As an addition, this kind of article is part of a group of articles aimed at seeming to be a "novel" or "clever" approach to life, somehow holding the key to outsmart others. Most likely it a complete waste of your five minutes. Its similar to thinking about the Dunning Kruger effect, a complete waste of time.
The only overlap they really gave in the examples was "They're good at X skill.... and marketing themselves." Literally, the example people were good at both a skill and then marketing themselves as being good at that skill. Gary Vaynerchuk is both a good writer and good at marketing himself. Steve Jobs was good at design and also marketing himself. Tomas Pueyo is apparently decent at engineering and also ... marketing himself, with articles and TED talks like this. This is also why people can name Neil deGrasse Tyson but probably not a single other living astrophysicist. He's not the best in the world, but he's the best astrophysicist in the world at marketing himself.
So the advice isn't really to be good at two different skills. The advice is to be pretty good at one skill and then be really good at marketing yourself as being good at that thing. Even though other people in the world will be better at it, if you're good at marketing yourself you'll still be in more demand.
One exception I can think of where you legitimately need to be decent at three skills is bootstrapping as a solopreneur.
You need to be able to code, design, and market your product.
Other than that, it does seem like "X + marketing" is what you need, though I guess "marketing" is an umbrella term (content marketing requires writing ability, public speaking requires public speaking ability, etc.).
The article really just makes it clear it's important to be able to market yourself. However "people able to market their skills achieve more than people who can't" is not as interesting an article premise as "How to Become the Best in the World at Something (by being good at multiple skills)". And the author went with the latter because, well, it's important to be able to market yourself well.
Brian May :)
Turns out that your own personal branding is very important to your career.
However, I think the question is how likely it is that you would be able to become the best in the world at something?
I think that people who are the best in the world at something tend to be genetic freaks. Are you one? Probably not.
In that case, attempting to become the best in the world might mean setting yourself up for failure, though presumably you would still be more successful than an average person. It's just that there's a massive difference between being in the top 10% and the top 1% in terms of reward.
I guess you could just look at "cartooning" as a single skill in itself, but that's the idea.
What do you mean by this and how do you justify such a statement?
Regarding marketing, I start to gravitate more towards experts who provide long-form content. For example, Ray Peat in nutrition  or John Danaher in BJJ . This might be another marketing approach - no marketing at all, just providing high-quality long-form content, with no social media. It might attract people who think in a similar way as me.
Taking a logarithm, one gets a sum of independent identically-distributed variables, which then tend to sum to a normal distribution due to the Central Limit Theorem, meaning that success distributions produced by multiplication tend to be log-normal. This was argued by John D. Cook at . Log-normal distributions are interesting because they have a long tail—usually the top people drawn are way, way better than you might have expected; normal populations stick within several standard deviations of the mean but long-tailed ones see remarkable achievers many tens of standard deviations above the mean. This result has been long known for things like wealth and income and other measures of external success. So there is a lot of truth to this idea that, say, if you are a programmer, your time is worse spent on building that extra expertise with things that you are good at, like programming, and better spent on building new expertise with things that you are not good at, like perhaps digital art or negotiation/persuasion or accounting.
But a big corporation gets around a lack of any one critical variable by hiring someone for that variable. So if you're an excellent backend engineer, your time is wasted learning digital art, because somebody else will be making the artwork. Effectively the corporation becomes the organism and you become one specialized organelle in them. You're better off increasing your expertise within that specialty than learning other ones - say by firsthand experience with all the ways distributed systems can fail.
The returns to being a top individual producer beat the top returns to being a corporate drones, but the average returns are significantly worse (because the big corporation benefits from being able to swap out individual motivated actors to plug deficiencies rather than having to develop skills itself), so depending on your risk tolerance, this may or may not be a good strategy.
Tangentially, as a backend engineer, I've had to tell the people who made the digital art that the additional icon they supplied me wasn't quite the same color as the existing ones it was supposed to match and also looked misaligned because it didn't follow the same geometrical conventions.
So I wish what you're saying were true, but it isn't necessarily. This being a tangent, I'm not necessarily looking for a moral to the story here, but maybe it's something about having a certain minimum competence in an area so you can be sure you're working effectively with others.
(EDIT: What is a backend engineer doing with an icon at all? Sticking the URL where it's hosted into a config file and modifying the logic so that it shows up (or doesn't) as appropriate, then testing that by looking at the UI and seeing art that looks wrong.)
Half are women. 300/400 would be in the age range at anytime. If 10% play basketball. That's only 40.
If you spend 10k hours perfecting something no one else even thought of trying, chances are you'll be the best in the world at it.
And many outside that too. From medieval weaponry to chicken shop reviews, the internet has a fair people who make a living off all kinds of very specific subjects that most people wouldn't even think about.
