Prepping: Your “500-Hour Skill Sets”

Now and then I get into conversations with my son about his next visit down here…which may come during summer, but hopefully September after the heat breaks.

The reason?  It will be a fine time to work on a couple of his “500-hour skills.”  You see, he’s a prepper/survival-type, too.

Many people don’t realize it, but there is a growing set of data that says that “Talent is Overrated.”  (See the book for  Kindle Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.)

One of the examples in the book is about a study that divided a large number of young people into five groups.  And these were made up of people who seemed likely to succeed in becoming musicians and those not, with several gradients in-between.

What shocked  everyone was that there didn’t seem to be any “natural-born” musicians.  Just those who would relentlessly  practice 2-hours a day or longer, and those who did  not.  No surprise in the outcome; It’s pretty clear that anyone who is willing to work long-enough and hard-enough to learn a new skill will, by God, nail it…eventually.

The people with supposed “musical genius” turned out no better as musicians than those deemed likely to fail at music.  And the differentiator?  Who did the work.  Yeah…W-O-R-K.

There are a lot of things that dads like to talk to their sons about; but a huge amount between me and G2 has to do with “What have you 500-hour’ed lately?”

G2 has (more or less) done it all – and most of his learnings are in the fields where he has invested way more  than 500-hours.

For example, being a skydive instructor…he’s up in the 600-700 jump area now.  And on his  Uber gig, he’s not only done way more than 500-hours of driving, but he made  Forbes for his “Uber ride menu” that he hands out to passengers.  Nailing excellence is a family hobby.

Those aren’t his only skills.  He has, for example, way more than 500 hours of training in being an EMT.  More than 500 in putting commercial roofs on buildings, and probably coming up on 500-hours in serious “back country” hiking, orienteering and snow camping from Stevens Pass down toward Snoqualmie Pass along the Pacific Crest Trail up in Washington State.

The “joy of parenting” (regardless of the age) is to introduce your offspring to new things that they might find worth 500-hours of their time.  George 2 already has his Amateur Extra Class license, and that was in less than 500-hours by a long shot.  BUT what he hasn’t picked off yet is the 35 word per minute Morse Code speed.  Once upon a time, the FCC required Morse Code for ham radio licenses and the Extra Class took a while to get because to nail it (back in the day) you needed solid 20 word per minute copy.  That took a lot of time to develop (or I’m slow…hmmm…)

On G’s next visit, I have a ton of potential projects for him to lean into, but he’s already got his “skill shopping list” going.  For one, he wants to know how to become a faster writer.  He’s got two books in process ( Living in the Hot Zone which is about some of his infectious disease adventures {including MRSA} while another is  Zero to Hero which recounts his missteps along a path from high school drop out, through “successful commercial burglar” to felon, and then the hard (all up-hill road) restoration of “solid citizen status” including getting his felonies expunged, and getting his gun rights.

What this has to do with 500-hour blocks?

 I consider myself a very good pilot.  Never had an incident, save on brake lock-up on touchdown at Tacoma Narrows airport that sent us careening into the grass on the west side of the runway.  In my early days of flying, that kind of thing could have been a disaster.  BUT when you get past that 500-hour “magic marker” you have enough “sense about you” (owning your skills) that you handle everything (including potentially very serious mishaps) in stride.

When I started jotting down all the “500-hour blocks” I could think of, it got to be an interesting list.  Some of places where you’ll find ’em in your own life if you look?

  • For a Coast Guard 6-pack license you need a year of “sea time.”  Ran into this because, after living on a big sailboat for 10+ years, I thought “Gee, why not get a captain’s license?”  I sure as hell had the “sea time” for it.  (Ultimately, I didn’t, figuring out that in a lawyered-up city, if I was ever involved in a nautical incident, someone would try to pin it on the only licensed skipper involved….)
  • Airplane License:  200 hours for a basic commercial ticket but good luck getting that without an instrument rating.  And for the grown-up Air Transport License?  You need have a minimum of 1,500 hours of total flight time, 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night time (or 75 hours with at least 45 night landings) plus 75 hours of instrument time (25 can be in “flown” in a simulator).
  • There are lots of trades where you’ll find the magic 500-hours.  Apprenticing requirements, time-in-grade kind of stuff.
  • School, too.  A bachelors degree pencils out to about 500-hours per year of study…or more, especially if in the math and physics or business arenas.  I figure at least a thousand in the MBA program; not so much the classes, but the reading went on and on and….
  • If you want to build a house?  A crew of five men can knock-out a 2,000 ft. spec home in a month.  880 – 900 hours, which seems awful damn slow.  About 2.3 square feet per hour.  Even though, some parts of the job go really fast (framing, sheet rocking, mudding, texture, and paint) while other parts are agonizingly so – electrical, plumbing, septic/sewer, water lines, permitting….

This is another one of those “thoughts that wander by” during coffee one morning this week.  When you get on “this side of 70” you sit back, review your list of “500-hour competencies” and then try to figure out which (in whatever time remaining is) are the ones are worth putting additional effort into.  What skills will matter next?  Have the highest return on investment?

G2 doesn’t realize it (yet) but I found a wood 10X20 greenhouse kit online for $200-bucks.  Just the wood and metal frame.  It will take a 7-yard load of pea gravel, a bunch of railroad ties and some other goodies to install such a green house, but the old Harbor Freight greenhouse will only be another season, maybe two.  It would be fun to toss up 200 SF more greenhouse as a “father-son” project while he’s here.  Bet we could get the whole thing done in 50-hours, or less, complete with inside grow tables, several hose faucets, and wiring in for lights, hydroponic pumps, evap cooler and winter heat. The price of corrugated polycarbonate is not totally unreasonable….

