The work we do today and in the future is dramatically different from what we have done in the past. You simply cannot expect to do the same thing for 30 years. And even if you somehow manage to stay in the same company/field/product throughout your career, the work you do day-to-day will evolve rapidly. Once I realized this, I struggled mightily with the thought of “okay, so which path do I go down? How do I get started?? What if I choose the wrong path???”. Luckily, I got some good advice in college that led me to the automotive industry. This was not because I am a gear head (I am not), but because it offered cradle-to-grave Product Development experience. For the first few years I had the opportunity to try out different roles in the company before embarking down my “real” career path. At the time, I thought this was to gain a general knowledge of the company, learn the lingo, and to gain a broader network of peers/managers that I could rely on in the future. Okay, it did accomplish all of those things, but in retrospect, I think this was a side benefit. The real secret sauce comes when you start Skill Stacking (or a Talent Stack…same thing). Ever heard of it?
Skill Stacking is not a new concept, but it is one that I think can help people who find themselves asking the same questions I was asking myself. The idea is that you learn new skills, often unrelated, and then combine them to make yourself (or your company/department) more efficient and more creative.
Let’s look at a simple example. Let’s say you know how to jump and you know how to run. You can then combine these skills so that you can now skip or high jump. Too simple of an example?
Okay, how about this one from my life. Let’s say you are an avid DIYer (and I suggest you become one to increase your Skill Stack), so you tackle a plumbing repair project. Then you decide to add a couple of light fixtures in the house. Then you repair a few board on the deck. With these basic skills (and the physical tools you acquired along the way), you can now tackle a bigger project like finishing your basement. You will learn along the way how to frame a wall, run electrical wiring, plumb a fixture, apply drywall, mud, and paint. You will also have learned a bit about how much these types of things cost, how long they take, how to find things in your local hardware store, and which websites to trust for good, non-biased information. You now have a deep understanding of how your house works, how to go about fixing random things that break, and when to call in a pro. Going even deeper, you have also learned how difficult it can be to transport different types of building material in a short bed truck. So, you come up with practical solutions and file for a patent.
Let’s give another practical example from my life. I started this little blog to force me to talent stack if I wanted it to be successful (still a work in process!). I did not know what I did not know so I just stumbled forward. So learned how to code (a bit), learned about hosting a website, learned WordPress, SEO. Then I started to watch what the really successful folks are up to and started to learn how to do better site layout, write interesting posts, what projects people might care about, how ads work, affiliate marketing strategies, video production, and how to leverage social media. As the site has grown I have gotten immediate feedback on what is working and what isn’t and have been able to adjust. My intent here was not to leave my day job to start blogging full time (though that would be a happy outcome), but to force myself to look at the web differently by becoming a creator. With this Skill Stack I have now opened up a passive income revenue source. In addition, a working knowledge of website creation, database management, and coding led me to stand out among my peers at work and led directly to several promotional opportunities.
Scott Adams (Dilbert) is another great example. He is not the best artist and is not the funniest person in the world (his own admission), yet he oversees a virtual empire based on a badly drawn cartoon. Luck? Maybe a little. But as Scott tells it (I encourage you to read his book about this, affiliate link below), this is an example of making your own luck. His talent stack combines below average artistic skills with average marketing skills and a working knowledge of what engineers would find funny, which led to Dilbert. This willingness to try new things might have gone in any number of directions if Dilbert had not happened, but he would have likely been a success anyway by utilizing this type of system. In fact, as of late, he has become something of political pundit by using his expert knowledge of persuasive skills and now expert level marketing skills. Thus, his talents continue to stack in a way that has opened up entire new revenue stream for himself (not that he needs it, as he readily admits).
Okay, one more example involving an entire Skill Stacking company. Amazon is a bookstore that now makes a significant portion of its income off of providing smaller companies with cloud hosting via AWS (Amazon Web Services) and by providing cost effective product storing and shipping services for a host companies. Neither of these significant revenue sources was intentional. However, by stacking skills to become the best book seller, Amazon ended up building the internal skills necessary to deliver these solutions. I would say it is working out well for them! You can read the whole story in the book below (affiliate link).
Can you think of any other examples from your own experience?
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