Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

For as long as you can remember, you wanted to acquire a set of skills. You looked for mastery in skills that are combinatorial and rare. Skills that lead you to a unique place within the ecosystem so you can dominate.

You have come to understand that mastering just one skill is problematic. The ecosystem is crowded. The over-population forces you to fight for relevancy, to fight in the political Thunderdome, and hope you survive for a small ration of the limited resources.

Regrettably, rest, and bandaging wounds will have to wait. A new fight for resources begins in T-minus 10 seconds. The struggle is never-ending, which means you do not have the time to explore and develop new skills.

The Unremarkable Average.

The constant fighting for limited resources has left you tired, so you surrender to the life of mediocrity. The author Chris Guillebeau calls this life — the unremarkable average. Guillebeau illustrates this life in his eBook A Brief Guide to World Domination:

  1. Accept what people tell you at face value.
  2. Don’t question authority.
  3. Go to college because you’re supposed to, not because you want to learn something.
  4. Go overseas once or twice in your life, to somewhere safe like England.
  5. Don’t try to learn another language; every- one else will eventually learn English.
  6. Think about starting your own business, but never do it.
  7. Think about writing a book, but never do it.
  8. Get the largest mortgage you qualify for and spend 30 years paying for it.
  9. Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work.
  10. Don’t stand out or draw attention to yourself.
  11. Jump through hoops. Check off boxes.

The Search for Meaning.

Yoky Matsuoka grew up in Japan in the 1970s, and everything seemed to be preplanned:

  • Yoky would be educated in a field that was appropriate for girls.
  • Yoky’s parents placed her in competitive swimming.
  • Yoky’s parents placed her in piano class.

While some children would appreciate having their lives planned, Matsuoka did not like having her life dictated. Her interests ranged from science to math to sports. Then at age 11, she demanded to play competitive tennis.

Since Yoky started late, in her tennis career, practice was rigorous, which left her doing science and math homework on a crowded train. When Yoky had a moment to herself, she would dream about her natural inclinations:

  • The love of competing.
  • Working with her hands.
  • Moving gracefully.
  • Analyzing and solving problems.

Regrettably, Yoky would suffer from debilitating injuries, which derailed her tennis aspirations. Sad but not defeated, she would focus on her education. Matsuoka enrolled at the University of California Berkeley studied electrical engineering and then enrolled at MIT to work with robotic pioneer Rodney Brooks.

While working with Brooks Matsioka designed the arms and hands for robots. Her work impressed Brooks. As time progressed, Yoky realized that she was lacking skills so she got a degree in neuroscience. Her goal was to understand that brain and hand relationships better. She would go on to create a new field — neurorobotics.

Wikipedia defines neurorobotics as, “referring to the study of the nervous system in conjunction with technology. Of particular importance in the field of neurorobotics are the brain and its direct interaction with computer systems and methods of externally stimulating the brain.” This new found niche would bring Yoky a great deal of success in science and gave her operational control over her life.

Today Yoky Matsuoka is the CTO of Google Nest and co-founder of Google X.

What Would Action Look Like.

The author Robert Greene writes, “In childhood, this force was clear to you. It directed you towards activities and subjects that fit your natural inclinations, which sparked a curiosity that was deep and primal. In the intervening years, the force tends to fade in and out as you listen to parents and peers the daily anxieties that wear away at you.”

What if you took the opportunity to slow down? What if you took the time to evaluate where you are? What if you began to think about where you wanted to go?

What if you inventoried your skills and your natural inclinations? What if you understood what skills you lacked? What if you made a plan — jumped through those hoops and checked-off those boxes? What would your life look like — one year from now? Three years from now? 10,000 hours from now?

The Road to Success.

You will not know until you take the first step towards that rare air. The author Robin Sharma notes, “It is terrifying to rise into the rare air of world-class. That is exactly why you must do it.”

You have come to understand that mastering just one skill is problematic. You refuse to play that game. Instead, you will play a different game. One in which you learn many skills based on your natural inclinations. You will pursue this path, combining skills, and mastering the skills until you reach that rare air of world-class.

And then, once you are there, ask yourself, “What is next?”