Living By Design: The Most Essential Skill You'll Need For The Future Economy

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The 21st Century human being is living in an information paradox.

In his 2006 book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt illustrates how modern wisdom is cheap and how we've been presented with too much information for our own good. He compares our accessibility and abundance to information to that of Jorge Luis Borges's Library of Babel.

The Library of Babel is an infinite library whose books contain ever possible string of letters and therefore and explanation of why the library exists and how to use it. However, Borges's librarians suspect they will never find this book for it's shrouded by miles of nonsense.

Haidt further goes on with,

In other words, we are constantly looking for an answer to our problems and with there being a tremendous amount of information at our disposal, we waste too much of our time looking for those answers (most of which are bunk) than savoring what's right in front of us and how that can elevate our lives.

We are living in a world that bombards us with what we should do to get ahead and how we should do it. With good intentions in mind, this seems like a viable model — gather as much wisdom that you can about the world around you and use all the information as a foundation of what to build on.

However, the foundation isn't strong enough if it doesn't have a specialized backing.

The alternative to the over-abundance of information model is to specialize in something. With specialization you will be able to drastically increase your finances, find more fulfillment in your work, and help positively influence the lives of the people in your community.

The zen and art of specialization

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Photo by Ashley Batz

"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction." — Bill Gates

I remember when I started my writing journey and becoming an entrepreneur.

My place of employment at the time caught fire in the ceiling and literally burned to the ground.

Everything I had known had changed overnight — completely out of my control.

So I decided to purchase a domain, a site host and I promised myself that I would write a blog entry everyday — no matter what.

I had no idea what I was doing. I just told myself that if I can lose everything in a career that I didn't particularly enjoy overnight, I might as well try doing something that I love. I love writing.

Everyday I wrote an article. Most of the pieces involved what was going on in my mind. They were jumbles of thought and complaints about the world.

Really — they weren't good at all.

But deciding to write everyday helped me being to specialize.

Writing everyday was practice for the bigger picture.

I didn't see it at the time, but everyday I was working towards a bigger goal. I was strengthening a muscle that was building a skill.

In the beginning, I was writing for therapy. While I still do, my specialization skill started to take hold.

  • I was learning how to write the ultimate blog post
  • I was reaching an audience that helped me garner millions of views
  • I was building a portfolio that helped me create a freelance career
  • I was touching and influencing the lives of countless people to make their own dreams a reality

By making the decision to specialize in a skill, I was slowly beginning to see how my life was radically changing.

Specialization is the way of the future

Conservative estimations by McKinsey suggest that by 2030 around 73 million jobs will be eliminated due to automation in the United States Alone.

This is a daunting report that will have a drastic effect on not only the American economy but the global economy as well.

Gone are the days of attending the public school system, getting good enough grades to get into college, attend and graduate college and get hired by a company that will employ you for 35 years and help build you a retirement to fall back on.

Millions of jobs will be replaced by automation and AI.

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Photo by Franck V.

In order to prepare yourself for this historical economic shift, you must arm yourself with the skills that make you a valuable asset within the economy. There are two different set of skills to help you do this:

  • Hard skills: hard skills concern your ability to do a specific task
  • Soft skills: soft skills are about the way you do them, e.g., the way you adapt, collaborate, or make decisions

A recent article noted what the most in demand hard and soft skills will be in 2019 and going into the future. Some of the top hard skills included:

  • Journalism
  • Digital marketing
  • Animation
  • Game development
  • Industrial design

All of these hard skills take into consideration human creativity. So it's no surprise human creativity topped the list of soft skills:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Time Management

In the future, we are going to see a huge void in the ability to use creativity and human imagination to solve our problems. You'll notice that all the skills labeled above (both hard and soft) involve specialization.

And the specialization doesn't mean you're pigeon-holing yourself but rather you are crafting yourself into a valuable facet of the global economy.

Specialization and your success

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” — Jim Rohn

Think about all of the successful people you know (whether personally or not). The vast majority of these people are specialists within their respected niche.

It doesn't matter if the person is an astronaut, a comedian, a writer, or an investor; the people who rise to the top of their given industry are willing to sacrifice other information, wisdom and knowledge that won't help them scale to the top of their industry's ladder.

When I was 24 and still employed at my first job, I had my boss and mentor tell me something that I'll never forget. I was in his office trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life and my career. I was thinking about moving into sales because I wanted more money (I was working in customer relations at the time). I knew that I needed more than just money but I didn't know what.

He responded with,

"If you don't know where you are going — any road will take you there."

Those roads won't bring you to a successful destination.

  • They won't help you increase your wealth.
  • They won't help you build an invaluable skillset
  • They won't help you positively impact your community on a profound level
  • They won't help you find fulfillment in the work you do

They will just lead you to the next piece of bunk information in the halls of Babel's Library.

When you're in the halls of the library, you'll just waste your time looking for the answer when you could be focusing more on building yourself into a valuable piece of the human super-organism that will in turn lead you to insurmountable financial rewards.

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