The Most Important Skill for 2021

The problem with this world is that too many people are full of shit (or water depending on the proper idiom in your neck of the woods). It has probably been this way forever, but I wasn’t around until a few years before Teddy Ruxpin hit the scene so I couldn’t tell you what it was like before that. Since the beginning of my time as an amateur social observer in the early 90s (so starting when I was 6), this is as exciting a time as I can remember for the bullshit ecosystem. Why? Because the world continues to “get flatter” as Thomas Freidman has so eloquently championed (and recently denounced). This means that the number of people who are full of shit (water) and are able to contact you directly has exponentially grown over the past few decades. Woooo!

Depending on your age, you may remember door to door sales, direct mail, seminars (real estate, franchise ownership, timeshare, you name it), tv infomercials, email ads, banner ads and the new holy grail of shit slinging, LinkedIn connection messages.

The important difference between today and decades past isn’t really that the medium has changed. It’s that you used to only receive solicitation from people or businesses in your area, people who could find you in the yellowbook, if you happened to be on a Karl Rove direct mailing list, maybe your country, but now you have the pleasure of enjoying new business opportunities everyday from “experts” around the world. There are so many experts. Experts in “growth hacking”, “experts in Saas sales who take your business to $100M+”, “startup coaches”, “funding hackers”, “brand storytellers”, “Dev Ops ninjas who can scale to infinity and beyond”, “the top 1% of developers in the Universe”, “CTOs who are uniquely gifted at explosive revenue growth too”, etc. I could keep listing taglines I’ve seen before…but I’ll save that for the next time I have a few low end beers. It will be a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

As the world flattens, there are more and more people who are able to reach out and contact you directly. Aside from the fact that I take great pride knowing that I graduated from middle school, one of the things I noticed during that time, is that about 30% of the people I was in school with were at least reasonably competent. I’ll assume I went to a slightly above average middle school and if I extend my logic, this means that about 15% of adults in the world should be able to learn how to do a pretty good job at most tasks. In a global labor pool of a few billion people, that is a lot of LinkedIn messages from people who are probably good enough at whatever you need. But the truth is, that doesn’t matter. If there are a million people who can do a job, there is only one factor that matters. It’s whether or not the two parties involved trust each other. This is one of the only “skills” left that is not a commodity and has unique value.

You may believe that you are really talented at sales, marketing, product management, finance, engineering, etc and maybe you are. But in this world so are millions of other people. And now they can all connect with each other. Where does that leave you? It leaves you with the question of trust. Your most valuable skill is if you are trustworthy. Nothing else matters.

All things startup and technology. Founder of— A product development studio for high growth startups and leading brands.

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