By Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Images reproduced with permission. Copyright Scott Adams, 2013.
When writing a resume, a handy trick you’ll learn from experts is to ask yourself if there are any words in your first draft that you would be willing to remove for one hundred dollars each. Here’s the simple formula:
Each Unnecessary Word = $100
When you apply the formula to your resume, you surprise yourself by how well the formula helps you prune your writing to its most essential form. It doesn’t matter that the hundred-dollar figure is arbitrary and that some words you remove are more valuable than others.
What matters is that the formula steers your behavior in the right direction. As is often the case, simplicity trumps accuracy. The hundred dollars in this case is not only inaccurate; it’s entirely imaginary.
And it still works.
Likewise, I think it’s important to think of each new skill you acquire as a doubling of your odds of success. In a literal sense, it’s no more accurate than the imaginary hundred dollars per deleted word on your resume, but it still helps guide your behavior in a productive direction. If I told you that taking a class in Web site design during your evenings might double your odds of career success, the thought would increase the odds that you would act. If instead I only offered you a vague opinion that acquiring new skills is beneficial, you wouldn’t feel particularly motivated.
When you accept without necessarily believing that each new skill doubles your odds of success, you effectively hack (trick) your brain to be more proactive in your pursuit of success. Looking at the familiar in new ways can change your behavior even when the new point of view focuses on the imaginary.
I’m a perfect example of the power of leveraging multiple mediocre skills. I’m a rich and famous cartoonist who doesn’t draw well. At social gatherings I’m usually not the funniest person in the room. My writing skills are good, not great. But what I have that most artists and cartoonists do not have is years of corporate business experience plus an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
In the early years of Dilbert my business experience served as the fodder for the comic. Eventually I discovered that my business skills were essential in navigating Dilbert from a cult hit to a household name. My combined mediocre skills are worth far more than the sum of the parts.
If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.
Excerpted from How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. © Scott Adams, 2013.