I hate it when I come across single ply toilet paper, don’t you? It’s not strong and there’s always the chance of poking your finger through and going full Arab on your a-hole. But are you like that? A johnny one note, one skill away from job extinction?
Scott Adams, the creator of “Dilbert” wrote a book “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big“, which I highly recommend. In it he talks about luck finding the prepared. Or in other words, the more skills you have the more opportunities you can take advantage of. Key to this, he says, is the “skill stack”. Building the number of skills you have over time gives you more openings to opportunities.
I’m going to use the employment example on you, but it’s more than just what you do to make money. These include life skills. So its 1903 and you just got laid off at the buggy whip factory. Sales are way down since people are buying cars now. All you knew how to do was make buggy whips, and there’s more and more people competing for fewer and fewer buggy whip jobs. If you had just one other skill, your options for finding a job have increased. If you have ten skills you options to finding a job are greatly increased.
I hear you. “Ten freaking skills! Are you kidding me? How can I do that?” It’s way easier than you think. I’ll show you how.
Scott Adams points out that you don’t have to be at an expert level in those skills, just OK. I go into this in detail in the “Pareto was right. How to use the 80/20 rule to your benefit in every area of life“ section. But to give you the short cut, if you were a boss, who would you hire? The guy who is fantastic at just one thing, and sucked at all else, or the guy who was half way decent at five different things? Adams, by his own admission says that he was just “OK” as a cartoonist. What made “Dilbert” successful was his other experiences in the corporate world of banking.
Trust me. We all learn by pictures and examples. Here is another picture of you, or what you could be.
Rope is made up of individual strings, or skills. Look at that rope, it has at least two big strands wrapping around each other and each big strand is made up of smaller strands coiled around each other. But, if you look real close, each smaller strand is made up of yet more tiny strands. Ever try to tow a car with kite string? Yet that same kite string woven up into a multi-corded rope as thick as your arm could tow a fully loaded eighteen wheeler. Life has a lot of heavy loads to pull. Are you a shoestring or a thick rope?
So you’re saying, “OK, fine. I need more skills, but what kind of skills?” I’m going to tell you in a minute, but it’s not job skills. I don’t know what your dreams and goals are. It takes different skills to be a computer programmer that it does to be a major league baseball player. So I can’t tell you about those skills. But I can tell you about the key general skills that any man needs to be successful in life. Remember, I told you above that this is not just about jobs. This is about skills that make you ready for opportunities in every area of life, and therefore more successful.
But I’m not going to pigeon hole you either. Some of you are square pegs, some are round. For instance some of you are naturally extroverted, so you really don’t need to work much on people skills. But, if you are introverted like me, then you should definitely work on people skills. So here is a starting list with action steps you can do right away to start building up a nice thick skill stack.
So like I said, I’m an introvert. I’m happy being an introvert. It’s not that I don’t like people, but it takes energy from me to be around people, and I re-energize by being alone. So here’s the thing; if you are a raging introvert, you really cannot be successful without other people. You have to learn to interact with them to get things done.
You extroverts get energy from being with people, but even extroverts must learn to interact with people to get things done. So let me say it the third time, “people are what gets things done”. Learning how to get people to do things is the key. I go into greater detail in the section “Persuade, don’t argue. How to get people to take action and do stuff. Do you know the five basic tactics for persuasion?”, but I’ll give you the quickie tour now.
Working with people is a key life skill that you need for any job, hobby, team sport, family, etc. Without this skill you are really dead in the water, which is why I started with this skill first. Persuasion vs. Argument is the key. By argument I mean giving a logical reason for someone to do something for or with you. Trouble is that people just don’t respond well to reason. Suspend your disbelief for a moment. People act more on emotion than on reason. More on feelings, than facts. Wishing that weren’t true doesn’t make it any less true. Persuasion approaches the emotional side and is almost always more effective than reason. Doesn’t mean you can’t also give reasons once you’ve gotten their emotional agreement.
There are five keys to gaining compliance or cooperation from another person. They are:
- Reciprocation. If you do something for another person, they feel an obligation to do something for you.
- Commitment and Consistency. People want to appear to themselves to be consistent with what they say. If you can gain a public commitment from someone to do something, they will usually do it and not back out later.
- Social Proof. If they see everyone else is doing it, they will too.
- Liking. People will comply with a request from a likeable person much more than from an unlikeable person. Don’t be a Debbie Downer.
- Authority. People are irrationally influenced by signs of authority such as titles, badges, uniforms, etc.
- Scarcity. If people think something is in limited supply, then they will want it more.
These five keys are neither good or evil, but just how people work. You can use them for good to get people to work together, or you can use them to swindle old ladies out of their life savings. If you want to know the details on how to use these for good purposes just check out the section “Persuade, don’t argue. How to get people to take action and do stuff. Do you know the five basic tactics for persuasion?”. If you want to use them for evil, then just don’t look.
Action Step: Start looking at your interactions with people, and between other people. Look at the situations that use persuasion/emotion vs. argument/reason. Which were more effective in getting action? Learn and practice one or more of the five persuasion tactics above. See if you can start identifying them when watching others interact.
War had a song called “Why can’t we be friends” that said…
Sometimes I don’t speak right (said with a stutter)
But yet I know what I’m talking about
Why can’t we be friends
Why can’t we be friends
Why can’t we be friends
Why can’t we be friends
Working with people means speaking to people. You gotta be able to communicate, and the key is to know what you are talking about. What your message is. How you deliver it and how you sound really isn’t that important, except to you. You live in a flesh bubble, and unless you spend a lot of time looking at videos or listening to recordings of yourself, you truly don’t know how others see you. Everybody else is used to you, but when you see yourself on video, or hear a recording of yourself for the first time, it is shockingly different. And if you are an introvert, you have the double whammy of speaking in front of groups of people.
