soft skills

I read about and talk often with others in the disparate fields of flight test, statistics and data science, and leadership, about the comparable soft skills necessary for success in these fields.  The anecdote below illustrates something I can’t decide whether to call a skill or a characteristic. It could be both, but in any case, I thought it was poignant.

“Webb Simpson was walking down the fairway of the seventeenth hole at the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympia near San Francisco… Holding a one stroke lead, with a solid opportunity for birdie, Webb knew that the next twenty-five minutes would be the most important of his career to that date…

In recalling the moment, Webb says the best way to describe how he felt at the moment was “strangely unqualified.” Within a few strokes of walking onto a world stage and lifting a trophy engraved with the names of Jones, Trevino, Nicklaus, Watson, and Woods, he felt an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, humility, and fear filling his heart” (Robert Wogelmuth).

The author uses the word humility, and I agree that it is an important ingredient.  Inadequacy and fear seem like key words as well, because a little of both washes over a person’s heart when he or she takes a risk or first sets foot on a previously untravelled path.

When one comprehends that he has practiced the skills that will be necessary to navigate this stage of life, and has accumulated the requisite knowledge, but that he has never faced a challenge of this magnitude, of this kind, he realizes that something more is required, and that realization introduces a host of unfamiliar and unpleasant emotions and chemical and hormonal responses.  Sometimes that feeling is adventure, and sometimes it is alarm.  Continuing in the face of both is that quality at the edge of an idea described by the words “soft skills” and captured so profoundly in the example above.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.


You’ve just read observations, a column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs.

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