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Talent Stacking And How To Increase The Odds Of Success

What’s your talent stack?

As the new year begins, the online world is awash with people making predictions about the year ahead.

In reality, the only predictable thing about the next twelve months is that a lot of it is unpredictable.

Today the world moves too fast and is too complicated to know what the future holds at either a macro or micro level.

History doesn’t repeat itself even though we tell ourselves it does.

The important events that will happen this year will mostly be, to quote Nassim Taleb, black swans (things we can’t predict).

While there are ways to improve the odds of understanding the future (more of that below), we can look at three broad trends that are impacting the world today.

These are cultural, economical and technological.

Cultural because of the rise of identity politics, economical because of globalisation and cheap labour, and technological because of automation.

Competition for jobs today is tough and the demand for a greater skillset has never been more apparent.

In today’s world, you will become quickly irrelevant if you depend on just one skill (or ‘talent’ as from now on I’ll call it) in today’s global marketplace.

If you’re in the top one percent of people with your talent, and assuming it’s in demand, you are safe. You’re in the elite, the best-of-the-best and top of the pyramid.

The remaining 99 percent of people below you will likely struggle.

This is where developing a talent stack comes in.

A talent stack is a set of complementary skills that make you unique to the market.

The set of talents you have collectively determine the value you can create especially when you combine those talents to create something unique.

The concept of the talent stack came from Scott Adams, creator of the globally successful comic strip, Dilbert, which is in 2,000 newspapers across 65 countries and in 25 languages.

Adams has an impressive stack of talents of his own but, by his own admission, he says he’s not the best artist, he’s not the best writer, he’s not the most persuasive or even the funniest person he knows.

But, and it’s a big but, he’s good enough at all of them.

While Adams is not world-class at one single talent, when stacked together they gave him the ability to create a globally known comic like Dilbert.

“When you add in my ordinary business skills, my strong work ethic, my risk tolerance, and my reasonably good sense of humor, I’m fairly unique. And in this case that uniqueness has commercial value.”

Scott Adams

The money you earn is dependent on the value you bring to the market and in today’s world the need to have a multitude of talents to draw on has never been greater.

How to find your own individual talent stack.

It’s simple. Where do you want to be in life and what talents do you need to get there?

If you want to run your own company you need to develop a business talent stack.

Business is a talent stack in itself because there are a lot of moving parts to be successful in it. For most entrepreneurs, this talent stack is learnt on the job.

A business talent stack includes:

  • Accounting
  • Managing people
  • Marketing
  • Resourcing
  • Negotiation
  • Team building
  • Sales
  • Product development
  • Etc

Before the internet, all writers had to do was put pen to paper and write.

Being a writer today, however, is a different ball game and requires you to know a lot more than just writing.

A writer’s talent stack includes:

  • Communication (writing and speaking)
  • Tech know-how (publishing)
  • Branding
  • SEO
  • Influence and persuasion
  • A unique perspective
  • Spotting fake news
  • Etc

On a Periscope chat, Adams talks about the talent stack you need to be good at predicting the future. He says this requires one of the biggest lists of individual talents.

The talent stack to accurately predict the future includes:

  • Economics
  • Business
  • Negotiating
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Branding
  • Law
  • Tech (to know what’s possible and what isn’t)
  • Hypnosis, persuasion, psychology and the power of optimism
  • How to write
  • Body language
  • User interface and design
  • Understanding of history

Here’s a video of Adams discussing the talent stack required to predict the future.


Where do you want to be and what is the talent stack that will help you get there?

My own talent stack is a work in progress and currently includes:

  • Marketing (PR, social media, SEO and branding)
  • Influence, persuasion and social psychology
  • Communications (writing and speaking)
  • Tech communication (web design, blogging, podcasting, photography)
  • Teaching/training
  • Autodidact (joy in learning knowledge)
  • Sophophilic (joy in learning wisdom)
  • Building rapport
  • Tech literate
  • Optimism
  • Risk tolerance
  • Trendspotter
  • Sense of humour
  • Health, fitness and nutrition

A talent stack requires continuous work

I’m not great at any of the above but I’m OK at a lot of them and work to improve on each.

There are a few other talents I’m working on (or plan to work on) that I haven’t mentioned purely because I’m at the complete novice level.

When you first start learning a new talent most people are usually atrocious but over time, inch by inch, bit by bit, you begin to see small improvements.

And the best part? Your talent stack gets better the older you become.

Assuming you’re willing to put in the work.

3 Comments

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  1. Absolutely love this. Seems obvious but having it laid out like this is great motivation. Been feeling quite swamped but now I’ve got a plan.

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