Learn (Or Perfect) A Financially Valuable Skill

On January 4, 2001, I asked you to promise yourself that you would learn (or perfect) a financially valuable skill. I asked you to forget (at least temporarily) about all the interesting talents you have that nobody will pay you for and focus, instead, on developing the one ability that can change your financial life.

I pointed out:

* You can’t earn a high income, consistently, unless you have a financially valuable skill. To merit a lot of money for your time, you must do something very well that creates value for others.

* There aren’t a whole lot of financially valuable skills to choose from. You can become a world-class athlete, actor, or entertainer of some sort and get paid good money for that. You can learn how to get people out of trouble (think “doctor, lawyer, tax accountant”) and earn a high income that way. You can start and run your own successful business. Or you can make someone else’s business succeed.

Whatever field of endeavor you select, you’ll need to know how to do three things: (1) speak well, (2) write well, and (3) think well. By speaking well, I don’t mean eloquently but persuasively. By writing well, I don’t mean writing in an impressive, literary fashion. I mean writing effective letters and memos. By thinking well, I don’t mean being able to quote Herodotus from memory but being able to break any complex problem down into its component parts and then figure out how to fix it.

It’s good to know how to fix a computer or fly a plane, but such skills will give you, at best, a good income. To make serious money, you have to be able to create serious profits — either for your own company or someone else’s. To create profits, you must be able to figure out solutions to problems and then convince people (by speaking and writing well) to follow your advice.

The bottom line: To become wealthier, you must get better at figuring things out and persuading others that your answer is the right one. In addition to developing those skills, you should be continuing to learn more about your chosen field. If you work for a publishing company, for example, that means learning more about publishing. If your company sells refrigerators, that means learning more about both refrigerators and the selling process.

And finally, keep in mind that it takes between 600 and 1,000 hours (depending on how good your instruction is) to become competent at some valuable skill — and five times longer to become masterful. Plan accordingly.

<How Did You Do in 2001?>

* Did you find something financially valuable that you can do very well — and spend some time every day developing that skill?

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]