Talent Stack

Scott Adams Talent Stack

Most of the time, excellence and greatness are understood as specific: "the fatest...", "the best x-player", "the best in x discipline...", "the expert in field x...".
So the obvious way to become valuable is specialization. This requires a lot a discipline, time, patience and personal drive.
Scott Adams Talent Stack offers a different path. It says that even if your skill level is mediocre, if the mix of skills is right, you can become unique and valuable too.
This path requires is easier to take. The Talent Stack concept helps explaining success in cases where observers might describe it as "surprising".


Kanye West

I am quite into Hip Hop / RnB music. Although I love his music, I can come up with plenty of other male artists that excel him in specific skills.
But his unique mix of skills lead to his sucess.

Skill Kanye's level not as good as
Rapping ok Eminem, Twista, Yelawolf, Tech 9
Vocoder ok T Pain, Zapp & Roger
Singing can't Timberlake, John Legend, Usher, Chris Brown
Writing/Lyrics ok Andre 3000, 2Pac
Composing/Beat Making ok Madlib, Metro Boomin, Mike Will Made It
Dancing can't Usher, Timberlake, Chris Brown
Business acumen ok Buffet
Social Media Presence good Obama, Rihanna, Bieber
Self promotion ok ?
Fashion ok Beckham?

So he is the best in none of his skills. Most of the time he's good or just good enough. It is in combining all his skills together that he succeeded in becoming so unique.
Same goes for his wife Kim Kardashian West. I've always been somewhat astonished by her rising sucess.


Branding & Marketing Obviously good, she is her own brand
Media Knows how to deal with press, reporters, interviews...
Esthetic Not the most beautiful, but pretty enough
Network Leveraged the connections she built during/after the Ray J sextape episode
Engagement on social media She is maybe not THE best at interacting with and engaging fans online, but she can do it and does it efficiently
Family Spread success to her family
Risk management The sex tape episode was definitely a bold and carefully calculated move...
Recruiting She partners with the right people in any industry: fashion, music, media...

Each of single skill alone is not enough. But the combination...
This is how a women went from sex tape to a $377M net worth: the right talent stack.

An further application and illustration of this concept is what Naval Ravikant describes as an "unstoppable" skill set:

The unstoppable skill set: Build & Sell

Naval notes that every successful company, individual or team needs to be good at 2 categories of skills: building and selling.

  • Building: R&D, design, engineering, coding, manufacturing, delivering...
  • Selling: Sales, marketing, communicating, recruiting, PR...

Let's imagine an excellent engineer building amazing products. If he can't market himself or attract customers, nobody will ever learn about how great his products are. No customers. No sales. Engineering requiring lot of focus, time and ressources, it is not sustainable.
Same goes for the other way around. What if you're great marketer? If the product you're selling isn't good, customers won't buy again. You won't earn the ressources necessary to improve your product. Not sustainable either.
You can't be the best at both, but you need a decent skill level in both.

As illustrations, he mentions in his post some famous successful team that were made of a "Builder" and a "Seller" combo: Jobs and Wosniak, Gates and Allen, the usual CEO/CTO combo of any startups...
Then you have unstoppable people such as Elon Musk. People who can do both: build and sell. He is not good enough to design the whole rocket himself, but he is good enough to drive all key technical decisions. So he is Builder. He has an excellent business acumen too, which makes him a Seller too.

So builders should endeavour to become sellers and sellers to become builders?
Reality is a bit unfair.
Bill Gates said: “I’d rather teach an engineer marketing, than a marketer engineering.
A seller will have indeed a harder time learning to build than a builder learning to sell. Learning selling as an engineer can still be challenging. Depending on character and personality, builders have to figure out what they feel more confortable doing. What communication they're best suited for:

  • Person to person: recruiting, fund raising
  • Writing: blog, articles, tweets
  • Public speaking: make presentations, conferences, workshops
  • Talking: podcasts, videos
  • Photos

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