A pawn toppling the King

Invest in the Highest Value Asset: Personal Skills
By Joe Jarvis - June 16, 2017

That’s what this world needs: skills. Raw resources are useless without the skill to properly apply them.

There are skills for financial gain, skills for personal gain, and skills for a backup plan. Most of them overlap; something once a hobby can become a career, for instance becoming a tennis instructor. Or a skill that is a “backup plan” can become the bread and butter in an emergency, like keeping bees or growing a garden.

Tangible assets are a needed hedge when it seems everything–the stock market, real estate, bonds–are overvalued or in a bubble. A good useful skill is as tangible an asset as they get. And unlike resources, a skill cannot so easily be taken from you.

Most people understand the need to acquire some sort of work skills in order to make money, be productive, and create wealth. But a lot of people decide to be trained in skills that other people, organizations, society, or those in power tell them they should desire. And then, they usually stop after acquiring one major skill.

But just like we diversify investments in order to spread risk, the same makes sense when it comes to the skills you invest your time to acquire. Be creative in your skill-set. There is really no one that can tell you what will be best for you, or for future job markets, or in an emergency.

Sometimes the demand for a particular skill can disappear as technology advances and years of training can become practically useless. In this situation, it makes sense to have something to fall back on so you aren’t forced into a low skill labor job just to make ends meet.

In fact, some of the most successful people have gotten to their final career destination by melding a seemingly random mixture of skills. Yoky Matsuoka is a Japanese woman who was a semi-pro tennis player in her younger years but went to school for technology and ended up in robotics. She was interested in the complex way the arm and hands moved during a game of tennis, and by combining her love of tennis with robotics, she helped develop the most state of the art robotic hand yet seen.

[Read about Matsuoka and other “Masters” in Robert Green’s Mastery. I listened to it on Audible during my free trial. Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.]

It always makes sense to have a plan b as well, to have something to fall back on. This could be in the event of losing a job or being stranded in the wilderness, or the economy collapsing.

There are certain skills that protect you from ruin in a really dire situation. For example, if an EMP attack took out the power grid, would you rather have 20 Bitcoin, or the ability to forage for wild edible plants? If you need to protect yourself in an L.A. riot type situation, a gun is a great resource, but it is practically useless without the skill to hit the target.

But backup training and useful hobbies don’t just have to apply to apocalyptic scenarios. Learning graphic design might be a fun side project that also gives you a backup plan if you lose your job. Being forced into a career change is not a far-fetched “catastrophe” for which to plan.

One skill I enjoy sharpening is foraging for wild edible and medicinal plants. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I would be able to survive better. Let’s face it, I’m a bit of a prepper, so being able to find food in a natural environment gives me a sense of freedom, knowing that I wouldn’t immediately starve to death if left to my own devices.

In fact, though I am only an amateur forager currently, I think I might have enough skills to die very slowly if I suddenly had to forage for all my food. So slowly, in fact, that I may even hone those skills in the meantime enough to prevent the death. What I should do is start practicing complimentary skills like hunting and fishing so that I always have a way to find food, as long as I have access to nature. Here’s a video with a little foraging overview of wild edible plants where I live.

It makes sense to pursue things you are passionate about because otherwise there just won’t be enough energy and fervor put into shaping a skill to be useful.

Anything that seems like a fun hobby where a skill must be gained, there is no harm in pursuing it. In the short term, it will be a fun side activity but might become quite valuable in the long run. A friend of mine enjoyed singing for the elderly at assisted living and nursing homes. When he was unexpectedly let go from his job, he managed to turn his singing into a full-time career where he makes as much if not more money than before and enjoys much more freedom.

Often our skills end up being melded with others to form a unique type of skill-set with endless combinations. It’s the same reason why there can be infinite songs if you arrange a limited number of notes in different ways. Well, there are more skills than musical notes, and more are being invented every day. This provides for an endless combination of skills to be innovative in our hobbies, backup plans, and career goals.

I use examples from my own life about the type of freedom I pursue, and the skills which interest me, but that doesn’t mean these are the only or best ways to go. I really want to hear from all of you in the comments what you have done to diversify your skillset. I bet we will find quite the diversity.

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