Why the 10% rule is the smartest path to success
It takes time to master valuable skills and a lot of time to become the master of a single skill. So it’s not surprising that only a few people in the world are good enough to make a living from a single skill.
But people who are extremely great at just a single skill are often not good at other, complementary skills. Specialists in the top 1% have few opportunities to succeed. And when they do, they become authority figures — sometimes they get global recognition. But that life requires 100% commitment early in life.
Luckily for the rest of us, if you’re not on the path to becoming exceptionally good at one thing, there is another way to succeed.
You can learn a few useful or valuable skills to become extraordinary, stack relevant skills, and get better at crossing or integrating knowledge unexpectedly.
Silicon Valley executive Tomas Pueyo explained it beautifully: “It’s easier and more effective to be in the top 10% in several different skills — your ‘stack’ — than it is to be in the top 1% in any one skill.”
The good news about mastering valuable skills is that you don’t have to be in the top 1% to benefit from your skills. You just have to be good enough and combine your valuable skills in a way that brings out the best in you.
“All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together,” “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams said.
It’s better to have a few good skills than one perfect one
A different approach that can still make you successful is to aim to be in the top 10% of at least five relevant skills that can set you up for consistent success. You don’t have to be great at the skills you choose to master, but you have to be good enough to benefit from it.
The good news is that the process requires less work than aiming to be in the top 1% of the most skillful people in your industry. But it still requires a good investment of time.
Steve Jobs was also good at crossing domain knowledge. He didn’t have extraordinary technical skills but combined business, design, persuasion and storytelling skills beautifully to create technology products. Motivational speaker Brian Tracy is a megastar authority figure on many subjects, including sales, time management, self-development, personal wealth, leadership public speaking.
What sets these skill stackers apart is their ability to combine many skills to get what they want. People whose expertise spans several subjects are more likely to be successful in the future.
If you are a writer, learn how to create engaging newsletters or build a personal brand. If you are an online entrepreneur, learn the fundamentals of leading, selling, management and growing a business.
I have been stacking skills for over 10 years. Today I write books, launch courses, manage three newsletters, run a small business blog, speak on launching businesses (I recently traveled to Spain on an invitation from the hotel site Trivago) and write essays on personal growth, learning, time management, philosophy, and psychology.
It’s been an intellectually stimulating journey. And I’ve learned a lot over the years. A better approach to winning in life is identifying the niche skills you need to thrive and learning enough about them to combine them in the unique way possible.
Leonardo Da Vinci once said: “Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses — especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
Success is not just about perfecting one thing throughout your life or becoming the best in the world at just one skill. It’s also about getting good at a few valuable skills that make you unstoppable over the long term.
This article originally appeared in Medium.