You might not think you’re an early-morning person. I didn’t think I was either. But once you get used to it, you might never want to go back. You can accomplish more by the time other people wake up than most people accomplish all day. ~ Scott Adams
There were a few times in 2017 when the “fleas of life” I mentioned in an earlier piece conspired to make it very difficult for me to finish a blog article by my self-imposed Thursday morning deadline: travel gone awry, a proposal deadline (which I put off too long), or perhaps a horrible bout with the flu. While I was sick, I in fact came very close to not only missing the deadline but also convincing myself that the bit of quiet time between 5 and 6 AM I use to write this blog would be better spent doing something else, like, you know, sleeping.
In a moment of serendipity, the same moment I was contemplating throwing in the towel, an email appeared in my inbox from a reader thanking me for an earlier article. One of the things she liked about my blog was that, like her, I was in the trenches trying to figure things out, didn’t profess to have all the answers, and willing to share my failures alongside my successes.
Reflecting on her well-timed message I couldn’t help but think of some really great advice given by Dilbert creator, Scott Adams in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. My friend Gary recommended it after learning of the book at Rotary meeting. I’m glad he did since a lot of what Adams writes strikes me as sensible advice.
In particular is a section titled “The Success Formula: Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success” in which Adams explains:
You can raise your market value by being merely good – not extraordinary – at more than one skill.
Or, put in mathematical form:
Good + Good > Excellent
This is really great advice that falls right in line with my “playing to not lose” playbook.
The fact is, it’s incredibly difficult to become the best at anything: basketball, writing, managing, engineering, programming, etc. Further, because, by definition, there can only be one person who is the best, the odds you’re going to be that one person is, well, close to zero.
Same goes for running a business, by the way.
Despite what those in the business of selling hope and optimism may tell you, the chances your business is going to be the best at what it does is also, well, close to zero.
Does this mean we should all give up trying to improve our offerings and instead work for Amazon? Of course not because as Adams’ advice suggests, by becoming (merely) good at more than one thing, there is an alternative path.
The nice thing about becoming good at something is it’s a heck of a lot easier than becoming great. Further, in coming up with a second thing, as long as you can get your ass off the couch (or out of bed), every one of us can figure out how to pick up another skill that works with our schedules/lives:
- Learn another language – here are some tips by yours truly about learning a language online.
- Take a class online – here are the 10 most popular courses on Coursera in 2017 and 2,000 course you can take online for free.
- Read – for some ideas here is the always awesome Maria Popova’s virtual bookshelf.
Returning to the email I received that motivated me to drag my flu-ridden body out of bed so I could make my deadline, I have come to realize this blog is, in fact, a great example of what Adams talked about in his book. Clearly, I’m far from being a great businessman or writer but I’m good (and trying to get better) at both which, by combining the two, has allowed me to create something authentic and unique.
The good news is if I can do it, so can you.
So, if you’re in a rut, consider taking the time to pick up a skill you’re likely to be good at and combine it with something you’re already doing to stop walking and and start running towards excellence.
Before checking out for the week, how about some music for our Spotify playlist? Seems like a good time to introduce you to Beth Ditto via her song “We could run.” As noted by Jon O’brien on Spotify, “Beth Ditto became just as famous for challenging the perceptions of female beauty and sexuality as she did for her spellbindingly raw voice.” Further, in a nod to the subject of this blog, she combined her success in music with fashion by creating her own collection for UK retailer Evans.
To those of you who continue to read. Thanks for your trust. I’ll continue to drag myself out of bed at 4:30 AM and do my best to earn it.
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Having said that, I am interested to hear from you. Good, bad, or otherwise, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m the only person who will read your email and, as time allows, I’ll do my best, at a minimum, to personally acknowledge receipt.