Career advice that sucks - Be the second-best at a few things

There is a secret to doing well, and it's basically the formula of being second best at a few things. So says Scott Adams.

Career advice that sucks - Be the second-best at a few things
You cannot make it as a wandering generality, you must become a meaningful specific. - Zig Ziglar

Every now and again you come across some really sucky career advice. They are so bad, they are good.

Today we dive into some advice from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert comics.

In a nutshell, he gave this as his general formula for success:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

Be rare and meaningful

Most of us, can rule out number one unless you really are the GOAT in your field.

That leaves us then with number two - become good at two or more things.

Reality is, becoming very good at something is actually pretty hard to do. That takes lots of practice, and building up specific knowledge. So the first thing I would say is, be smart about choosing what these 'things' are.

Some ways to find out if that is the right area for you is:

  • Are you deeply passionate about it?
  • Are you willing to deeply commit to practicing and growing it?

If you are able to identify those 'things', and willing to be determined and disciplined, this just might work.

Before I started my career in sales, I was in marketing for a few years. I lost passion after that and wanted a change, which led me into real estate sales. In those 7 years, I would say I have developed a passion for sales and training. This is valuable experience I will count that adds to my own expertise today as a marketer - know how to think like the customer, how to sell and how to teach.

I believe a combination of sales and marketing experience, plus my experience with public speaking gives me a 1-2 punch in being rare and valuable. While most people may not switch like I did, one way to actually develop skills in these areas are doing side projects or side hustles.

Why I think this advice is good for most people

So is this good career advice? Perhaps, but the only thing is most people don't know what they are good at or passionate about early on. If you are one of those that do, then by all means double down and improve yourself in that thing.

The advice to create for yourself a few valuable skillsets and passions that in combination makes you successful I think is true. You want to be a meaningful specific in a world of generalities.

My further thoughts and observations:

  • It's the combination of skills and passions that make you a meaningful specific.
  • One of those 'things' has to involve communication skills either verbal or written. They could be public speaking skills or writing skills. Personally I would develop both. This can be trained.
  • Another of those 'things' could be a passion that lights a spark in you. It could be a theme that resonates with you. For me, my themes are purpose, productivity, personal growth and parenting. It could also be any other theme like technology, music, arts and science.
  • Yet another 'thing' could be a soft skill, which means knowing how to build relationships with people. It could be whether it's listening, empathy, leadership or sales. This is one of the 'things' that are a little bit personality driven, but can be trained as well.

Writing this article reminded me of a post I did on LinkedIn about career superfoods - skills that help elevate you in your career no matter which profession you are in.


Last word

Just remember, being second best doesn't mean you half-heartedly grow yourself. It still means you have to give it all you got. You can do this!