The next mental model that I’m digging into is the concept of the “skill stack”. The idea behind this is that having a wide range of skills can help multiply your success. It’s similar to the idea I shared earlier this year about wider study helping even in narrow fields.
Andrew McVagh gives a great example of this:
Imagine two similar software programmers that work on the same team, Abe and Bob. They are both equally good at programming, but Bob has also mastered business writing. Which one is more likely to progress in their career? I imagine the one that can write clearly will more likely make their customers (and boss) happy.
Now, if Bob has gone too wide with his skills while Abe has become a much better programmer, the game changes — Abe is the better fit. All things being equal, though, Bob is in a better position.
Pulling from that post of mine earlier this year, data has shown that scientists have a 22x better chance of winning a Nobel prize if they have certain unrelated activities in their lives. Specifically:
Comparing Nobel prize-winning scientists to other scientists, the figures show that Nobel laureates are a full 22 times more likely to be an amateur actor, magician, dancer or performer.
I’ll admit, it’s a tough balance. You need to focus on your core skills to make sure you’re excellent with those, but also find some time to mix in other activities. I don’t have the answer on how to do that, but the overall concept is something to keep in mind as you do any future planning.