What skills are worth paying for?

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This post on the NY Times from Cal Newport has been circulating around the internet recently. Cal makes a simple argument. “In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable.”

The kerfuffle normally originates from the second sentence. Let’s focus on the first one instead. What kinds of skills are rare and valuable?

Here’s a non-exhaustive list that came to mind. These are obviously very abstract.

  • The ability to teach yourself. Previously, you could learn one trade and depend on that trade being around for a long time. That’s no longer the case. We now need to be endlessly adaptable. (previously)
  • The ability to coach others. Giving feedback well is absolutely a skill. It’s hard and painful to develop and therefore definitely rare and valuable.
  • The ability to receive feedback and listen. I’m just starting to realize what a skill this is. It’s certainly not easy, and it requires immense self-control.
  • The ability to lead. That’s different than “manage.” Leading is equivalent with saying “Follow me. That is where we’re going and this is the plan to get us there.”
  • The ability to communicate effectively. This includes both text and voice and could manifest in a team meeting or up on stage at a conference.
  • The ability to create a symphony (adapted from Dan Pink). Symphony is the ability to take a bunch of different inputs and create an output. It’s the ability to think strategically and consider how decisions will impact the future.

As I start to think about growth opportunities for 2017, these skills are top of mind. What would you add to the list?

Previously with Cal. If this post struck a chord with you, I would recommend reading A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, which expands on many ideas listed above.

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