If you want to live a successful life in 2021 and beyond, staying adaptable and learning new skills gives you the best chance of staying ahead.
The internet has given people career opportunities that never existed before. The barriers to entry in many areas are low and if you combine certain skills you can create a tailor-made career that suits your needs. This is the ultimate goal — to be in full control of both your career and lifestyle.
These skills can help you whether you’re trying to be a top employee or if you’re trying to start a business of your own. You can even combine both and have a hybrid career. That’s the beauty of the age we live in. You don’t have to be pigeonholed into one path at all. Let’s take a look at some of the skills you can use to adapt and thrive.
The Ability to Acquire the Currency of Today’s Times
We live in an attention economy. Those with the most eyeballs on their work, projects, ideas, etc, have access to more opportunities. You need to learn how to attract attention because, without it, even a great idea can fall flat.
Notice I said to attract attention.
If you want to build an audience, start a movement, gain loyal customers, or even attract the right people into your life, you’re better off gaining a following as a natural byproduct of the quality of your work plus the authentic personality needed to properly display the work.
We’re all flooded with people, products, and companies who are trying to get in our face and interrupt us — ads, propaganda in the media, and a slew of “influencers” who furiously create fluffy content to convince us to join their tribes.
To get attention the right way, just be so awesome that continuing to engage with you seems like the obvious thing to do. Of course, traditional marketing skills are necessary, but marketing works much better when it’s connected to quality and authenticity.
What does this mean for you?
Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish, understand that ‘creating content’ is a concept that applies to almost anyone.
Display your knowledge, insights, personal experience to the world. You don’t even need to have a business in mind before you do this. You can do this as an employee who never plans to quit their job.
Start putting yourself out there, get the attention first, and you can figure out what do to with it later.
Some examples are:
- Blogging — Even if you don’t want to become a writer, using a blog to share thoughts about your industry can attract customers, employers, investors, and people who want to be in your network
- Video — You can start putting video content online by simply turning your iPhone camera to your face and talking. Take an example like Tai Lopez. Love him or hate him, he started a 9 figure company using a video he shot with a phone.
- Social Media — Here’s a great example of this. Ron Caruthers is a personal finance expert. He does these amazing Twitter threads breaking down complex topics in simple ways for “laypeople” to understand. He’s not trying to become a social media influencer, but his savvy use of social platforms helps him build his business.
The Skill That Helps You Become the Best in the World
In one of the best self-help books I’ve ever read, How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, he talks about the concept of skill stacking to put yourself in a position to be one of the best in the world at what you do.
It’s hard to be the best in the world at one skill.
But, if you learn how to combine skills in a unique way, you create a rare skill set. The rarer your skillset, the more ‘career capital’ you have. Career capital gives you more freedom, helps you command higher rates, and gives you the upper hand because you’re harder to replace.
Scott Adams is the cartoonist behind Dilbert. Scott will tell you he’s a decent drawer, not the best. He’s funny, but not the funniest. His time spent in corporate culture gave him fodder for the strip as well as the business skills needed to promote himself. Combine these skills together, and you get a unique skill set that creates a unique comic strip.
Create your ‘talent stack’ to stand out. First, play games you can win. Focus on strengthening your natural talents and capabilities as a foundation first, then branch out to building ancillary skills. Doing this will help you multiply the effect of your effort.
The Skill that Maximizes Your Time
In a world where attention spans are shrinking, the ability to focus is at a premium. If you can learn to block out specific periods of time and enter a flow state while you work, you’ll become the right kind of productive.
Working four hours per day on activities that move the needle, creates more output than a distracted 8 hour day.
If you focus, and focus hard, on doing the 20 percent of the work that creates 80 percent of the results, everything else will fall into place. Some say the 80/20 rule isn’t narrow enough — more like 95/5.
People ask me about my writing ‘tricks’ all the time. I have one trick. I’ve entered a flow state and used it to produce words almost every day for five years. That’s it. This one routine has led to all the positive outcomes I’ve had when it comes to making money online.
The steps to success are straightforward but require focus and discipline. That’s it. In your chase to ‘be productive’ coupled with your need to ‘know all the tricks’ you move further away from your goals.
