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Every skill you acquire doubles your odds success

Trong Nguyen
May 29th, 2021

I’m reading ‘How to fail at almost everything and still win big’ by Scott Adam. There's one idea that enlightens me and I think everyone should know about it.

Okay, the title might be for ‘clickbait. But it’s not. Let me explain why.

If I told you that taking a class in Web design during your evenings might double your odds of career success, the thought would increase the odds that you would act. If instead I only offered you a vague opinion that acquiring new skills is beneficial, you wouldn’t feel particularly motivated.

I’m reading ‘How to fail at almost everything and still win big’ by Scott Adam. For those who don’t know him, he’s the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, which has been published in 19 languages in more than 2,000 newspapers in 57 countries. I’m sure you have seen it somewhere.

There are many lessons I resonate with from it. But the idea soon-to-be my mantra is the logic of double or triple threat.

For him, the formula of success is:

Good + Good > Excellent

Success wise, we 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 are Olympic champions or make platinum albums.

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. For Scott, he can draw better than most people, but hardly an artist. And he’s not any funnier than the average standup comedian, but he’s 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 we do so rare.

Scott always advises young people to become good public speakers. If we add that talent to any other, suddenly we’re the boss of the people who have only one skill.

If you take a look at your bosses or CEO, you would see they aren’t much better than you in your expertise. But what they’re good at is their confidence, their presentation skill, or public speaking. Or they are usually the combinations of degrees, like engineering + MBA, or law degree + MBA.

Scott made a list of the skills in which he thinks every adult should gain working knowledge. I feel resonated with it too. So I will put it here for my preference and for you too. I recommend you to read that book if you feel resonated.

  1. Public speaking
  2. Psychology
  3. Business writing
  4. Accounting
  5. Design (the basics)
  6. Conversation
  7. Overcoming shyness
  8. Second language
  9. Golf
  10. Proper grammar
  11. Persuasion
  12. Technology (hobby level)
  13. Proper voice technique

Success wise, you’re better off being good at two complementary skills than being excellent at one. You don’t need to be world-class at your skill, but when mediocre skills are combines, they become a powerful market force.

Hi, I'm Trong, product designer living in Singapore. I write to practice, and write to find ideas. Nice to meet you!
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