So... like get a PhD?
Because generally, no competition means no demand, so while it might be satisfying to be best in the world at something, an obscure skill might not translate into financial success.
To make this example even more specific, maybe you are good at writing fast decoding algorithms for new telecom standards.
There is also a lot of now low-hanging fruit in compressed sensing for the mathletes/computer people who know what that's about.
Edit: Actually, just learn math if you're looking to get ahead and have an advantage over many people. This advice doesn't make for the best blogpost or YouTube video but it's effective.
Since the field is currently successfully employing a million people there must be that many profitable pieces if you slice it correctly.
Makes me wonder who else is out there with this kind of talent and what kind of records could be broken/made if they tried or had the opportunity.
The curriculum is tailored towards people of average intelligence, so if you are one, two, or three standard deviations above that, you won't be under pressure to develop a work ethic because you can get good grades without it.
Of course, if your intelligence is above average, then you probably are interested in a career that attracts other intelligent people.
And then you are in a serious trouble, because now you are in an environment where everyone is of similar intelligence, so you don't have your competitive advantage anymore, plus some people have a work ethic that you lack.
And even if you are still a standard deviation above most people, there are likely other people who are at the same level as you, and they might have a work ethic.
I think this is something that people who have intelligent children need to pay attention to.
Even after grad school, in industry, I’ve been much more of a strong executor than an idea generator.
My ex coach knew sugar ray Leonard pretty well in his youth and he said that Ray started beating up people already in his first day at the gym without having learned boxing technique. He just watched once and knew what to do.
At the top, you have genetic freaks with insane work ethic that are obsessed with that particular skill. Can you compete with that? No.
I'd guess that if you have average talent, you can probably get to the top 10%, mainly through outworking everyone else. But you will never be the best in the world.
And you know what I learned? 1. 750+ hours of "practice" is always required and 2. The difference between top x.x% and #1 is astounding.
There are very few areas of skill in which putting in several thousand hours of consistent practice will not land you in the top 1% at least, assuming you have close to the average physical/mental aptitude of people who usually take up this skill.
But you will never be Magnus Carlsen. The skill difference between 0.01% and #1 is far greater than the skill difference between 50% and 1%.
This is the subject matter of the book "Range":
In the first few years of doing both, there were plenty of times where I was intimidated by better people, where I'd ask myself "why can't I be more like X?"
At some point, there came a time when I became comfortable enough in my abilities so that I no longer think that way. All in all I think I'm an excellent tennis player and that I take great photos. So what if Alice is a better tennis player than me? So what if Bob takes better photographs?
If anything, and this is especially true with photography, whenever I come across a better person I try to take away something from their skills that can use to improve myself.
Decent advice, imho.
 Note, this does not constitute an endorsement of Scott's political views.
I really think this is the only way to be the best at something - do it every day, some days you'll fail, but if you keep going, eventually you'll have so much expertise you'll wake up one day and be the best, or close enough.
The trouble is no one really wants to do this, all Federer does is tennis, he must love it, every day he gets up and plays tennis. Most people will stop at good enough though.
If Federer played basketball, would he be the best? probably not, so thats the other thing - pick something your body and brain is built for, and do it every day.
If there were any short cuts then the best would use them any way and add them to their arsenal, so any short cuts will be short lived.
I think PG said something the same about start ups - they don't fail the founders just stop.
I think this ties in with why so many start ups are made by rich kids, they can afford not to stop, everyone else has to stop at some point and get a job.
I'm the best in the world a tactical boomerang juggling in Breath of the Wild. A gamer with pro-level skills could probably show me up with a few hours practice, but until someone decides to do that, I'm the best.
In your case, making entertaining videos of popular games is a pretty profitable niche.
However that is only because the skills I'm thinking of aren't in themselves hugely common. I'm not mega skilled at them, but the relative rarity of some means the overlap really is quite small - fortunately!
It's not going to be good advice if your key skills are, say selling things and being super knowledgable about cars. Oh look, an obvious union but that combination is popular already. So I'd say start by becoming good at a couple niche skills and then see where you end up.
He could draw a little, and he knew about the business world a little, but not many people could combine those things -- and be a business cartoonist.
Benchmark with the leaders.
Be prepared to work as hard as them, and actually do it for enough years to make a difference.
Outlive them. This is what you were planning to do when you started early.
For a pursuit where skill building is a function of effort over a lifetime.
In sports I guess that would be your athletic lifetime.
(I've had the privilege of being beat by someone decades my senior.)
Anyway, we tend to overestimate because of how we used to encounter. If we dedicate ourselves to something, it will pay off. If there is someone that’s world class on something, you shouldn’t focus on becoming him, but focus into further things. We are all alike at the end, it’s our enthusiasm that drive us into pursuing our goals. The only difference between you and the other top 1 is that he had more interest.
