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02112023 jack of all trades

leading question: what dexterity skill do you think you’re in the top percentile of? alternatively, what action do you think you’ve repeated over 1,000 times?

my friends asked michael how many times he’s shuffled a deck of cards in his lifetime (thus far). “napkin math? well, every time i shuffle a deck, i usually shuffle it around 7 times (the official tournament rule minimum) before placing it down. in every competitive game i’ve played, i probably shuffle around 20 times per game, so 140 times in total give or take.  i’ve probably played upwards of 5,000 recorded games in my life. so that brings us to around 700,000 times just for shuffling pokemon cards alone. but it’s probably much more than that.” (note: he does not include the 8 consecutive hours he spent practicing a one-handed shuffle to impress me.)

beyond shuffling, michael is also an extremely gifted piano player. i think there is a element of raw talent (he is undeniably clever) but more than that, he’s the kind of person who gets hyper fixated on doing things great. what i admire most about him is that he never half-asses anything (with the exception of mcgill, because well… me too!). better phrased, when he does something, he does it well or not at all. he is someone who understands the value of mastery and the time commitment required to do so. as frustrating as practicing for thousands of hours can be, he makes it effortless with his mental fortitude. finally, as someone who aspires to be his life partner for the foreseeable future, i find great comfort in knowing that he regards taking care of me the same as mastery of an art.

i’ve been thinking of aspects of life as skill trees from runescape. there is an allure to maxing everything to 99 but at a certain level, it is enough for all of your needs and it does not make sense to grind past it (or you just naturally level up with time). more importantly, i think seeing progression in skills that are correlated with practice (most of which encompasses dexterity) is immensely satisfying. i remember grinding typing tests for hours in elementary school until i could hit an average 120wpm at the ripe age of 11 years old (though i do think most kids now can match this), and it’s a skill that has plateaued in speed but has treated me well since. i talked to countless melee players over the summer. as a new face in the local scene (and also one that quite stood out… hint: i am a Girl), many regulars would admit that they never won a set until they put minimum 100 hours on a character, and they couldn’t imagine winning a local without at least 1,000 hours on a character. then i would play game&watch and then hit 4 9’s in a row and disprove it completely (i have only won 1 set in my career and it was a mirror match g&w - judge only match. he was the best icies in the region and we laughed it off).

i get mesmerized by highly dexterous people in their niche skills. easy examples: chefs with precise knife skills. speed cubers. professors who can write legibly on blackboards in concurrence with their lectures. johnny and i had a brief discussion around why we found all of these traits so attractive and we came to the easy conclusion it’s simply because It’s Hot To Be Passionate About Something. [Brief edit: more precisely, it shows that someone is capable via the sheer act of practicing an action thousands of times. good signal of patience and competency!]then we shared this anecdote with a friend and her rebuttal to this is, “no - you guys are just weird engineer types. imagine if we went to a party and saw a guy speed-cubing. what would you think about him?”

i reply, “it would be intriguing and i’d go up to them to talk about it.” johnny nods in agreement.

she responds: “guys. most people at a regular party would not think that way. i would think he’s a big weirdo for bringing a rubik’s cube to a party.”

“ok, but what if the guy was top-percentile dexterous in bed?”

“that is an entirely different discussion.”

“i feel like there is a high correlation.”

so perhaps there is merit in mastering skills with your hands in your free time. and for the record, i think speed cubing is awesome.

a running collection of wonderful, dexterous skills from friends & strangers go next