13 Skills for 2013

December is a busy month for most of us. With the shorter days giving us less daylight and colder temperatures for outdoor activities, we hunker down indoors for the long winter. As the end of the calendar year draws near, some of us begin thinking about doing better/more in the coming 12 months than we have done in the past, often armed with resolutions, but no real method to bring them to fruition.

Enter 13 Skills for 2013! I've been listening to Jack Spirko at The Survival Podcast since the fall of 2008. In that time I've found him to not only be an amazing speaker, teacher, and motivator, but also a creative "out of the box" idea producing wiz. 13 Skills is his brain child, brought to life with the help of his wife, Dorothy, and webmaster, David. So far 3,602 of us think it's a fantastic idea and have selected 36,790 skills to work on in 2013!

Develop 13 new skills in 2013
So what is 13 Skills all about and how can it help? Jack's idea is this, we are a nation that in many ways has lost the ability to take care of ourselves without the support and "safety net" of a much larger network of systems. These include food systems, energy systems, educational systems, security systems, etc. When any of those systems go down for any length of time many of us are completely unable to fall back on our own resources because we have little or no skills! Even in cases where a disaster is known to be approaching, people are often unprepared, and when it does hit, people look to the safety net, which is often thought of as "the government", to solve their situational problems. If help doesn't come, then what? And, what if the situation stretches into weeks, or even months? This type of problem can be seen in job lay-offs, home foreclosures, and even in the recent storm, Sandy. It is apparent to me that restoring/developing skills and knowledge is critical so as individuals we can solve problems on our own, devise new things, or find alternatives just as those a couple of generations ago did when faced with difficult or adverse conditions.

How does it work? At the website, choose thirteen skills you would like to challenge yourself to learn or expand on in the calendar year 2013. The concept in Jack's words is "not just picking stuff and checking it off, but actually stretching and challenging yourself in 2013 with either completely new skills or really making a big improvement in something you are already doing."

After signing up and creating your account there are currently 155 topics to choose your thirteen skills from - ranging from accounting, alternative energy, and animal husbandry to wildlife identification, wine making, and woodworking. For each of your skills you are encouraged to think about what you want to accomplish and then set your goals. For instance user "Malisa" wrote for her animal husbandry goal, "I have 3 chickens. I would like to get more chicks in the spring for egg production of at least 200 eggs next year. Create more foraging opportunities for them, like planting a mulberry bush or chicken garden to reduce feed cost."

Setting goals to learn new skills
With so many topics, it was difficult for me to narrow it down to 13. I considered what I've wanted to do for quite some time, some I"ve been putting off, and settled on twelve. I've reserved one for later, waiting for inspiration to hit!

Here's two of mine, you can find my remaining goals at my profile, PreppingMom at 13 skills:

Food Storage - I chose food storage because it is something that has been nagging me for quite some time. We have always had a "back stock" of food, but it has never been organized in any way. I do buy ahead when there is a sale, but it is a mish mash of items, nothing that gives me confidence that I have the basics covered. The 13 Skills Challenge was the perfect opportunity to motivate me to getting organized and doing what needs to be done to accomplish that. When I'm finished I can relax knowing my family will be "covered" should we need to fall back on our stored food. 

Goal - A. Inventory current food stored. Assess what I have to determine what I need for six people for a year. Complete by end of December 2012. B. Organize current area for food storage to accommodate enough food for a year. Build shelves, rotating racks, etc. Complete by end of January 2013. C. Begin building toward a three month supply, then toward a six month, nine month, and finally twelve month supply for six people. Complete by end of December 2013. 

Composting -  We are really good about keeping our kitchen waste out of the garbage can and instead putting it into the hole off our back deck. However, after taking the Master Gardener composting class, I realized it would be a better use to do some worm composting which will up the fertility in the greenhouse and of our garden soil for maximum growing conditions. Additionally, we have been pretty haphazard about our composting in general and I now know we could set up a system that would result in a better product in a shorter period of time. This will give us ongoing better growing conditions to ensure a healthy supply of vegetables for our table.

Goal - A. Set up a indoor worm composting continuous flow system to take care of kitchen waste. 1. Buy bin, pvc pipe, and coconut coir. 2. Complete "build" of the bin and install growing medium. 3. Buy and install worms. 4. Finish project by January 2013. B. Set up outdoor composting system using existing 3' x 3' bins using materials from our property,i.e. leaves, shredded tree trimmings, and horse manure from neighbor. 1. Set up three bins. 2. Get manure from neighbor. 3. Gather leaves and shredded trimmings. 4. Layer materials into first bin. Complete project by May 2013. 

All of my goals were chosen to help us become more capable of taking care of ourselves and our family. In addition, it has already given me the opportunity to assess, in a tangible way, where we are and where I would like my capabilities to be by the end of 2013. With the 13 Skills website, there is group of people who have chosen the same skill and I can get ideas that I may want to incorporate into my goals. It is so motivating to see so many people doing the same thing and how they are progressing.

If I've piqued your interest in this challenge, but you think why bother to set formal goals, Gene Donohue, in his essay, Powerful Written Goals in Seven Easy Steps, wrote, "When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals. You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them."

Here is something I learned quite a few years ago that has helped me. Goal setting can be done using the SMART formula.

Specific - the goal should answer the "Ws" - who is involved; what do I want to accomplish; where will it take place; when will I do it and how long; which requirements and constraints are involved; specifically the reasons, purpose, or benefits for the goal.

Measurable - Establish a way measure progress toward accomplishing your goal by asking questions such as, how much or how many? How will I know when it is accomplished? It is also important to break down goals into smaller chunks, and link feedback to intermediate milestones. Measuring helps staying on track, reaching target dates and the achievement spurs continued effort to reach goals.

Attainable – This is where you run a reality check. Are you prepared to make the commitment your goal will take? If you need to, are you willing to dramatically alter your life to achieve this goal? If not, is there a more achievable target you are willing to work for?

Relevant - Make your goal relevant to your life and other priorities. If your goal is something someone else thinks you "should" do or is from your past and no longer pertains, ditch or revise it. This is about you, your life, and what is important to make your life happier, more secure, or more fulfilling. Make it relevant or you’ll run out of steam early on.

Time frame - What’s a reasonable date for achieving your goal? Strike a balance between being so ambitious you never expect to succeed and aiming so low you lack incentive to try. Don't be afraid to tweak the date as you make progress, but don't sabotage your efforts by procrastinating, either!

To keep myself accountable I'll be posting at my blog facebook page, on my 13 Skills profile, and detailing my progress more in depth at my dedicated blog skills page. I hope you will follow me on my journey to more self reliance, but even more, I hope you take up Jack's challenge and join me, and the other 3,600 plus people in attaining 13 new skills in 2013!


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