Compounding Interest Of Your Skills

Compounding interest is a well-documented method of growing your money. If your wealth grows 10% every year, you will double it in just 7.2 years.

What’s less discussed is the compounding effect of your skills and experience.

This happens two ways:

  1. Your skills in one field multiply, making you extremely valuable in that domain
  2. Your skills in multiple fields combine, making you the master of your own unique niche

Let’s see an example of each.

Mastering a Single Field

This is the traditional approach.

Let’s say you’re a software developer (because that’s what I am). You’re entry-level and want to work your way up to senior.

You’ll do this by learning relevant skills in the tech industry. Not only getting competent with your code in general but by consciously practicing with different technology, getting familiar with another tech stack or two, understanding the basics of managing a cloud distribution, test automation, deployment pipeline, some senior-level algorithms (just so you’re not caught off-guard by a junior who’s been grinding leetcode), etc.

There’s not a clear path to senior, but there are some things every senior is expected to know, so you aim at developing those areas.

Pretty straightforward.

You’ll get paid more once you get recognized and provide value with those skills. You can take it a step further and become a master of a very specific technology, like being the only Rust developer who has worked with image processing on large-scale enterprise apps.

You’ve established a variety of skills, but they’re still within one clear industry or field (in this case software development).

That’s a totally legitimate way to compound your skills and make yourself more valuable.

Now here’s a different track.

Carving Out Your Own Niche

Now, let’s look at Allen.

Allen is publicly known for being a Bitcoin advocate and is a major reason I’m such a fan.

(He’s also my friend from uni, which is why I’m talking about him.)

Allen’s day job is as an analyst for an investing firm. I don’t know his actual title. He might be an MD at this point, I don’t know.

He has a following and speaks at conferences because of a combination of a few skills:

He understands the power of turning himself into a media asset and learned to do it in a way that wasn’t plastic and formulaic but genuine and engaging.

You can try to copy someone else, but the best returns are when you discover what you do better than anyone else.

I’ll never be the best programmer in the world. I have no desire to be that person.

However, by getting to a local mastery in programming (AKA getting pretty good at it enough that others can rely on me to do it well) I can then begin building a totally different but complementary skill.

E.g. maybe I want to build a service helping businesses have more efficient (and fewer) meetings.

  • I can build an app.
  • But I need to develop sales skills to effectively communicate the business value of the proposition to actual owners and decision-makers.
  • And if it got big enough, I’d need to learn managerial skills to scale it out and have other people work on it with me.

Does that make sense?

If you have your own idea, does it help clarify what skills you may need to develop to make it happen?

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