There are more than a few actors who won’t look at the movies they’ve made. It freaks them out. But they were able to act the part in front of the camera and crews. How is that? They faked it. In the section “Fake it till you make it – how to have confidence and determination” I go into detail on how to have confidence in every area of life. Actors pretend to be somebody that they are not. The better the actor, the more convincing it is. Keanu Reeves is known as “Hollywood’s Ultimate Introvert”. He’s not the only one.
Action Step: Be a kid again and play pretend. Pretend you are your favorite kick ass actor when asking a girl out for a date. When speaking to a group, pretend that they are all monkeys, unless you are afraid of monkeys. Talk to people more, practice make perfect. Don’t know what to say, notice things about them. If they have an NRA sticker on their truck, ask them what their favorite gun is. If she has a picture of a dog on her desk, ask about the dog. People love to talk about themselves. Walk around in a busy shopping mall and try to make brief friendly eye contact with people particularly girls. Make sure you have a slight smile on your face. If people smile back then you hit a bulls eye. The point of doing this is to break down the fear. Fear is the great mind killer, and that is why people freeze up in public speaking or social interactions.
When it comes to taking advantage of opportunities nothing slams the door shut faster than, “damn, if I only had the money”. What’s keeping you from acting on opportunity?
That’s my dream job, and I’m perfect for it and they want me, but its in another city and I can’t sell my house, and I can’t afford to carry the mortgage while I rent in that other city. Sucks to be me…No, it sucks to be in debt.
I have a great idea to start a side business, but I don’t have the money. I’m so in debt that the bank wouldn’t loan me any, and my cards are all maxed out. Guess that dream is dead. Sucks to be me…No, it sucks to be in debt.
Damn, I just got laid off. How am I going to make the house payment and the payments on both cars, let alone the credit cards. God, I’m screwed! It sucks to be me…No, it sucks to be in debt.
I could go on. We could trade horror stories. Debt is a dream killer and a doom magnet. Things go wrong. That’s one thing you can always count on in life, but if you had been taught good financial skills you could ride it out when things go sideways. Money is fertilizer for opportunities and dreams. Anything you can do to accumulate money instead of spending it gives you stuff to maximize opportunities. I’m going to give you a series of action steps to increase the amount of cash you have on hand.
Pay off credit cards. Use the snowball method. Start with the smallest balance and pay any extra cash you have to pay it off as quickly as possible. Then do the next smallest one until all the balances are zero.
Don’t buy anything unless you can pay cash for it. Including cars. Particularly cars. According to Kelly Blue Book the average new car price in 2016 is $33,666. That’s just the average, and doesn’t include the interest costs which could easily take it over $50,000 in total cost to you. Buying a new car on credit is the fast way to debt slavery. Cars are consumable items, they depreciate in value as soon as you drive off the lot. I’ve had great luck buying cars in the five to ten year old range. Only once did I finance one, and with that one I put down two thirds in cash, so my car payment was only $110 for three years.
Housetraps are like mousetraps. The sound similar, they look good on the surface, but if it doesn’t kill you dead financially, you will still be maimed and trapped financially. Houses depreciate too. For the last 30 years people have been fooled by inflation into thinking that a house is a good investment, that is up until the housing bubble popped a few years ago, and is getting ready to pop again. A housetrap works against you in several ways: first it ties you down financially. The cost of the house might not look too bad, but when you add the total cost of interest and principal in it is by far the largest debt you will ever take on. What if you needed to move to stay employed? Can you sell your house quickly? In many cases not today. What if you lost your job, and it takes a year or more to find another job, that where you are making only 70% of what you were before. Most people in that situation are going to lose the house to foreclosure or short sale. All that equity you had built up in the house is gone.
Instead of a housetrap consider renting. You can rent nice houses. Yes, rent is higher than a mortgage payment per square foot, but you don’t have to fix anything. I’ll give you a personal example. I bought my house in 1994. Ten years later housing prices in my neighborhood were going through the roof (the housing bubble). Realtors were sending me letters begging me to sell. Meanwhile I was in the middle of a debt crisis, by not doing the things above (I learned these things the hard way). I wasn’t in danger of losing the house, but I had way too much debt, and was already doing the credit card juggling act. I was spiraling into a very hard landing, but was able to pull out at the last second by doing this.
Everybody was crazy to buy real estate to invest in (the bubble). I sold my house to a real estate investor for about $10K under market value with an agreement to continue renting at about $150 more per month than my current mortgage. I had nearly $20K in equity that I got at closing, and got rid of two thirds of my debt. Now, ten years later, I will be completely debt free in six months, and plan to rent a much nicer house in a much better suburb next year. What’s my downside if my income dries up? I’m free to move into a cheap apartment to conserve cash. I lose no equity. If I get the magic job in another city, I can take it. No worries about selling a house. If ISIS moves into my neighborhood, I can move. No problem. If I make some extra money and can afford the rent on a small mansion I move. No problem. No strings other than a few months on the lease. Whole books have been written on this and I’ll tell you about the best of them in the section “Financial Final Destination. Avoiding the Grim Repo Man”.
These three skills that will get you started, but there are more. Bet you could list some in the comments below.