Friday, July 20, 2007

Both Rare and Valuable

Over at The Dilbert Blog Scott Adams is giving out some free career advice on the best way to achieve extraordinary success.

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.
What do you think? First, is this advice valid? Second, can you think of two or more Things You Want To Become Very Good At?

Scott writes, "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." Well, dang, I should have his job. Art and humor are like core functions for me. I just ignore them... until something bursts. He continues, "And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it." Hmm. Maybe I should just take him out. It could be a simpler way to bully my way into the top 25%...

I started thinking about the ways that you can identify the Things You Want To Become Very Good At because, well, that's the way my mind works. One way is, of course, the MBTI. As an INFP I have lovely lists of particular talents and typical career paths to choose from. I always liked writer/novelist of course. Artist is there, too. One list even has a strong argument for accountant. Watch out, Scott Adams.

What else could you use? The book "First Break All the Rules" has an associated StrengthsFinder tool that, they say, helps you identify the top five strengths that you could develop to "world class level." I would assume that world class level is easily in the top 25%. Mine are Learning, Responsibility, Inclusion, Self-Assurance, and Input. I'm not sure how those relate to Scott's theory, but there it is. I guess I could combine learning, inclusion, and self-assurance to lead a philosophy group. Or I could combine responsibility and input to create the largest, best kept collection of... something. (I'm suspicious that it would be geeky.)

Where else can you turn? I thought another good source might be friends. So I turned to my two best friends to get their opinion on Three Things I'm Very Good At and got the following responses:
  • great storyteller, interest in learning new things and learning them in depth, ability to care
  • taking care of people, inspiring ideas, providing safety and comfort
Well, they didn't say anything much different than a combination of the other two sources. How about that? Now I just need to figure out how learning, storytelling, and loving people can be combined into an extraordinarily successful career.

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