Skill Stacking: The Key to Standing Out in Any Industry

Thanks to the internet, your professional competition is now global.

You’re competing with people all around the world for:

  • Job opportunities
  • Customers
  • Followers, tribe members, people in your audience

Along with increased competition due to globalism, you also have new technologies like AI that will wipe away entire industries and careers.

The writing is on the wall:

You can’t be a commodity anymore.

There was a time when you could be a regular Joe or Jane, have a regular job, and live a nice, comfortable life.

This is no longer the case because of rampant money printing, devaluing of the dollar, and inflation.

So we’re all in the same situation: certain job markets are shrinking and disappearing, wages have downward pressure because global competitors will work for less money, and the money you make is worth less year after year.

Life is about to get tough for average people. It already is.

So, how do you avoid being replaced?

Skill stacking is essential to standing out in a competitive marketplace. Let me explain…


What is skill stacking?

Skill stacking means you combine different skills to become more valuable in the marketplace.

I learned this concept from Scott Adams in his book How To Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big.

Here’s the premise: it’s hard to be world-class at one skill, which means you have low odds of reaching the top of your field if you only have one thing you’re known for.

But if you combine complementary skills, you can become the best at the combination of those skills. This helps you stand out.

For example, I teach other writers how to get paid to write online. Some of them choose to become freelancers to get clients and make money. Skill stacking can help them command higher rates.

Imagine two freelancers:

  • Freelancer A can write content
  • Freelance B can write content and optimize it for SEO

Which would you hire? Freelancer B is worth more because they have related skills that are important to their clients. The deeper your skill stack, the better.

Imagine another freelancer who knows how to write content, understands SEO, knows how to write sales copy, and can build email funnels. This is known as a “full stack writer.”

You hire that person, and they can take care of pretty much everything you need when it comes to writing, marketing, and branding for your business.

I always tell my students that if they want to stand out, they should have at least two high-income skills combined.

Skill stacking gives you career capital:

If your goal is to love what you do, you must first build up “career capital” by mastering rare and valuable skills, and then cash in this capital for the traits that define great work. —Cal Newport

The rarer and more valuable your skills, the more difficult it is to replace you—which equals more autonomy and more money.

Skill stacking keeps you from having to stay stuck in a soul-sucking job. If you run a business, your skill stack makes you more versatile and helps you outshine the competition.


Why one skill isn’t good enough

Most people who are only good at one thing or knowledgeable in only one field suffer from something called “domain dependence.”

Some people can understand an idea in one domain, say, medicine, and fail to recognize it in another, say, socioeconomic life. Or they get it in the classroom, but not in the more complicated texture of the street. Humans somehow fail to recognize situations outside the contexts in which they usually learn about them.

Nassim Taleb

If they only have expertise in one area, they tend to jam everything to fit the conclusions formed by their worldview.

Charlie Munger calls this “man with a hammer syndrome” because “to the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Skill stacking can help you avoid becoming a one-trick pony who can’t look at a situation from multiple angles. Domain-dependent types can be easy to compete with—even if they’re smarter than you in their narrow lane of knowledge.

I see this happen all the time in my field. I’ve seen a lot of good writers fail because they are only good at writing.

They don’t understand marketing and sales, so even though they have high-quality content, they don’t know how to get it in front of the right people and persuade them to read.

Since they’re domain-dependent, they just can’t see why people aren’t reading their stuff because they know it’s good.

Building your skill stack helps you remove blindspots like this.

The goal is to develop a specific type of skill stack that helps you obliterate the competition in your space.


Build a T-shaped skill stack to be the best of the best in your field

A skill stack won’t help you much if you combine a superficial level of knowledge and skills together.

Instead, you want to become T-shaped:

  • Focus on one core skill and go deep
  • Learn many complementary skills and know a little about a lot

Combining a highly specialized skill with a broad range of generalist skills creates T-shaped skills

Munger calls this a “latticework of mental models”

Take the late Munger and his business partner Warren Buffet.

