Soft Skills

A method for prioritizing how you learn

Chris Castiglione
May 28, 2014 · 2 min read

Whenever I focus on learning a new skill, I ask myself, “Is this a hard skill or a soft skill?” For example…

What’s the difference? And why does it matter?

Hard Skills are any actions that are performed as correctly and consistently as possible every time. For example: swinging a golf club, working on an assembly line, and basic foreign language learning.

Soft Skills are actions that are interactive, and not the same every time. For example writing a novel, a CEO leading a successful company, and a Scientist looking for patterns in the data.

To build hard skills you want to work carefully — like when you memorize vocab words.

To build soft skills you want to play, experiment, and fail often — like riding a skateboard.

Most talents are a mix of both hard and soft. It’s up to you how and when you apply this to learning.

Lessons Learned: Coding Is A Soft Skill

I teach people how to code. Everyday.

Often students will try to learn HTML through rote memorization. And it rarely works. I’m guessing that maybe you’ve tried this? You’re completing all the “code quizzes”, but you can’t actually make a damn Website. (Frustrating!)

Here’s how I’d fix this problem…

When I’m learning a new coding language, at first I like to work carefully — to follow the examples, read the instructions, and reproduce small definable chunks of code (hard skills).

The trick to learning code is to then go off and develop the soft skills:

Next time you try to learn something new, ask yourself, “Is this a hard skill, soft skill, or some combination of both?” And if it’s a soft skill, don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face. It’s a healthy part of the learning process.

For more on learning hard and soft skills you might want to check out Daniel Coyle’s “The Little Book of Talent”, and for more on learning to code using this method check out

Thanks to Mattan Griffel.

    Chris Castiglione

    Written by

    Teacher at Faculty at Columbia University. Host of the Learn to Code Podcast. I write about coding, the internet, and social impact.