Byron's Babbles

Happy Accidents

I am just about half way through Volume Two of the Autobiography of Mark Twain. As I already stated in Acquired Skills it is an is an incredibly fascinating and tough read all at the same time. To be sure, the beloved humorist keeps the reader laughing as he discusses for an entire chapter about the fly being the only species that humans cannot devise a way to exterminate. When you think about the fly, that is true. But Twain also make us think with his anecdotes. One such anecdote is his discussion of accidents. Twain reminded us “There are no accidents, all things have a deep and calculated purpose; sometimes the methods employed by Providence seem strange and incongruous, but we have only to be patient and wait for the result: then we recognize that no others would have answered the purpose, and we are rebuked and humbled.” Twain calls these “happy accidents” in his autobiography. Some might call these luck, but really they are, as he defines them, accidents. Twain even defines accidents as being an event that happens at no fault or premeditated thought or action of someone else.

There are those who imagine that the unlucky accidents of life—life’s “experiences”—are in some way useful to us. I wish I could find out how. I never know one of them to happen twice. They always change off and swap around and catch you on your inexperienced side.

Mark Twain

When I began to think about it I could come up with accidents that have happened in my life that led to some incredible opportunities. I’ll bet you can too. Twain told the story of being in New Orleans and wanting to learn to be a steam boat pilot. He asked a captain who told him “no,” but then the captain developed pain in his body that kept him from being able to pilot. Long story short, he sat in the pilot’s house and supervise Twain piloting the boat for him. Thus, Twain became an apprentice, learned to pilot the steam ship, and became a steam boat pilot. Sure seems like a happy accident to me. In fact, that whole adventure started out with Twain accidentally finding $50 in the street! The great humorist and author taught us, “Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.” Bob Ross taught us, “we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.” Happy accidents can give us a chance to improve or go down a new path. They are a chance to create something we didn’t even imagine before. Happy accidents can give us the opportunity to learn, a chance to grow, and a chance for you to look at new perspectives. They can turn something average into a happier thing.

Acquired Skills

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mark Twain by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 27, 2022

On Monday of this week I finished Volume One of the Autobiography of Mark Twain. As I have told others, it is one of the most fascinating and toughest reads all at the same time. One of the things I wasn’t sure of at first, but grew to love was how Twain chose to write his autobiography in a way no one ever had before. He chose to dictate it, so it is very conversational. And he chose to write it as thoughts came to him and not in any chronological order. As he put it, he would talk about something until it didn’t interest him any more and then he would go on to something else. To me it is great because it eliminates those stretches that get long and drawn out in most autobiographies and biographies. I’m not sure, however, that anyone but Twain could pull this off. I’m just getting started in Volume Two, but it is just as great.

Needless to say, I took a bunch of notes and have lots of thoughts to develop. The first was Twain speaking of being proud of our acquirements. Twain said, “An acquirement is something you’ve worked hard to master.” I loved this because it had nothing to do with things or possessions, but with skills and knowledge. I like Merriam-Webster’s definition of acquirement: “a skill of mind or body usually resulting from continued endeavor.” Twain refers to many skills he worked hard to acquire and those of others. I believe need to contemplate the acquired skills we need to developed in ourselves or help to develop in others. These are the skills and expertise obtained through education and/or experience.

I also believe we should view all those things we call soft skills, hard skills, professional skills, or whatever the buzz word of the day is, acquired skills. To me this acknowledges that there is work to be done for acquirement. The “continued endeavor” from the Merriam-Webster definition. What acquired skills must you nurture and develop over time? Better yet, how can you help others nurture and develop acquired skills?