Author and cartoonist Scott Adams writes on his blog
that, “Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable.”
If you want a life of average success, it doesn’t take much planning. Go to school, stay out of trouble, and apply for jobs you might like.
But as Adams points out, if you want extraordinary success you have two options:
1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Get pretty good at two or more useful skills until no one else has your mix.
This first strategy is impossible for most people. If you have world-class talent for something, you probably already know it. Few of us will play in the NBA or create a hit album.
Unless you’re already world-class at some skill, Adams recommends pursuing the second strategy.
To do this, apply the following formula to create your own “talent stack
”: develop a variety of “good-but-not-special skills” that complement each other and, when combined, create a whole that is stronger than the sum of its parts.
Adams acknowledges that pursuing the second strategy led to his own success. There are plenty of people who excel at either writing or drawing.
But there aren’t very many people who are even above average at both writing and drawing. This combination, along with his corporate experience, helped him become a commercially successful syndicated cartoonist.
For another example of successfully applying the second strategy, Adams tells a story about briefly meeting a script supervisor.
She works with directors to make sure that a movie has the right continuity, so that one scene fits with the next. No two projects are the same, and she mingles with celebrities and top directors and writers.
How did she get such a cool job? She studied anthropology and “fell into it” through a series of events.
For Adams, it’s not that mysterious:
“I didn’t spend much time with the script supervisor, but it was obvious that her verbal/writing skills were in the top tier as well as her people skills. I’m guessing she also has a high attention to detail, and perhaps a few other skills in the mix. Probably none of those skills are best in the world, but together they make a strong package. Apparently she’s been in high demand for decades.”