How to test tiny skills?

post by NicholasKross · 2021-04-24T05:02:45.347Z · LW · GW · 6 comments

This is a question post.

It's hard to tell how good you are at something, until you try it.

Most people don't try most things, so advice like "follow your passion" or "unlock your inner child" are drawing on a terrifyingly small pool of things you've actually tried. And our best skills may not have obvious correlations, and a person's distribution of skills could be lumpy and all-over-the-place. (The exception being IQ, which kinda helps a lot of things. But you can't "specialize" just in "tasks that are easier at this IQ level".).

Example: "gaming" seems like a specific, not-super-useful skill. But video games can be wildly different from each other. I have bad aim and awareness in FPS games, but I'm unusually good at The Wiki Game. I think this is a combination of some tiny subskills I excel at, like "bus-ticket obsession with some trivia" and "making random torturous connections between topics".

Being good at The Wiki Game isn't that valuable, but it matches some subskills. And some things that are (or seem) valuable, don't match your subskills.

So here's what I'm looking for:

EDIT: see also: discussion on reddit.


answer by ChristianKl · 2021-04-24T10:27:38.037Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gallups CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) is about finding what people are good. This then allows job recommendation.

comment by NicholasKross · 2021-04-24T17:11:55.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I remember taking something like this in high school! This is a decent example of what I'm looking for! Not quite the database-of-tiny-skills, but it seems to target the more-specific-strengths thing.

answer by Trent1971 · 2021-04-24T14:18:43.631Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I remember in high school taking the ASVAB test (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) which is aimed at finding a good match between your abilities and a potential role in the military.  However it was good at testing a wide variety of aptitudes, from physical to intellectual.

Also when I applied for a residency position in orthopedic surgery, one program gave all its applicants a test of visual-spatial ability.  One activity I remember on it was, given a folded out piece of paper with fold lines, identify the structure it would fold up into.  Perhaps good visual-spatial ability is important when performing surgery.  I'd expect this skill is also required in a few other types of occupations: architecture, flying, carpentry, etc.

Or you could pretend you're an NFL candidate and take the Wonderlic test.

There is a wide variety of skills you could explore: people skills, animal handling skills, gardening, construction, repair, spatial skills, vehicle or tool handling, and many subtypes of intellectual skills.

comment by NicholasKross · 2021-04-24T17:14:34.970Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are intriguing, thanks! But I guess I'm looking for things like these where each skill-section is unbundled. Like if each category of the ASVAB, were its own test.


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comment by ChristianKl · 2021-04-24T18:20:26.464Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not clear to me what you mean with skill. IQ isn't traditionally seen as a skill but as a proprety. Skills in traditional conception are things people learn. The word tiny implies that it's about skill that are smaller and thus need less time to learn.

When it comes to picking a career, skills can be learned and whether or not you already have skills beforehand doesn't tell you about what you can learn. 

Replies from: NicholasKross
comment by NicholasKross · 2021-04-25T00:57:50.930Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I'm describing natural strengths, and I just didn't think to call it that until you pointed it out just now. I thought linking "Parable of the Talents" would intuition-pump that, but I should be more explicit in the future.