Our world has evolved so much in terms of working for pay and making a living. We can all agree that the skill set needed 10-20 years ago is not needed today in order to make a living. As a matter of fact, things are constantly changing, making it harder to stand out in the any professional field. This is why you need to build what is called a talent stack.

Scott Adams, well-known author, and creator of the popular comic strip Dilbert developed the concept of the talent stack. A talent stack is a set of ordinary skills that combine together to make you unique, and therefore very much valuable to the marketplace.

Adams is an example, himself, of a person with a talent stack. At first introduction, Adams has an impressive skill set but by his own admission, he’s just good enough to be considered better than the mediocre cartoonist and writers. What makes his talent stack unique is the fact he has a little business acumen, the ability to be funny and the art of persuasion. When all of this experience and skill set is comes together, a unique talent stack is developed that makes him a necessity to the marketplace.

“The idea of a talent stack is that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough of the right kind to be extraordinary. You don’t have to be the best in the world at any one thing. All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together.”

- Scott Adams

Success often looks like someone who went to school to become a dentist, an NBA basketball player or an astronaut. All of these career paths were determined by someone putting work in over time to develop one skill. However, developing a talent stack can prove to be just as successful. You can make a good living based on the particular value you bring to the market. There could not be a better time to have a unique combined skill set that lands you the deal or job or acumen to start your own business. Your time is now.

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How to develop a talent stack

What talents or work experience do you have that provides value to the marketplace? And what are your interests? What can you do that not many other people can do? These are the questions you have to start with in order to begin to assess your own talent stack. In most cases, your talent stack begins with things you most enjoy. These are usually made apparent to you because of some feedback that you have received along the way which has given you confidence. This will help you to convince yourself that your thing is really your thing. For example, a self-published book author has to have many skills to be a successful author without being signed to a traditional publisher. At some point, some told them that they were a good writer. But in order to be a great self-published author, they had to build their talent stack. Let's look at the list of skills needed:

Self Published Author:

  • Self Motivation
  • Writing, Editing
  • Marketing, Social Media
  • Accounting, Analytics

These are clearly skills that a traditional book author would not have to possess. However,  when the talent stack of this self-published author is placed next to the traditional book author, the marketplace has more use for one over the other. A successful self-published author can write books on marketing, social media, etc. because they had to develop these skills in order to get themselves noticed by their readers. They developed the appropriate talent stack needed to become a successful self-published author.

It's important to keep flexing your unique abilities and get better at them. You may not be great at them in the beginning but if you keep pushing to do them, your abilities will become greater. All you need is to be better than most. The best way to figure this out is to test your abilities by offering your products or services.

talent stack sand castle

Focusing on not failing often times limits you from really giving it your best, from achieving success.  Don't fear failure.
Your castle of success will rise out of the sands of failures.

Fail Your Way to Success

In order to fully develop your talent stack, you have to be willing to fail over and over and over again. You will need to be better than average at a couple of things. Your skills need to complement one another and you must get better at them over time. This means developing your talent stack will take work. There is no way around it. You will have to exercise this muscle to make it more valuable to the marketplace. Your skill set needs to be appealing and necessary to perform a unique job.

The marketplace will determines if your talent stack is needed. You will need to pay attention to what works and what does not work. Learning to quickly adjust is a skill set that you need to add to your talent stack. There is no hack, except hard work and gaining the right experience to build your own talent stack. You must be willing to fail at whatever you are trying to build for yourself for as long as it takes to go through the process of becoming unique with your own skill set. Your talent stack is built off of failure. Fail until you succeed. When the success sticks, follow the trail and do not venture off the path.

Who You Know Matters

Your team will determine your success and that is because the people around you that have complimentary talent stacks can assist yours in building your value in the market. People coming together to combine their talents to create unique value makes a good business if you can apply them to the marketplace. You will have to  If it’s not unique value then its not value.

The value will determine your place in the market. Everyone has a unique skill set. You are unique and you have a skill that no one else has. This can range from a combination of skills that you have gained through life or job experiences. That is your talent stack. When working with others, your skills have to be different and valuable enough to matter. Just as you need to be able to assess your skills, you need to be able to access someone else’s. Knowing what skill sets people possess allows you to know how to lead them well, too.

When you apply your talent stack to the marketplace and combine other people who have a talent stack that compliments yours along with hard work, you will win.