To be worthy adults, we need to be competent at both ordinary, things that everyone should know how to do,
and at special things, that make us unique and useful. 
What is ‘competence’? The root word is ‘compete’, which suggests a contest of some kind. 

If your class had a shoe-tying contest, who would win? And how many would finish? 
I suspect many of your classmates don’t tie their shoes when they come to school. Eh?
Some of them may not know how, with the way shoes are worn now. 

Someone would surely win the shoe-tying contest. But, since the others wouldn’t win, does that mean they are incompetent? 
No, there are different levels of competence. 
Though a race can only have one ‘Fastest-Runner’, everyone who finishes has the right to feel some level of competence. 

I am carpenter. Am I the best carpenter alive? No way; I know better than that. 
But look at the picture of the cabinet I built for my sewing supplies. 
Am I competent as a carpenter? Yes, I am. 
(the cabinet was made with old barn boards and discarded privacy fencing).

I am also an author. I wrote ‘Mystery at Dallas County, Iowa’. 
Apparently, I am not a good-enough writer for a publisher to market the book, yet you are reading it, 
and it is accomplishing some of my goals in life without passing through a publisher’s hands. **
My main goal is helping you, as a curious-somebody, enjoy the twists and turned that Sophie and Parker encountered. 
And you are learning a little history along the way, eh?

There are many ways that adults need to be competent. There are too many to list here. 
But while we are less than perfect at what we do, we can still be commendably-competent at what we do, 
and we can be trusted to do what we say we will do. 

What does it take to be competent at something?  
Here is the recipe for competence:

1) The knowledge of the process. I know how to build things. 
2) Having the proper tools. You almost always need a bowl, spoon and cake pan to make a cake.
3) Access to required materials. Barton couldn't make cornbread without cornmeal. 
4) Enough time to do the task properly.  If your neighbor spends 12 minutes smoking a brisket that should take 
    12 hours, it will fail, no matter how expensive the meat or how fancy the smoker. 
5) The passion to practice and keep trying. Few things come out right the first time.     
     Playing an instrument well, even a jaw harp, takes practice, also known as commitment, or follow-through. 
     It took Annetta a while to become understandable on her jaw-harp.
6) Trustworthiness is an important part of competence. Competent people only make promises they can keep.
     They can be trusted to do what they say they will do.

I keep finding spelling mistakes as I read and re-read and re-re-read this website. 
Sometimes, even when we think we're done, we're still not done.
Competence is usually a journey, not an event.

We each need to try to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday.

** 'A Christmas Carol' was self-published by Dickens, because no publisher wanted it. 
First published in 1837, it sold 2 million copies the first 100 years of publication. It has never gone out of print.

Eric J. Rose
photo: EJR
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