Combine your top three skills

I don’t think I’ve ever been comfortable classifying myself as a “specialist.” Back in my school days, I was passionate about the sport of cricket. I wanted to be a professional player but didn’t like the label of a “specialist” bowler.

So, I took “batting” classes and got better, improved my “fielding” skills and got better. Soon enough, I was one of those genuine all-rounders who could do it all! That was my thing.

And that’s the reason I didn’t opt to become a chartered accountant despite being one of the class toppers and the money accountants mint in my country. Likewise, I wouldn’t say I liked the idea of getting an MBA when pursuing that was all the rage in the early 2000s*.

My philosophy was (and still is) to combine my skills to position myself as a better, faster, and much more robust alternative to the best out there. Even Scott Adams agrees with me!

If you want an average successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

  1. Become the best at one specific thing.
  2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is relatively easy. Everyone has at least a few areas where they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.

Combining skills isn’t easy, but it’s fun when you follow Scott’s lead above. It sure does require a lot of introspection and planning, but the rewards are worth are. Why? Because everything comes down to one thing in the 2020s and beyond — positioning.

And how uniquely you position yourself** depends on the combination of the skills you’ve acquired over the years. This skills-stacking is often talked about but less practised. More people need to do this because the future belongs to the generalist, not the specialists.

As they say, specialisation is for ants!

For starters, identify your top three skills. Reflect on how can you combine them to position yourself uniquely? An example will be the following:

  1. Agile Project Management
  2. Written and spoken communication, including public speaking
  3. Logical analysis

How best do you think you can combine the above skills if they were yours? Would you hire a person with these three as their top skills?

Now go forth and identify your top three skills. It’s a fun but deeply satisfying exercise.

P.S.*I do have an MBA in Marketing, but it’s something that stays at the bottom of my resume, LinkedIn profile, and post-scripts like this one. I think this degree is overrated. And the ones who end up with one overrate themselves. Know that one of the popular acronyms for MBA is mediocre but arrogant. 😉

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