To achieve any level of success in you will need to have skills. The name of the game is developing in demand skills and finding a unique way to stack them to demonstrate value. This is something that anyone can do, and if you are reading this article you have an internet connection, can read English, and you are obviously a smart person if you are reading this blog.
The 2 Paths Of Developing Skills
Depth or Breadth are the two ways of thinking about developing skills. You can become a jack of many trades or you can niche down and become an expert in something. For most people I recommend they focus on breadth more than depth, but there always cases where it is better to focus on depth.
If you are in school and you are great at mathematics and the sciences, but perform poorly in English and the social sciences you should opt towards an analytical career such as being an engineer or mathematician. At the very least you should choose an analytical career path, and not choose to become a novelist or historian. If you are exceptionally talented in an analytical field you should double down on these talents, pick a niche field and become in the top 1% in that field. If you have a particular talent in an in-demand field you should focus on this and try to become the best.
More well rounded people will have a lot more opportunities, but it will be harder to reach the top of the field of their choice. The best option for well-rounded people is to develop multiple skills and try to reach the top 20% of multiple skills. Stack 3+ high value skills together and you can start contributing major value and make serious money.
Scott Adams on The Talent Stack And Recommended Skills
Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator says it best in How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big, “there are two ways to make yourself valuable. The first way is to become the best at some specific skill, the way Tiger Woods dominated golf. But not many of us can be Tiger Woods. So that path is unavailable to 99% of the world.
I recommend a different approach. Most people can – with practice – develop a variety of skills that work well together. I call this idea the Talent Stack.”
I think the idea of the Talent Stack is important enough that it merits its own article. This is an important message for people who don’t have a standout skill but are good at a wide range of things. Take this diverse set of talents and and reach the top 20% and with a bit of hard work (& smart work) and success is almost inevitable. Below is a quote from Scott Adams about the skills he recommends people learn,
“I made a list of skills in which I think every adult should gain a working knowledge. I wouldn’t expect you to become a master of any, but mastery isn’t necessary. Luck has a good chance of finding you if you become merely good in most of these areas. I’ll make a case for each one, but here’s the preview list.
Design (the basics)
Technology ( hobby level)
Proper voice technique”
This is a great list, and I encourage you to check out Scott Adam’s book to see his rational for each of these skills.
The Grit Zone Recommended Skills
- Economics. In a capitalist society you need to understand the system you are working within. If you don’t understand the economy you will always be facing an uphill battle.
- Accounting. This is the language of business, it’s useful whether you are running your own business or simply making investment decisions.
- Technology. You need to adapt to an ever changing world, whether it’s owning a business or being an employee you need to develop the skills that are in demand in the world. I believe everyone should try their hand at coding at least once, and know the ins and outs of the operating system they use (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Digital Wellness. You can think of this as an anti-skill. In a world that is filled with push-notifications and information overload you need to be able to cut out the noise and be able to work in a focused manner for hours on end. Technology addiction is quickly becoming the Achilles heel of many otherwise successful people at minimum you need to use social media intelligently, in the extreme case you may need to get a dumb phone.
- Psychology. Humans are social animals that come in many different shapes and temperaments. Developing an understanding of psychology will allow you to understand yourself and others.
- Writing. Whether you want to start a website, write down your thoughts to better understand yourself, or simple be able to quickly and efficiently write business emails, you need to know how write well.
- Reading. Reading will always be the most efficient way for smart people to consume information. Developing a reading habit will allow you to learn more about the world and to learn more quickly.
- Strategic Thinking / Long-term Planning. Strategizing is a meta-skill, but it is often the difference between someone being a success and a failure in the long-term.
- Persuasion. Persuasions is any type of sales or “manipulation”. This could be the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failure, but it could also be the difference between a parent raising a well adjusted child or someone raising a spoiled brat. Persuasion is an all encompassing social skill.
- Marketing. In regards to career development or business development this is the most important skill you can have. If you know how to market yourself well the world is your oyster. If you are bad at marketing no one will know you exist.
- Fitness. This is an all-encompassing health related skill that will improve every area of your life and needs to be taken seriously no matter what age you are.
Develop A Skill Plan
First of all you need to think of the skills that will help you in the areas of life you want to improve in.
If you are unproductive and easily distracted, the best skill for you to develop is digital wellness. Without the ability for deep, focused work you will find yourself unable to achieve any goals. When you have this skill of digital wellness nailed down, you need to think about where you want to be in 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years time. This is a a basic, rudimentary plan that will obviously change, but you need to think about the future you want to create. This will allow you to develop a better understanding of yourself (psychology) and strategic & long-term thinking.
The next thing you should do is think about what bad habits you have, and develop a plan to break those habits for good. This is a simple step but it is far from easy, and it will definitely require planning and may require blood, sweat, and tears. That is often the price you need to pay for an above-average life. The next step is to think about any serious weaknesses you need to handle before further developing your skills. These issues can usually be separated into three simple areas so they are easier to diagnose and target.
Any chronic illnesses?
Are you underweight or overweight?
Do you get sufficient exercise?
How is your diet?
Do you drink enough water?
How often do you get acute sicknesses (colds, flu, etc.)?
Do you have credit card debt?
Do you have student loans?
Do you have a plan to pay down your debt?
Do you have sufficient savings and/or multiple streams of income?
What is your plan to achieve financial independence?
How is your relationship with your family?
Do you have high-quality friendships?
When was the last time you had sex?
How is your love life?
How is your relationship with your partner?
When was your last medium or long-term relationship?
Prioritize Your Skill Development
Now that you understand your weaknesses and areas you need to develop you can prioritize the skills you want to develop. Think about the skills you need to develop the most, and work on these until you are in the top 20% in theses skills. This isn’t an incredibly ambitious plan, and getting to the top 20% in any given skill is not particularly impressive.
The real payoff in skill development comes from skill stacking, and reaching the top 20% for multiple skills. You need to make a plan and have a system/goals (write it down with a pen and paper) for developing your skills. Writing your skill goals down will give you accountability. Make sure to set SMART (Specific Measurable Assignable Reasonable Time-Based) goals and constantly review them.
The Upside Of Not Being The Best At Anything
The name of the game is creating your own unique talent stack. Think about what skills you bring to the table at present and what else you can add to your talent stack to create a unique value proposition. There are so many angles that people can take that match both their personality and skills they can develop. There are a billions of ways you can create value in the world. I highly recommend you take this idea of stacking skills seriously, if you do it right it will inevitably change your life for the better.