What Do You Wish You Could Do Well?


Are you a karaoke enthusiast? If so, you might have a few tips to share about how to choose a song — for example, “just because you like it does not mean you should sing it.” (After all, not everybody has the vocal range for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”)

For seven years, The New York Times’s Tip column offered advice on subjects both serious and silly, and the above words of wisdom come from “How to Choose a Karaoke Song.” You can find many more short, useful bits of advice by scrolling through the Tip column, which took on topics as wide-ranging as keeping a goldfish alive, writing a love letter, being less afraid of the dark, choosing an online handle and scaling a chain-link fence.

Now we’re inviting teenagers to write their own Tip columns, focusing on explaining skills that are interesting or important to you. But the first hurdle is figuring out what skill you’d like to explore.

To help, here are some questions. The goal is to brainstorm as long a list as possible, and then post some of your ideas in the comments. After, we hope you’ll read what others have written, respond to those comments, and maybe even borrow a few ideas for your own list from others.

Here are our questions:

  • To start, ask yourself what you would like to be able to do better — no matter how small or silly. Set a timer for three minutes and make as long a list as you can, writing down anything from a tiny skill like “remembering where I left my keys” to a more ambitious one like “learning to cook.”

Now add more to your list by answering some or all of these questions:

  • What physical skills do you wish you had — either those specific to a sport or a hobby, or those, like scaling a chain-link fence, that might come in handy in everyday life?

  • What practical skills would you like to master? Would you like to be on time consistently? Learn how to start a fire? Change a tire? Roast a chicken? Play poker?

  • What emotional or interpersonal skills would you like to have? For instance, maybe you wish you knew how to comfort friends when they’re sad, how to calm yourself down when you’re nervous or how to make conversation at a party.

  • What school-specific skills might come in handy? Maybe you wish you were better at memorizing Spanish vocabulary, taking notes, speaking up in class or getting your homework done on time.

  • Are there any skills you’d like to have just for fun, even if they don’t serve much of a practical purpose? For instance, maybe you’d like to be able to hail a cab with a whistle — even if you don’t live in New York?

  • What problems are you or a friend or family member struggling with right now that you could seek advice on? Again, it could be something small and specific like learning how to fill out a FAFSA or something larger like figuring out how to apply to college in general.

  • What is something people your age know a lot about that older people might not?

  • Do you know any experts? The answer might be obvious, like your math teacher who is an expert on making algebra fun, but it could also be something more subtle, like your math teacher’s other life as a rabid comic-book collector. Make a list of teenagers, adults or even children you know who are experts at some skill or in a specific field.

  • Now make a new list. What can you already do well — no matter how small? Set a timer for three minutes and make as long a list as you can, putting down anything, little or big, that you can think of. Then read over that list and consider all the ways you could improve. For instance, maybe you’re an Ultimate Frisbee player whose basic throwing and catching game is excellent — but someday you’d love to be able to “lay out.” What additional skills can you add to your wish list if you think about refining something you’re already pretty good at?

  • Finally, look over everything you wrote. What jumps out at you? Is there a skill or two that you might like to focus on? What? Why is it interesting to you? Is there an expert who could give you good advice?

Before you go, post anything you like in the comments. Tell us about skills you have, skills you’d like to gain, experts you know or why you’d like to learn something.

When you have a topic, use our related guide to go on to the next step, which is finding an expert to interview.


Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.



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