Your talent stack is the combination of specific knowledge that is unique to you and only you.
It is really hard to be the absolute best in the world at something.
But it is nowhere near as hard to be in the top twenty-five percent of five different things. Or to be one of the best at a combination of those five things.
Let’s say there are ten thousand talents available to humanity.
That means there are only ten thousand spots available to be number one in. That’s not a lot of spots.
But to be number one at a combination of five of those talents?
There are 10,000! / (5! * 9,995!) spots.
That’s more spots than there are people on the planet, and more spots than most calculators can compute.
This is why your talent stack and the specific knowledge (talents) that comprise your stack, are important.
Because whatever your purpose or why is, your talent stack is how you build the capacity to get there.
What Exactly Is a Talent Stack?
Your talent stack is the combination of skills or specific knowledge that you have.
Philosopher-entrepreneur Naval Ravikant, calls the skills that make up your talent stack, specific knowledge.
What does a talent stack actually look like?
I don’t consider myself the absolute best at any one of those talents, but I do consider myself in at least the top twenty-five percent for each of them. I also consider myself one of the best in the world at the particular combination.
Why Your Talent Stack Is Important
At first glance your talent stack just looks like your list of professional skills.2Guilty 🙄. But it’s more than that.
It’s what makes you, you to other people.
It’s your personal brand so to speak.
It also serves as a roadmap for your growth and development – a useful way to work out what to focus on in your life and what you can improve.
As mentioned, you may not be the absolute best at any given talent or skill, but you can be the absolute best at your unique combination of skills.
And it is this combination that is your unique selling point, your differentiation, and your ability to “create a niche” for yourself.
After all, there is no one who knows better how to be you.
How to Work Out Your Talent Stack
So how do we go about working out our talent stack?
I like a multi-perspective approach to this, combining different sources of ideas and then streamlining them.
You can source ideas for your talents and specific knowledge from:
- What others say about you. You can literally message five friends right now, and ask them to describe three-to-five things they think you’re good at.
- Things you have done in the past.
- Industries you have worked in.
- Job roles you have filled.
- Skills or areas of knowledge you have acquired through formal and informal training or education.
- Any hobbies that you have.
- Any accessible leverage that you have. These are things that you have access to from your past work, businesses, networks, memberships etc.
You want to list all of these things out and then put them in front of you.
And then you want to group, categorise and aggregate them until you are left with just the top five.
And then refine those top five – wordsmith them, mull over them, think about them, ask others about them. Do this until you are happy with your chosen five.
Then write them down, and refer to it.
That’s how you work out your talent stack.
Now Hold on a Minute Aaron…
If you’ve thought this through a bit, you might realise that your talent stack is a bit… arbitrary.
Some of your skills and specific knowledge are likely based on choices that you made when you didn’t know better, or based on choices others3*cough* parents *cough*. made for you.4My parents and educators were obviously not fans of artistic endeavours.
This is not nice to hear, but it is the truth.
And you need to take responsibility for your talents being what they are – the good and the bad.
The upside is that you are now aware of your talents, and can change the direction of them if you want to.
The downside is that the older you are, the harder this will be, and it may be better to capitalise on the things you have already accumulated specific knowledge in.5I’m not saying it’s impossible to build a new area of specific knowledge, just that it is harder than strengthening an existing one.
Which brings us to the next step in our talent stack journey.
How to Improve Your Talent Stack and Specific Knowledge
Now you know what your talent stack is and you’ve made a decision to improve or change it.
Ideally you want to strengthen your existing talents, but you can also add new talents if you want. Just try to keep your stack to three-to-five things maximum.
What you need to do to improve each talent is dependent on the specific talent.
Start with the obvious thing.
If your talent is speaking, then ask how you can improve your speaking. Is it through Toastmasters? Is it in joining the National Speakers Association?
If your talent is writing, you may need to do a combination of active learning by taking courses, and then writing, publishing and being read a lot.
Beyond the obvious, think about ways that you can improve your particular talent by getting more training, education or practice in the talent.
This could be formal education.
It could also be informal education, be it from:
- Course marketplaces like Udemy or Lynda.
- The wisdom of crowds on subreddits.
- Learning from world-class authorities.6Usually the fastest way.
What To Do Next
Realise that your talent stack is important. It is one of the purest expressions of who you are.
Brainstorm and write down the first version, then decide to improve it.
Turn it into a project for your life, and treat it as such.
If some of your talents include systems, productivity, or self-discipline (or you just want to get better at those), grab a copy of Evolution below (it’s 100% free) 🙂.
- Let’s leave the politics out of this one.
- Guilty 🙄.
- *cough* parents *cough*.
- My parents and educators were obviously not fans of artistic endeavours.
- I’m not saying it’s impossible to build a new area of specific knowledge, just that it is harder than strengthening an existing one.
- Usually the fastest way.
- I regard this as an area of life called “learning and growth”.
Photo by Austin Neill.