A few quick thoughts this week, mostly on the subject of attaining new skills.
Some do it without knowing that they do it, but the smartest people are always branching out, acquiring new skillsets.
Of course, they rarely become experts. Expanding your set of talents is not about becoming a specialist. But if you can achieve competency across multiple fields, the amount of things you can do suddenly skyrockets.
Scott Adams, a famous cartoonist and author, calls this “building your talent stack”. And while others have implemented it far better than I have, I can see how I’ve been diversifying my talent stack over recent years. And the social isolation brought about by 2020 has given many people the opportunity to acquire new talents.
Not to Brag
I mean it. The content of this post is not to make me seem better than you. Rather, it exists to demonstrate just how easy it is for anyone to expand their talent distribution and by so doing exponentially increase their value.
Because everyone has multiple interests. And thanks to the free flow of information provided by the internet, it’s easier than ever to pursue fields you want to achieve proficiency in.
Notice I use the words “proficiency” and “competence”. This is not about becoming an expert in any field. It is merely about familiarizing yourself enough with a topic to make it useful to you.
Using Myself as an Example
Let’s start with the obvious.
Software Engineer: It’s what I went to college for. It’s the job I’ve worked for the past 6+ years. I’ve also created some really neat home projects in my spare time. I can say I am an expert software engineer.
But that has never been my passion. What I’m really good at, and really want to do, is write books for a living.
Author: I have written several books. All unpublished, though that can change in a hot minute. And while I cannot call myself an expert author, I can see where my own writing stands out as particularly promising. Recently, I had this confirmed by a trusted professional in the industry (which was a major confidence boost).
As authors go, I am a particularly talented rookie, which is honestly quite rare on an absolute scale (not so rare once you’re inside the publishing industry’s gate). I can safely say I am a proficient writer.
And the two talents of software engineering and writing have combined in interesting ways to fuel these next two talents.
Social Media: Being an author today requires a social media presence. Without that requirement, I never would have touched social media. It would have remained a new and scary technology that I warn young people against spending too much time with.
Luckily, my other basic skill as a software engineer was helpful in my pursuit of social media dominance. My understanding of how networks (social and otherwise) work allowed me to play the algorithms to my favor and win myself an elevated spot in the social media landscape. I am a social media personality.
And from this skill, another one developed which may be more valuable yet.
Marketing: I finally GET marketing.
Lots of friends and associates of mine went into sales, and I convinced myself that was one job I would never be able to do. How on Earth do you convince someone, with a straight face, that they should buy something from you?
But the great thing about social media is that it allows you to do effective A/B Testing without any other infrastructure. I can effectively call together a focus group to bounce ideas off of, without having to rent an office or compensate anyone for their time (feels criminal, doesn’t it?).
It’s reached a point where I have learned to command attention. And since 90% of persuasion is getting people’s attention, I’ve become a competent marketer.
Most of the above talents can contribute to the direction I want to go in my life. But there are other skills that may prove tangential. To name a few.
Cryptocurrency: Here I am only an enthusiast, but a passionate one. And I can keep up with most discussions about it that occur in the wild.
Medicine: Since maybe discovering a cure for cluster headaches earlier this year (and I really hope for people will try it and tell me if it works for them—I need data), I’ve been interested in learning new ways to treat old illnesses. I am no doctor but I at least know enough to ask intelligent questions.
Investing: Tangential to cryptocurrency, which sparked my interest. Still a novice, but gaining steam.
And So Can YOU
I’m honestly not the best example of this. I’m nowhere near the level of the billionaire athletes who start their own businesses. Or the writers turned actors. Or the musicians turned philanthropists turned self-help guru.
Heck, I have a bother who has a combined genetics/biology/bioinformatics education who has integrated other skills such as scuba diving and world travel into his talent stack.
The point I’m trying to make is “don’t limit yourself”. There are plenty of other people who have strayed much further out of their comfort zone than you are contemplating. Some people have had second or even third careers. They completely reinvent themselves just to fit into a new niche.
It’s your life. Fill it with treasures.
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