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Achieve Unique Success by Emphasizing Unique Skills

Achieve Unique Success by Emphasizing Unique Skills

    I’ve read innumerable seas of professional biographies — not books, but blurbs you often see on the “About” section of a company’s website. Most of them are boring, presenting similar information in a Mad Libs-style cookie-cutter format. How many times have you seen a phrase like “brings over 15 years of experience to the team” in a bio, followed by a list of prestigious educational degrees? These do matter, but you know what’s missing?

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    Hobbies and passions off the job.

    Antiquated thinking would have us not mix work and play, but in an era where Casual Fridays have turned into Casual Everydays, the truth is someone’s personal interests have a lot to do with their success, particularly if they’re in an idea-centric field. Which means just about every job that has problems which require creative thinking to move forward.

    If it was revealed that a brainy physicist likes to figure skate, what would that tell you? At first glance, it seems like academia-meets-the-ice isn’t a good idea. But think about the similarities between the two fields: beauty in symmetry, bodies in motion, and perhaps not-so-obvious, a profound public presence.

    I’m referring to Michio Kaku, who is undoubtedly one of the most renowned physicists in the world. He’s a heavyweight hitter of grace, continuing Carl Sagan’s lineage of science popularizers. Clearly, he’s very successful at what he does, and a large part of his success comes from his diverse skillset, including a knack for Siamese-twinning real-world science with speculative fiction. This has made him into a media star, with each spotlight appearance feeding another.

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    It’s no coincidence some of the most profound and popular scientists are also musicians: Albert Einstein played the violin, and Brian Cox rocks out on synths. Music performance itself requires a sense of timing, pitch, and if you’re doing it in front of others, charisma and the uncanny ability to engage the audience.

    Many charismatic personalities are either avid music listeners or players themselves — but you won’t find their sonic proficiencies on their bio. These might as well be called unsung skills.

    Think about yourself…

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    What skills do you have that aren’t officially job responsibilities, but get applied nonetheless?

    For example, when I was a wee tot, I scribbled stories. As a teenager, I learned about typography. Now at my job as a Resident Enlightenment Manager, I do a lot of communication. While copywriting isn’t formally amongst my responsibilities, when highlighting new product features, my background in writing comes into play every single time.

    Here’s another wonderful example: Steve Jobs. Numerous bios of Jobs (none of which are official, but that’s another story) cite his schooling in calligraphy as a driving factor for why the early Mac computers were so far ahead in terms of graphics. It takes a rare mind to appreciate both technical underpinnings and aesthetic excellence, and Jobs is now an icon because of insights like that.

    Time and time again, you’ll find remarkable humans who have achieved tremendous results because they wove a deceptively unrelated web of talents together. By making magic that could’ve only come from them, it paid off big.

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    Do this fun exercise:

    1. On the left-hand side of a piece of paper, write a list of your favorite career moments across your entire life. They can be specific achievements (you solved an especially thorny problem), glowing moments (your boss praised you at a company party), etc. Even if you telecommute, find something you’re proud of.
    2. Beside it on the right, write a list of your hobbies and leisure activities off the job. Don’t spend too much time on this: 5 minutes is good.
    3. Draw a vertical line between the two. Like a wall that separates them.
    4. Now, the fun part: draw circles around something in the left column that happened because of something on the right. Join them with a line that breaks through the center “wall”. For example, you were designing a website for a client. Later that day while playing Ultimate Frisbee, the mesmerizing patterns of the disc inspired you to experiment with a new color scheme which turned out to be a hit! So, you’d circle both “webdesign project that won me prizes” and “frisbee”, and connect them with a line.

    The connections are now much clearer. By recognizing how various parts of you falsely appear miles apart but are actually adjacent in their applicability, you stand a much higher chance of succeeding at what’s important.

    Just as physicists theorize about folding space-time, you can fold the distances between skills for a better, unified you.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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