How to Select Skills for Your Success

The road to success is not straightforward. It is filled with so much twist and turns that we never know what really contribute to our success. Besides dumb luck which is out of our control. A major factor in our success is skills. Picking skills and mastery is within our control.

Exactly which skills should you choose to develop? My answer to that question is I do not know. I can only guide you to the conclusion.

You need to believe in yourself. You are not too old or too young to learn something new. You do not need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be successful. You probably need between 100 to 1000 hours of deliberate practice. Check out some of the successful YouTubers, they are probably not world-class but good enough to be successful. Their success is not only due to one skill but an arsenal of micro skills. They need to know the materials that they are presenting, digital videography, video editing, digital marketing and much more. They do not need to be expert in all areas, but enough to shot, edit and load onto YouTube.

What you need is a stack of skills. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert comics describe the concept of possessing a set of small skills. He calls it Talent Stack. With a strong work ethic, good enough artwork and good enough humour. Mr Adams carved out a unique niche for himself. What I am scratching is only on the surface. I am sure Mr Adams skill stack is far deeper than I have just described. My point is that we do not need to stress ourselves that we need to be an expert in many skills to be successful.
What is the one common skill of successful individuals like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tim Ferris, Sir Richard Branson and Oprah? They are all effective communicator.

To start your talent stack. The skill of communication is a must.

Communication skills in writing and public speaking. At the age of 20 years old, Warren Buffet signed up for a public speaking course. Mr Buffet is now one of the richest persons in the world and still emphasise the importance of public speaking. Ignore this advice at your own risk.

How do you want to build the rest of your talent stack? Look at the Time Management matrix from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Source: Wikipedia

Think about your present life. Imagine your future. Think about things that you want to do. Think about the jobs that you want to have.
What are the urgent skills that you must have? What are the skills that you need for your future success? You may also want to think about stop doing things that do not bring you any benefit. Write it all down, and those may be your talent stack. Preferably, your new talent stack should be in the quadrant of important-urgent and important-not urgent.

Nevertheless, life is filled with dichotomy. Certain skills may seem useless and irrelevant, it may actually change your life or even the world! Steve Jobs took up calligraphy classes without much thought about its practical application. Yet, the skill set paved way for Apple to create the first beautiful typeface.

In life, there is no absolute path to success. What is important, you need to have the skills. The skills to communicate. The skills to create. The more skills you have, the more chances of you reaching success.
With the list of talent stack, you have to start developing your skills. There is no need to wait for the perfect time. The perfect time is now and today.
Here are some few resources.

Udemy. A good selection of online sources. I have not seen any courses that offer certification. It is reasonably priced and it is my go-to site.

Coursera. This site contains some free lectures. If you want the certification, you will have to pay for the course.

YouTube. Loads of free learning materials. You have to be mindful of the information. Some may not be correct or old.

Lifehacker Nightschool. The site has not been updated. Nevertheless, it offers some good free ideas and how-to.

Codeacademy. A perfect place for those who want to learn to programme.

Get a mentor. A mentor is someone that you admire and have qualities that you want to emulate. This person can guide you and ensure you are on your way to success. If you cannot find yourself a good mentor. Read books. Read biographies. Learn about their life. Let their life experience be an inspiration for you.

As a matter of fact, talent stacks will only improve your odds of success. There is no guarantee. Deeper the stacks, the better is your chances.
Call to action. Start building your stack today. Know yourself. Stare into the future. Be ready for failure but be prepared for success.

Old Dog Learning New Tricks: My Journey To Become SCRUM Master

I am too old to learn something new. I am too old to stay relevant. I do not have the time to learn something new. Sounds familiar? I say these to myself all the time. In fact, many of us say that as well.
If we do not keep up with the pace of life, we are not standing still but going back as the world is moving forward. Ten years ago, there is no such job as a self-driving vehicle engineer. Currently, it is probably the hottest job in the market.
The reality of our existence is that we have to keep learning and stay relevant until our last breath.
I need to play the role of a SCRUM Master for my daily work. It is a new responsibility. SCRUM methodology is something that I have briefly read on the net. I can either go into the new job kicking and be screaming or embrace it with enthusiasm.
Learning-by-doing. The best way to learn is to immerse in the work. Embrace the work with an open mind. The first few moments will be difficult as it is outside of the comfort zone. Whether is knowledge or doing something new, we will always first experience failure and frustrations before it gets better. We do not need 10,000 hours. We only need 100 hours of mindful practice. In my case, I dive into my work head first and fumbled through it. Each fumble, I learn something new. Embrace and acknowledge the ignorance. The sooner that we realise how little we know, the more sooner that we learn.
Find a mentor. You always need to have someone at your corner to give you candid feedback and pointers to improve your craft. Without a feedback system, the journey of learning can be difficult. I am blessed that I have an AGILE coach to give me ideas and feedback. Nevertheless, a teacher can only teach you the knowledge. You have to develop your own wisdom. There are many ways to find a mentor. Trying joining a Master Mind group or a forum. The person or the group has to hold you accountable for your studies and encourage you to improve.
Have skin in the game. There are many free SCRUM courses or reading materials on the internet. Instead, I choose to spend 10 USD to order a course from Udemy. By committing my own money, I know I will complete the course by giving my best effort. And it actually works! I find myself having the discipline to pay attention and sit through the materials. It is all because I have committed my own money to the materials. If you do not have the money, make a bet with a friend. Tell your friend that you will complete the task or studies in the limited time frame. If you fail to do so, your friend can take the money and donate to a charity that you dislike. The stake has to be big enough for you to feel the pain.
Make time. If you are serious about your studies. Never put it to the end of the day. By day end, you will be tired and lack the mental energy to concentrate on the studies. I would wake up at 530AM every day and spent 30 minutes on my studies and writing. When you are done, you feel better for the day. You have accomplished the first big win.
My journey to becoming a SCRUM Master is still going on. It is never too late to learn anything new. You just need to know the reason and the stakes. Find the time and concentrate. Good luck.

Lessons From Using 30 Years of Chopstick

How a Chinese person uses chopstick says a lot about the person’s home discipline. If the person holds the chopstick wrong, the family discipline is perceived as relaxed and unrefined. If the person holds the chopstick perfectly, it shows a good upbringing. As such, in the Chinese culture, not able to use chopsticks correctly is a shameful thing.
I have been using chopsticks all my life. Did I hold the chopstick correctly? Of course not! My parents have never corrected me on how I hold my chopsticks. I have probably hold my chopsticks wrong until I was 16 years old.
I was never interested in studying but pretend to study. While sitting at my study desk, I used pencils as chopsticks to pick up erasers. With the clear intention to improve and practise. I was able to hold proper chopsticks within two weeks. Before that, I was merely perfecting on how I hold the chopsticks the wrong way.
The same applies to work and life. A person may have 20 years of sales experience. If the person has been using the same method and only have marginal success. The real sales experience is far lower. The person is only repeating the same method that is proven to be ineffective.
I have been driving for more than 25 years. Have I improved since I received my licenses? Probably not. I have not taken further lessons or taken the additional initiative to improve.
If you want to improve you have to take the active initiative to improve. A clear goal towards what you want to improve. Think about the micro skills. If you want to play better basketball. Think about the skills in running, shooting, dribbling and much more. Break down each skill into micro skills. It is easier for you to train. It is easier for you to plan your goals.
Want to improve your chopstick skills? You must hold the chopstick right. You must move the right fingers. You must have good control of your fingers. Those are micro skills.

Call to action. Break down each skill into micro skills. Actively practise each skill. Improve 1% a day. By 72 days, you will improve by 100%.