One of the biggest determinants of impact you can have on the world and the success of your career is the skills you have, and the skills you continuously develop.
Today we’ll take a look at how to think about skill development, and outline which skills are most important.
Be a Double/Triple/Quadruple Threat
If you want to be extraordinary, you have two paths:
- Become the best at one thing
- Become very good (top 10%) at two or more things
The first is nearly impossible.
But the second is surprisingly easy.
Everyone has a few things they are particularly good at. And it’s the combination of two or more less common skills that makes people successful.
As we’ve said before:
Let’s say you are in a town of 1,000,000 people. If you are top 10% at 6 different skills, 1,000,000 x 10% x 10% x 10% x 10% x 10% x 10% = 1.
The combination of your skills make you 1 in a million – now that’s how you become indispensable.
In fact, this is the secret formula to becoming a CEO. Successful CEO’s are rarely the best at anything, but they are in the top 10% for lots of different things. When you combine these different skills, you suddenly start getting an edge above others who are rooted in a single discipline. Being top 10% in two important skills is certainly a case where 1 + 1 = 3.
So, what skills are the most important?
Prioritise the 4 Most Important Skills
SKILL 1 – LEARNING
When listening to different people from different disciplines across different generations, there is one skill that is lauded above any other: learning.
Why? Because if you know how to learn, you can pick up other skills more quickly. As a lifelong self-learner, you can get wiser every day. This one skill makes every other skill easier.
Billionaire Charlie Munger calls it becoming a learning machine:
I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines.
And the ‘Warren Buffet Formula’ has been said to be “going to bed smarter than when you woke up”.
So become a fast learner and you’ll get a headstart on every other skill.
SKILL 2 – PEOPLE SKILLS
It is a near certainty that you will have to build relationships with people or manage people at some stage in your career. The most successful people have all honed this skill.
The best way to learn is to emulate great managers and others skilled in the art of people skills. As a good starting point, an oldie but a goldie is the book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
SKILL 3 – COMMUNICATION
Effective communication is the ability to draw people’s attention to a certain view of reality. It is the gateway to influence and persuasion.
Effective communication is what causes people to change their behaviour. It is also what allows you to sell yourself and your ideas, to land jobs and to keep them.
An engineer or finance person or developer who can communicate is hugely more valuable than one who cannot.
You can learn communication by practicing (check out Toastmasters), by taking classes, and even by reading a lot.
SKILL 4 – FINANCE
Financial literacy – understanding financial statements, financial theory, budgeting and planning, how equity and debt markets work, corporate structure – is a huge boost to any career.
In fact, financial literacy is a more general skill than it appears to be. It helps you in your personal life, and if you ever want to start your own company, understanding finance is a tremendous help.
You can learn about finance through books, YouTube, Podcasts or taking an elementary finance class at school.