, but I have eyesight that is good enough for driving. I was a young driver and I had already seen enough bloody “don’t drive drunk” films at school to reserve my style of driving.

This isn’t to say that I’m an angel when I drive. I just figure that if space permits it on the open road, I’ll do 80 or 90 on a long haul to California. On some stretches of highway in Utah, the speed limit is 80. But even then, I’m very careful with the steering wheel. I’m very careful with the other drivers. I always assume that they can’t see me and that they don’t know that I’m here. I underestimate my skill.

I do the same thing with people. I underestimate my skills with people to make it easier for me to avoid drama. I’m not perfect at this, but I have found that when I underestimate my skills with people, I tend to fare better. I tend to find peace.

I’m already at a disadvantage with hearing impairment, so I can’t do a fast verbal exchange. It takes time for me to process what I’m hearing and then to respond. This is one reason I prefer writing. I prefer writing because I can “hear” the other person perfectly. I can take my time in responding to them, too. But in a verbal joust, I am much slower. I take my time to respond. I am cautious with my responses.

If tensions rise, I am cautious about what I say to avoid ultimatums and other threats. I don’t know what the other person might be willing to say to prove their power or that their right. I don’t say things I don’t mean. I try to make my words come clean. I don’t know if I can keep up, and if I don't hear them, I ask them to repeat themselves. I consistently underestimate my skill in verbal interactions to avoid destroying relationships with loved ones, friends, and customers. I am constantly considering the impact of my words and the desired results. I’m really interested in the results.

At work, I’m the same way. My work is customer service. I work on problems that sometimes take weeks to solve. I hang onto a service request until I know for sure that the problem is solved and that the customer is satisfied that the service request can be closed. I guess I might have a hard time letting go, but I think of the skid marks.

When I’m online, I underestimate my skill there, too. I tend to civility rather than extremes. I try to keep it positive and optimistic. I try to just plant seeds rather than overwhelm the other person in a debate. This is the thing about facts: you can’t unlearn them. You can find contradictory information, sure, but once you read something, you learn it. Facts are really hard to shake. So I stick to the facts and avoid making character assessments about the other person. I avoid the ad hominem. I always assume that I could do better, so I just do the best that I can and hope that the seed I planted has some influence later on.

One area that I really underestimate my skills in is physical contact with other people. I am careful with other people. I understand how fragile life is because I see that every day when I look in the mirror. I see myself after 55 years of life. I have scars, I have an eye with a missing lens, I have a bridge, a few crowns, I’m losing my hair. I have a few moles, bumps, and cherry angiomas here and there. So when I’m with other people, I’m mindful that life is short and fragile because I m fragile.

The fragility of life is why I underestimate my skill. There is abundant evidence that humans are not very good at anticipating the consequences of their actions. Our world is polluted and warming up. Humanity seems to be in a constant state of conflict. We have a pandemic in progress and we're still trying to figure out what to do with that. And many of us still think that it’s appropriate to force our solutions upon other people. We still engage in war. Humanity has had a difficult time estimating its skills and it shows.

So when I’m on the road, I underestimate my skills. When I’m with the people I love, I underestimate my skills. When I’m working with a hot customer, I underestimate my skills. And when I think of what to do in this world, I underestimate my skills. This isn’t to say that I won’t take on a challenge, but I’d prefer to have a greater awareness of my capacity to get the job done. I underestimate my skills so that I tend to err on the side of peace. Because at the end of the day, that’s what I really want. Peace.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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