Their core skill was investing and understanding the market. But they also learned many complementary fields like sales, psychology, human nature, biology, and evolutionary psychology. Both were voracious readers and spent up to 8 hours per day reading books.

Reading is one of the best ways to build your mental skill stack because you can consume knowledge that took the authors years to create in just a few hours.

The more you learn, the more random and unique combinations your brain comes up with.

Steven Johnson, the author of the book “Where Good Ideas Come From,” calls this the adjacent possible:

“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” —Steven Johnson

When you combine different sources of information, life experiences, and skills, you create a unique edge that literally nobody can copy.

My skill stack helped me stand out in writing.

I wrote about self-improvement, but I would draw insights from random fields like statistics and probability by learning from people like Nassim Taleb, mental models and heuristics from people like Munger, and psychology and persuasion from people like Cialdini.

Sprinkle in some personal experience and I have a style nobody can copy.

Here’s what my “T” looks like. Content writing is the core skill. But I’ve also developed these other skills:

  • Copywriting
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Public speaking
  • Video content
  • Cold pitching
  • Coaching/leadership skills
  • Social skills/networking
  • No code web development tools

These skills have helped me land freelance gigs, sell tens of thousands of copies of my books, run a multi-six-figure business, and build an audience of millions of readers around the world.

Start building your skill stack today and you can see amazing results down the road.


How to build your skill stack from scratch

If you’re new to skill stacking and you don’t know where to start, focus on areas where you have a natural talent.

You can use personality tests like MBTI or Gallup Strengths finder but, honestly, you probably already have a good idea of where your talent lies.

It’s the thing you’ve been thinking about doing for a while but might be a little bit afraid to get started.

After that, you want to build a complementary set of skills around it, especially if you want to build a lifestyle business based on your interests.

Some of these skills come to mind:

  • Marketing: You need to know how to build awareness around what you have to offer
  • Sales: Sales isn’t simply getting people to give you money. It’s the ability to get people to say yes in a variety of situations by becoming more persuasive
  • Writing: Especially copywriting. Having command over the English language is one of the most powerful—if not the most powerful—skills you can have
  • Tech: If you are not a “tech-savvy” person, good luck competing in the global marketplace. It’s a requirement to be good with your computer and phone in 2024. 
  • AI: There are two different camps when it comes to AI. Some people think it will eliminate every single job and make humans obsolete. Others think it will be a tool that complements humans and makes them more productive.

As for AI, I’m in the second camp for now. Who knows? Ten years from now we might be bowing to our robot rulers.

In the meantime though, you’d be a fool not to learn how to use AI, which will certainly widen the wealth and knowledge gap even more drastically than it’s already trending.

Those who know how to use it will have the ability to 10, 100, or even 1,000X their output. Those who don’t will get left in the dust.

I use AI in my business for market research, coming up with material for my students, and brainstorming different strategies for my business. I don’t let it write for me, but it is helpful when it comes to generating ideas.

It’s a huge workplace trend you have to pay attention to.

There are other trends to look out for, and you can be prepared by taking advantage of skill stacking.

Modern institutions are crumbling.

From higher education to retail, tons of industries will change or disappear, allowing new players to enter the game and set their own rules.


The world will belong to the skilled

Your skill stack can help you live the life of your dreams.

A handful of profitable skills, a computer, and an internet connection can help you build a successful business, land a dream job, or create a network of successful people. 

Opportunities are abundant. The cost of education has dropped to zero with platforms like YouTube. You can invest in online courses and coaches to sharpen your skills. 

There is no excuse not to have a skill stack that helps you build a tailor-made career and life.

So why don’t most people do it?

Naval Ravikant has the answer:

The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.

Don’t let technology enslave your mind and use it for all the wrong things (like watching six hours of TikTok a day).

Instead, use it to your advantage and start skill stacking as soon as possible.

It’s as close as you can get to an actual cheat code for getting anything you want.

Most people are too distracted, too demotivated, and too beaten down by the system.

But if you made it this far, you’re different.

You’re actively searching for information to make your life better.

The question is…will you use it?