How to Stack Your Strengths for Maximum Success

Michael Loren

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There is only so much room at the top of any proverbial mountain. For instance, there is only one gold medal per event at the Olympics. There is only one first chair violinist in the New York Philharmonic. And there is definitely only one Oprah. The point is that, no matter what your passion, there is not a lot of room at the top of your industry.

That’s just the way life works. Not everyone can be the best. And if everyone was considered the best, then there would no longer be anything that is the best because even the word “best” implies the MOST excellent. Which also implies MORE excellent than MOST other people.

Being the best at one thing is not only an elite club to which few people belong, it is also statistically unlikely. No matter how exceptional your work ethic. Buying a lottery ticket in California gets you a one in 41,416,353 chance of striking it rich. Similarly, if I wanted to be, say, a pop singer, my odds would be similar to those of winning the lottery. One in, well, a lot. I’d guess that there are over 100,000+ aspiring singers out there in the world, but there is only one Grammy for Best Solo Pop Performance.

See, I’m not a person that likes to play the lottery. I like to create my own odds. So, let’s look at it this way. If there are 100,000 people in the world that would want the coveted job of Red Fishcatcher #1, your chances of becoming Red Fishcatcher #1 are 1/100,000. Similarly, if there are 100,000 people that want to be Blue Fishcatcher #1, your chances of getting that job are 1/100,000.

However, what if you learn to catch red AND blue fish? (I’ve obviously been reading too much Dr. Seuss, by the way). First of all, you’ve doubled your chances of getting either the Red Fishcatcher job or the Blue Fishcatcher job. BUT there is a world in which there might be a Red-and-Blue Fishcatcher job and let’s say that only 10% of your previous competitors know how to catch both. Guess what that makes your new odds? 1/20,000. And what if you learn to catch yellow fish too? Maybe 1/500?

You get the idea. The more things you know how to do, the more chances you have at being number one. Rather than being the best violin player in the world, how’s about learning to dance as well and then being the best dancer-violinist in the world(Lindsey Sterling)? Now, THAT is creating your own odds. Lindsey Sterling not only created her own odds, she practically created her own niche as well.

You can do this in any industry. For instance, you might not be the best architect in your company, but you might be the only architect who speaks Japanese. BAM! Straight to the front of the line for the job to take place in conjunction with the affiliate in Japan.

Or maybe you aren’t sure if you’ll succeed as a photographer, but you decide to learn to dive and take some of your photos underwater. WHAMMO! You’re on the grid. After stacking one more strength on top of the one you already had, you become the most sought after underwater photographer in the world. And what if you add one more strength to either one of those stacks? You got it. Even more success.

On a side note, the more fun things you do with your life, the more interesting you are (or seem), the more you have to talk about with others, and I will assume the more fulfilled you become. I felt on top of the world after I trained for and completed my first marathon. And I will venture to say that I felt a little more fulfilled in my little life.

Here’s the thing, though. Running a marathon also gave me something else to talk about with people in my industry. I suddenly had something in common with all of the other people who had run marathons in my industry. And those people began popping up in all corners of my life. If you read my Networking 101 article, you’ll remember that the more similarities and hobbies you share with a person, the more likely they will be to remember you in the future. And the more of these you have, the more people you can connect with.

So, now that you know the benefits of adding tools to your tool belt of skills, how do you choose the best one(s) to add? Great question. Here are some things to consider when approaching the prospect of learning or developing a new skill:

  1. What kinds of things enhance or compliment the skills or strengths you already have?
  2. Where are the holes in your industry? Meaning, is there a combination of strengths in your profession that nobody has implemented yet?
  3. What do you enjoy? Are you a real estate agent who has always wanted to learn to be a yoga teacher? Fantabulous. There’s a great hook to any combination of strengths you want to stack. (Incidentally, a pair or trio of stacked strengths does not need to be obviously linked).
  4. How much time/money does it cost to acquire the new skill? If it’s going to take six years, 150K, and a PhD to stack one skill on top of the one you already have, maybe it’s not worth it. (Unless it’s something you explicitly enjoy).

Once you take these into consideration, go for it! You will never be too old, too poor, too dumb, or too busy to learn something new. In the great words of Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” I guarantee that if you spend time learning something new, stacking a new strength onto the ones you already have, you will never regret it.

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Writer, dad, entrepreneur, observer, cautious optimist

Burbank, CA
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