The bar for discipline, focus, and the ability to follow directions is low. Exceed it and you’ll win.
The Ability to Steer the Vehicle that Drives Your Life
Emotional intelligence has grown in prominence over the years, but, again, people get too cute with the concept. You don’t need to know your E.Q. score. You don’t need to have this detailed profile of your personality.
True emotional intelligence simply means you know how to regulate your emotions in a way that produces positive outcomes. That’s it. We live in a world filled with distractions. Although we have access to more information than ever, that information isn’t useful if we can’t manage our emotions well enough and long enough to be able to use it.
If you can master your ‘hard skills’ and ‘soft skills’ at the same time you’ll be able to put yourself in a position to build a sustainable career.
Some examples are:
- Self-awareness — Most people can’t be honest with themselves. Their rationalizations and ego get in the way of their own success. If you know who you are — both your strengths and your limitations, you can stack the odds in your favor.
- Humility — Your ego tells you that you should be further along than you are, even though you haven’t done the work. Fear is actually a form of self-centeredness. You think you’re so important that the world cares if you fail. It doesn’t. Counterintuitively, true humility is the ability to live the life you deserve by putting your ego to the side and displaying your talents.
- Patience and stability — If you have the ability to execute your ideas, without too many unnecessary ups and downs, you’ll get the results you want. The combination of certainty in your long-term goals and proactivity towards short-term actions combined with the ability to remain detached from short-term results enhances your productivity.
The Skill That Helps Keeps You From Getting Sidetracked.
Staying positive and focusing on the upside the world has to offer sets you apart from the vast majority of society. Society is polluted with noise. From the ‘sky is falling’ narrative to the keeping up with the Joneses mentality to putting a major emphasis on minor things, most people get thrown off too often to succeed.
The prescription for how to reduce your signal to noise ratio is simple:
- Limit news consumption — The incentive structure is such that the media has to create emotionally arousing, often negative, content to get clicks. By the nature of the industry, they simply can’t give you objective narratives.
- Follow (a few) smart people — My blogging knowledge comes from two or three people, tops. I consume a lot of information, but once I find a truly valid source, I quadruple down on it. You’re better off following advice verbatim from a few extremely successful people than you are listening to everyone.
- Focus on your output — You can only control yourself. Be the change you want to see in the world. Exhaust your resources first before looking for someone to save you. Measure your results by your effort. The noise of the world will tell you to focus on everyone else but yourself, which is what almost everyone does. Basic personal responsibility for your life will dramatically reduce your noise addiction.
Stay on this journey long enough, and you’ll realize 99 percent of all information is noise. Counterintuitively, you only need one percent worth of truly valuable information to change your entire life.
The Ability to Find Your Tribe
Don’t ‘network’ with people. Connect with people.You’d be surprised at how many people you can connect with if you focus on interacting with people you actually find interesting. That, plus putting yourself out there and displaying your knowledge for the world to see, will make connecting with people, especially influential people, much easier.
I know dozens of top writers. How did I meet them? I attracted them by writing great content or I showed them love without asking for anything in return. I share their stuff on social media because it’s actually good. I’ll write reviews for products I truly love. When you operate this way, a network naturally unfolds as a result of it.
There are so many simple actions you can take, from the right headspace, that can help you connect with others:
- Buy and review their products
- Leave thoughtful comments on their work
- Share their work online
- Send people notes, without asking for anything, saying thank you for the quality of their work
- Participate in places where you can find like-minded peers, e.g., posting content about a certain niche on social media
Once people know you’re legitimate and are one of the rare people in society who aren’t looking to take, take, take, they’re glad to connect with you.
Standing Out in a Sea of Resumes
Jeff Goins, a writer I looked up to in my early days, used to talk about this concept of the portfolio life. Instead of having a resume filled with boring bullet points, you should be able to display what you’ve done.
When I Google you, a digital trail of your accomplishments should pop up:
- Content and social media profiles
- Projects you’ve done
- News articles and media about you
James Altucher once said, “Books are the new business cards.” In general, your portfolio of work online is your business card.