We shall see…a conversation about which of his 500-hour skills is next on his “punch list.”  Mine is still lacking 450-hours of welding, lol…Do I want to play George Barris at this age?

There is a  huge gap between being “able to do” something and bumping & stumbling through it versus being highly skilled.  Keep track of your 500-hour core because that’s where your future is likely to lead.  Especially if the crap hits the fan and the only chance of survival is dictated by what you already know, right then and there.

(BTW, some of our readers have literally  dozens and dozens of such competencies…this is not a site full of theoreticians and benchwarmers. )

Write when you get rich,

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

8 thoughts on “Prepping: Your “500-Hour Skill Sets””

  1. “Now and then I get into conversations with my son…”

    …and do YOU really listen (or are you just expecting)?

    It seems to me that you’re expecting, beware!!!

    P.S. Humanity will be treminal and there is no ifs & buts, because it’s build into the system. Accept! ;-(

  2. “( Living in the Hot Zone which is about some of his infectious disease adventures {including MRSA} ”

    G2 and I have talked about that book. He says hes going to send me a copy when he’s done..

    MRSA bad very bad.. seen and worked with a few thousand through the years.. one in particular was so bad the patient was delirious..serious pain..we had to tie plastic bags around the patient and strapped the patient down .. ( before they passed the let them bounce law.. no restraining at all..seems they have that right) the patient would RIP their surgical incision open and toss their intestines out and throw them on the floor.
    Really sad gross and nothing any one could do except put them back dress the wound and try to keep their hands away from it..
    Today with the new let them drop and flop law makes it a world more intersting..from what the kids tell me they basically lay them on the floor.
    A few years ago they asked me to take someone in with a disease I had never heard of.. I visited with G2 about it.. he basically said RUN …
    Boy they did make it tempting though.. pay off a house in a month.. so I studied in the us it’s a class three contagion.. contact precaution. Where it originated it’s the worst above ebola… they literally turn a shopping container into a medical ward room several of them your clean room your dirty room and all the rest..staff lives on the wing with weekly tests to see if you’ve contacted it.. if so you go into the ward as a resident.
    Started out with one patient that got sick.. real sick.. came back from the middle east and didn’t know he had it.. now it’s in all fifty states.. fifty percent die twenty percent linger and thirty percent don’t know they have it..
    Over seas..when the patient expires the patient is cremated and the ward room incinerated everything.. here they send in a housekeeper and wipe it down..
    Anyway I am anxious for that book.. I want to see what G2 knows about a subject I am oh so familiar with..

    • Shoot.. did I tell you about my mosquito bite.. got bit a little over a week ago.. on the first joint of the Index finger.. killed the mosquito..
      Tha sucker swelled up the size of my forearm.. hurt.. several other bites swelling to.. on the news they had a story saying this is something new o e girl had to be rushed to the er.. and they aren’t sure but are wondering if the mosquitoes are carrying some new infections with them this year..
      I hate to do it but went down to the store to buy two litres bottles of pop just to dump out so I can make my biting insect traps..,(best around grandson made one for a science fair won first place)
      Dam thing is just getting down enough now so it can start to bend a little bit..
      Like the Indian natives always said… DAM BUGS

      I would make my own attractant but I would look a little silly and probably arrested ..old man with an ugly hat walking up to a estrogen rich woman and asking her to pee in a specimen cup.. excuse me I’ll just buy it already made lol

      • Someone posted a picture of their son on a group page on Facebook with mosquito bites.. whole face swollen.. like the size of soft balls..

        Think about it.. I have a friend that was on the show Naked and Afraid.. he got the dengue fever.. from mosquito bites… from infected mosquitoes.. He still has troubles with it now after several years..

        If there was someone going to spread a contagion deliberately could you think of the better delivery vehicle to deliver it with than the mosquito…

  3. Mastering the Morse. As a teenager I practiced diligently with a friend to get our ham licenses. I was doing 20 wpm passably, so I figured I was ready to face the FCC inspector for 13 wpm. Nerves got the better of me and I blew away 4 minutes of copy. Got the last 1 minute flawless. Inspector shook his head and said I didn’t have enough for 13, but he gave me credit for 5 wpm so I could take the Technician license. On air, I made exactly ONE CW contact as a novice when I was sixteen. Haven’t used CW since. Now that I’m retired with “500 hours” available, I need to seriously brush up on my 50-year old rusty code. Dusted off and adjusted the keys. Been spending time on the 40 meter novice band copying slow CW. Practice MP3s recorded on the laptop to listen to… Only 498 more hours to go!

    • Where you get to 13, let me know and we can do a sked on 20! That’s what I’m talking about – directly-digital humans that some of us are…

  4. If you want to build a house?  A crew of five men can knock-out a 2,000 ft. spec home in a month.  880 – 900 hours, ……

    Did that.. about right. I found I could speed up framing by making a wall jig..

    I did it by myself thousand sq. Just under 350 hrs…give or take..

    The first house I built took longer..but then I was going off of a half hour video of some cute blonde thinking to myself oh heck I can do that lol..
    Electrical.. I bought a code book and a 2.50 cent wiring book.. plumbing except for the sewer line I had a plumber do that..
    Sheetrock.. I just gave away my rock lift and texture guns.. hire someone it’s less work.. and evens up to about the same for equipment and materials..

    • Nowadays I just hire it done.. when doing roof truss make sure you keep in mind your age..and how old you will be when maintenance will be needed..
      Nice kid took my the jobs the big companies don’t want..they want big jobs..slipping in a door or window isn’t a job that would even remotely interest them.. hes now almost a year out on non essential jobs.. at 100.00 an hour..

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