Basically to put it in simpler words, don’t think that there is a huge gap between you and your understanding of the world and your goal. It’s much less than you think
Wishful thinking. The most important component is genetic ability, which must be enabled by an environment allowing you to put in the required effort (i.e. developed or developing country, food and housing, minimal education). Interest and discipline is a tertiary concern.
It's way easier to be interested in something if you have natural aptitude.
> It’s not about being great at any one thing — you just need to be pretty good at an array of useful skills that, when combined, make you truly one of a kind.
As somebody who was the world’s #2 chess player for my age as a kid (okay, not the “top” but close enough) - I’d like to say that the advice in this article is terrible for anyone who wants to reach their full potential.
The part I really have a problem with is this:
> There will always be someone working harder... [or] someone with greater genetic gifts, or more luck, or both.
The only way to get world-class at something is to work your ass off. To have discipline and apply yourself consistently to the practice, day in and day out, for years.
And yeah, even if you do that, you still might not be best in the world at that thing. But you know what? The relationship with yourself that you cultivated while mastering that discipline will 100% translate over to any other endeavor you wish to pursue.
Similarly, if you always give up on things because you always see there’s someone better than you, that pattern will hinder your ability to excel everywhere.
My competitive chess career was pretty brief in the end. I realized that staying at the top would require total dedication and no social life (home schooling etc), and yes, there were other up and coming kids who seemed to be at a level I couldn’t reach. So I gave up the dream of being world chess champion and went to school. But I cannot even express how much the experience of devoting myself to one discipline helped me later on in my life and career. Peak performance in any area ultimately depends on how you deal with challenge, setbacks, and motivation for the grind.
Don’t settle for being “pretty good”. Push yourself to be the best you can be, you might be surprised what you learn along the way.
[Edit] To the people commenting things like 'I think he is giving "regular" people who arent gifted a path to massive success by being "pretty good" at a few different things':
The whole "regular" people argument is BS. I was a "regular" kid who happened to become freakishly devoted to chess, at which point people started labeling me as a "prodigy". But the label is meaningless. Nobody calling me a prodigy saw the thousands of hours I spent playing and practicing.
I hate it when people draw arbitrary distinctions like "regular" vs "gifted". It makes the so-called gifted ones out to be freaks, or whatever the opposite of "normal" is, and it is demotivating to all the so-called normal kids who wonder if they could ever achieve greatness.
Still though being top 5 in the US for that age group dosent mean very much, the US is one country out of many others. On top of that as you stack against other ages especially say when I became an Adult there is no guarantee I would have even made it to the top 10000, never-mind the top 5, because far more Adults play chess.
I dont think the author is discouraging people from doing that if thats what they are passionate about.
Far more importantly I think he is giving "regular" people who arent gifted a path to massive success by being "pretty good" at a few different things. He is mathematically trying to prove that it will lead to great results, perhaps maybe even better results, than being the absolute best at one thing.
There are diminishing returns to pushing yourself if you arent gifted, you may try your heart out and never ever get to be the very best at Chess. Let's say you hypothetically committed large chunks of your life to it, dont have any other skills, and now are broke and cant live a good meaningful life because you dont earn much for being great at Chess, you only earn if you are the very best.
His path is safer for most of us.
I completely agree with you. I have commented many times on HN about discipline and how much it can change your life (it changed mine). I probably have nowhere near the discipline you have cultivated, but I'm working every day to get better.
* Motivation is fleeting, so is something that cannot be relied upon.
* Practice discipline every single day. I have found that discipline builds upon itself. I get up at the same time every day (even on the weekends). I work out every day. It's not even something I think about, it's just what has to be done.
* I get up early, not 4:30 early, but between 5-6am every day (and before all the sleep is required people jump on me, I'm in bed by 9-10pm). It sounds silly, but jumping out of bed ready to go when the alarm goes off is the first discipline win of the day.
It's really just a mindset of doing what you know needs to get done. Whether it's working on something at work or controlling your emotions when someone cuts you off in traffic. There are tons of opportunities every day to practice and help you improve your discipline.
If there was one book that I would pick to read, it would be Musashi. It's probably not the standard book someone would recommend, but it was huge inspiration for me. It is an amazing story with so many lessons on discipline and life.
Finally, not to get too philosophical but I also see many of the same lessons when training Jiu Jitsu. It teaches many things beyond discipline, and is something I recommend to everyone.
I used to struggle to lose some weight, and was too casual at sport. David Goggins - you can watch him at Joe Rogan and check his book - clicked in me and seemed to have changed my mindset regarding physical activities.