I forgot where I heard this, but there’s also the phrase “Every company is a media company and every person has a personal brand.”
Guess what? If you haven’t actively focused on creating a brand, you have a brand, but it’s not a good one. Again, no need to “become an influencer.”
But do intentionally leave breadcrumbs about what you’ve been up to. As Austin Kleon discusses in his book, Show Your Work, you want to not only put projects out there but give people behind the scenes access to what you’re doing.
Document the steps you’re taking to improve your life, career, or business in real-time to naturally build this online presence and portfolio. Imagine you’re choosing between two potential employees on LinkedIn. One has a resume. The other has status updates about their field, videos, blog posts, and little demos of their skills scattered across their profile.
Who would you want to hire?
One of the Most Underrated Skills of All Time
Writing well is a superpower. Even if you don’t want to become a writer, learning to write will improve your life, business, and career.
Why? Writing forces you to articulate your thoughts. Often, you’ll think you know about a subject, but writing about it makes it clear whether or not you do. Writing helps you become a better thinker and decision-maker.
Many people don’t ascend in their life or career because they don’t know how to communicate their own values. They have communications issues in general — how many poorly thought out emails have you received in your life?
Every CEO and company should have a blog. Top employees can use blogging to display their knowledge in the field. Every individual should have a blog to practice their critical thinking and storytelling skills.
You don’t have to be Hemingway.
Anyone can learn the following:
- Basic business blogging
- Succinct and persuasive emails
- Basic storytelling frameworks
- Essay writing
Look at how pervasive writing is in your life. Every advertisement has words. It drives the narratives of your favorite shows and movies. Email is still the primary channel for business communication.
The skill of writing is so universal I’d be hard-pressed to find a person who wouldn’t benefit from getting better at it.
The Ability to be (Truly) Authentic
When it comes to this attention economy we’re in, trying to become an influencer is futile. Never start with a goal to be famous or get attention. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself, in public, and nothing more.
The world is too competitive to just rely on objectivity to get ahead. Being your authentic self is the only way to get ahead because nobody can compete with you when it comes to being you.
You learn the rules of your game so you can break them. You study the basic techniques and strategies of your field then combine them with your unique insights and skills. And you never play a character to get ahead.
You become authentic by forgetting about arbitrary authenticity standards. You build the skill of becoming authentic by pushing yourself to be more of yourself over time. Look at some of the most popular people in many different fields — many are polarizing. Because their views don’t cater to everyone and even piss some people off, they create a loyal following.
You don’t force people to join your tribe. You attract like-minded people into your tribe. The same rings true for networks, customers, fans, employers, and everything between. You want to draw the right situations into your life and you can’t do that unless you’re upfront about who you are, what you want, and your view of the way the world works.
The days of rising up the ladder as a corporate robot are dead. Without the ability to think on your feet and sell your ideas (employees still sell their services to employers) you’re dead in the water.
Whether or not you want to start a business, you should treat your life like a business.
- You are a product — People fail in life when they sit around and hope the right situations fall into their lap. Why would people ‘buy into you’ if you’re not packaging yourself like an offer?
- You’re the head of marketing and sales — Half the items I mentioned on this list involve displaying your knowledge online. Why? Gone are the days of being an anonymous 8 x 11 sheet of paper, resume, and winning.
- You’re the PR department — For better or worse, almost everything you do in life lives on a permanent record thanks to the internet. Again, don’t pander, but understand your behavior creates a ‘brand’ for you, whether you like it or not.
The top employees of this century won’t be salaried employees. They’ll be entrepreneurial gig type works who have a portfolio, contract with many companies, and use media to boost their profiles.
You don’t need to own a factory and hold tons of inventory to own an actual business anymore. Mostly, you need a computer. Many 7 figures companies are run with 3–4 employees, total.
Many just use a series of virtual assistants, freelancers, and contractors. We’re all living in this more contract-based economy. It no longer makes sense to be the “company” man or woman.
Without the initiative and drive of an entrepreneur, you’ll get lost in the shuffle of a fast-paced world.
Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement Grab your free checklist The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Profitable Skills Wanna keep in touch online? Follow me on Instagram here.