Skill stacking: Instead of mastering one skill, build a skill set

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Life is a continual progression of skill stacking. The relevant skills you learn today can be used not just tomorrow but for the rest of your life. The only way to prepare yourself for tomorrow is to develop the right skills today.

You don’t need to become the best in the world at one thing to advance your career. What you need is a valuable skillset that can stand the test of time.

Skill Stacking is not a new concept, but it’s an approach to learning that can help you become a better version of yourself. The idea is that you learn new skills, often unrelated, and then combine them to make yourself more efficient, or valuable.

Tim Herrera of New York Times explains, “The idea is that instead of focusing your efforts on becoming singularly great at one specific skill or task, you should strive to get proficient at a few related skills that can be woven together into a wider skill set that does make you singularly good at your profession or some general life ability.”

Over the years, I’ve developed many skills — writing, marketing, web design, teaching, time management, investing, the art of persuasion, and staying calm under pressure. I’m not a master at any of these skills, but collectively they have helped me become who I’m today. I’m still learning other relevant skills that will be genuinely valuable to others and also fulfilling to me. With a diverse mix of skills, I’m able to stay ahead despite constant market changes.

In the 21st century, careers are no longer narrowly defined by core skills, but through complementary skills and learning agility. Simply learning a new skill opens up so many options.

“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones. Our conceptual classification schemes provide scaffolding for connecting knowledge, making it accessible and flexible, ” argues David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Your skills, knowledge, and competency (past, present) are either helping you advance your career or hindering your progress in life. Knowledge begets knowledge, and new competencies drive careers forward.

“Successwise, you’re better off being good at two complementary skills than being excellent at one,” says Scott Adams, author of How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big. “When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality,” he adds.

When you stack skills and abilities, you see the world differently. You gain a broader understanding of more subjects. Mastering new skills will put you on a path of life-long learning and give you more confidence.

Understand your strengths through skill stacking

Curious about web design? Find valuable tutorials to get started. Want to write? Spend half an hour a day writing.

Embracing and honing the widest possible range of interests, and activities and is the best approach to blazing your polymathic path. Take up pursuits that challenge you, and will help you become the best version of yourself.

Sticking to a single career path means improving yourself in a single line of work. Some people prefer stability and want to commit all their efforts to master one skill. Others prefer the polymath approach — building knowledge that spans a significant number of subjects to solve specific problems.

Conventionally, many people think success comes from becoming a master of one skill. This works well in some fields. In medicine, the natural progression is to pick a specialty. In sports, you train to become best in your field, like Tiger Woods (golf) or Serena Williams (tennis). In acting, you become so good they can’t ignore you like Robert De Niro or Meryl” Streep.

But besides becoming world-class in one skill, success in life and career also comes from having a unique stack of skills that make you indispensable, invaluable or unique. You can utilize those skills to create value in a way no one else can, thus becoming one-of-a-kind in your field. Good at a specific hard skill? Develop your soft skills.

Skill stacking raises your market value by being good or great — not extraordinary — at more than one skill. “When you gain new knowledge and enhance your skills, you’re provided with many more opportunities and see that more roads are open to you,” argues April Davis of Pick The Brain.

The concept of skill stacking doesn’t just apply to careers. Whatever is happening in our lives, the situations present an opportunity to learn important skills so we are prepared for what comes next. Learning to be happy while single can make you a better partner when you finally decide to be with some. Learning how to improve your emotional intelligence will not only help your career, you can apply the same principles to your relationships.

Take time to figure out what skills you have right now and what you can learn in the future to take you in a direction that is right for you and your interests. Everyone can benefit from skill stacking. “All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together,” argues Scott Adams.

The good news is, you can go from knowing absolutely nothing about something to being quite skilled in only a few months. Putting in a few hours of focused, deliberate practice daily is all you need to start learning how to speak in public, get better at negotiation, manage people better in a business environment, learn some useful new technology, code, draw, design, dance, play an instrument or start your own side hustle.

Look for new skills you can stack to prepare yourself for the future. Those skills will increase your earnings and add variety to your career. Think about what skills you bring to the table today and what else you can add to your skillset to create a unique value proposition.

The small slice of time you devote to learning about a subject that piques your interest can pay off for the rest of your life. Failing to learn key skills can have a lasting impact on your career.

This article first appeared on Medium.