As a result, I managed to keep Paleo diet, and challenge my body and mind with regular long distance running (sweet suffering :) The healthy changes in my weight followed!
You say sweet suffering, and you're right. Embrace the suffering and life just gets...better. From Musashi,
“If you can bear up under hardship, you can experience a pleasure greater than the pain,” Musashi said solemnly. “Day and night, hour by hour, people are buffeted by waves of pain and pleasure, one after the other. If they try to experience only pleasure, they cease to be truly alive. Then the pleasure evaporates.”
What you're saying sounds like you'd have to force yourself to endure the training, but you'd have to force Magnus to stop playing chess.
But the great thing about the "striving to be best" mentality is you don't need anyone else to give it to you, and if you didn't get it as a kid it's never too late to start. You just need to be passionate about something and then be crazy enough to see how far you can go with it.
I don't have the mental power to be crazy, but you are right.
Wait, what? I was clearly using crazy in the Steve Jobs “here’s to the crazy ones” sense. You appear to be implying that unlike you, I do have the mental power to be crazy in the mentally ill sense. That seems slightly unwarranted.
I think that's a good example of "Good at A + hates B", say "Good at software engineering + hates marketing".
But what are the other "Good at A + hates B" skill combinations?
I remember reading about this couple of I believe software engineers who achieved financial independence at I think age 30.
If I recall correctly, she didn't have any natural aptitude for software engineering, she struggled to keep up with her classmates, she didn't enjoy her work, etc.
Still, she got her degree, got a job, made six figure salary, and retired at 30.
From what I understand, for her it was worth it.
Another thing is we can train skill B by using a method that we enjoy, to remove half of the pain.
He had as a mentor, when he was kid, f*cking Robert Noyce:
Noyce himself was a genius on its own.
And then Markkula, and then the president of Sony(that launched the Trinitron and walkman), and so on.
He learned how to learn.
Most so-called "tech" companies are not really tech, but more in (tele)communications, media, advertising, surveillance data businesses.
It is easy to see the time when everyone can do technology. This surely happened to typing, it would be ludicrous trying to get a job as a typist today. Same can happen to the pure tech: a) due to technology itself e.g. web-site builders, etc. b) education,- everybody learns to type today, its a bit of a stretch, but maybe everybody can learn to program.
Aside from job security argument, the value creation is happening in the domain where business is focused, not necessarily knowledge of technology. Technologists who understand the domain can deliver much more value, and command higher premiums.
Anyway, a related thought that I find interesting: Becoming a "polymath" i.e. learning a wide range of topics to reasonable depth requires less effort than most people expect. For example, let's say you want to learn mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and economics. I think that achieving 80% of undergrad knowledge would take much less than 80% of the time that people need to complete an undergrad degree. So let's say it could take a year to acquire a good foundation in each of these topics if you try to optimize the process by focusing on fundamentals and core principles, choosing the best books, etc.
Don't be the first at what you're doing. You need the accomplishments of others to build on.
Have competition. You need to have someone else to keep your skills developing.
Have a supernatural amount of talent. It takes an amount of innate skill to truly be the best at something.
Spend WAY more than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
A good example is Feliks Zemdegs, the on-and-off Rubik's cube world champion. He's got the above skills, and keeps getting overtaken by various people, but so far, has redefined his skillset every time and risen back to the top, breaking even more barriers.
find your niche by being top 10% in three areas and you will be top .1% in one niche that is combination of the three
All I see is:
How to Become the Best in the World at Something
With skill stacking, you don’t need to be at the top to be extraordinary
Oct 17 · 7 min read
It’s better to have three okay tools than a single, perfect one. The axe is great at breaking obstacles, but not that useful to jump over pits. The grapple is great to jump over ice or pits, but not amazing for slaying dragons. The only way to win is by having both tools. Illustrations: Tomas Pueyo.
CConsider what it takes to become an NBA player. Most of them have been honing their skills on the basketball court practically since infancy. Years of countless practices, camps, and games have helped each player develop a skill set based around shooting…
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I'm ambivalent about Medium's approach. All in all, I do think that you get what you pay for. FB's negative impact is due to their ad monetization strategy. Medium is trying to charge through subscriptions vs advertising, and pays according to time reading vs. impressions, so is much more aligned with readers than non-subscription media.
With that said, NYT articles routinely trend on Hacker News so I guess that your proposed policy of no-paywalls is probably not going to be implemented on HN any time soon?
Firefox with Ublock origin + Decentraleyes + NoScrypt + Cookie AutoDelete
But, FWIW, I do agree with you. Medium is the worst. Thankfully services like Outline are available to get around all that.
also for Chrome:
Senior and staff roles stress proposing/completing large projects and working with others to get it done. Its hard to move to these levels without the skills that enable you to work with others.