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Weekly 3: You want to be rare & valuable

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Summary Would you pay a premium for an average product that’s easily replaced? You should view your o
 

Idea Journal Weekly 3

August 2 · Issue #150 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary
Would you pay a premium for an average product that’s easily replaced? You should view your own talent and work with the same lens.
(~4 min read)

#1. Capitalism rewards things that are rare and valuable
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.
Huh?
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.”
#2. Great jobs and careers are also rare and valuable
Scott Adams’s idea of the talent stack discussed above considers how to become rare and valuable by focusing on your skills. 
Another perspective is to look at the work itself: what makes a job or a career rare and valuable?
Author and computer science professor Cal Newport writes in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You that there are “three traits that make a great job great”: 
1 – Creativity: you’re able to make some unique contribution to your role or field.
2 – Impact: the positive effects of your work reach beyond your immediate organization or community.
3 – Control: you have a high level of autonomy in how you get your work done.
As Newport points out, these three traits that make a great job great are themselves rare and valuable.
How do you get to do such rewarding work?
This is where your skills come in.
Newport argues that the key to positioning yourself for great work is to shift from what he calls the “passion mindset” to the “craftsman mindset.”
The passion mindset asks: What can the world offer me?
But the craftsman mindset asks: What can I offer the world?
Rare and valuable jobs and careers require rare and valuable skills.
#3. Four ways you can be useful to others
The essence of being rare and valuable is measured in how useful you are to other people. 
Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers suggests the following four ways to be useful: 
1. Share strong opinions
When you do this, people who were previously ambivalent or undecided can just adopt your view. 
Also, those who disagree with you “can solidify their stance by arguing against yours.”
You’re useful to both groups.
2. Be expensive 
Sivers suggests taking a cue from psychology. 
People who spend more for a product or service place a higher value on it, and get more use out of it.
3. Get rich
As Sivers puts it: “Money is neutral proof that you’re adding value to people’s lives.”
By getting rich, you’re being useful as a side-effect and a signal of your value.
And once you’re rich, you can spend money in ways that are even more directly useful to others.
4. Become famous 
The more people you reach, the more useful you are. 
Therefore, you should do your work for the public and in public.
For Sivers: “The opposite is hiding, which is of no use to anyone.
Quote of the week
“Most people understand that companies are more valuable if they are difficult to compete with. This is important, and obviously true.
But this holds true for you as an individual as well. If what you do can be done by someone else, it eventually will be, and for less money.”
- Entrepreneur and investor Sam Altman in his essay How to Be Successful
Other Weekly 3 issues about careers
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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