Recently discovered the section below in Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss and i think it’s useful to share. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, shares his view about growing professionally, a view that resonated with me a lot.
Intuitively, i’ve been following a similar approach to professional growth, switching from Tech to HR and Management Consulting to Product Management and UX Design and now to Marketing and Sales, as an entrepreneur.
<<On “career advice,” Scott has written the following, which is slightly trimmed for space here. This is effectively my mantra, and you’ll see why I bring it up: 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 fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which 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.
I always advise young people to become good public speakers (top 25%). Anyone can do it with practice. If you add that talent to any other, suddenly you’re the boss of the people who have only one skill. Or get a degree in business on top of your engineering degree, law degree, medical degree, science degree, or whatever. Suddenly you’re in charge, or maybe you’re starting your own company using your combined knowledge. Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix. . . .
At least one of the skills in your mixture should involve communication, either written or verbal. And it could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking, develop that too. It sounds like generic advice, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any successful person who didn’t have about three skills in the top 25%.
TF: Marc Andreessen (page 170) long ago referred to the above double-/ triple-threat concept, citing Scott’s writing, as “even the secret formula to becoming a CEO. All successful CEOs are like this.” He reiterated that you could also cultivate this in school by getting unusual combinations of degrees, like engineering + MBA, law degree + MBA, or undergrad physics + economics.>>
Reading the concept of “School of Life” in Clayton Christensen’s How will you measure your life had a similar effect. Christensen advocates for looking at different experiences we have in our lives as the equivalent of pursuing different Bachelor or Master’s degrees. The key question is: “What will i have learned / how will i become better after going through this professional experience?”