Photo via Clem Onojeghuo
In the last money proverb, I talked about staying in your lane and playing to your strengths.
This money proverb is about taking your strengths to another level.
It can be argued that your career is your most valuable asset in building wealth. And as your career grows, your wealth building ability grows as well.
A key to growing your career is developing a skill into an expertise. The proverb argues this. Let’s explore.
“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.”
Are you good or not?
Sports have a way of deflating people’s dreams.
I played a lot of pick-up basketball growing up. The essence of pick-up basketball is that it is not organized basketball. Meaning there are no refs, no coaches, and no set teams.
The “pick” in pick-up means that you pick your own teams. It works like this: two captains are selected (usually the two best players or the two oldest). These two pick players from the rest of the group. Typically you play pick up with people you know or somewhat familiar with. For example, I played pick-up on Saturday mornings with the same core group of people. There were be some new guys here and there, but the majority of them were familiar faces.
As a captain, it is your goal to pick the best squad (basketball is a team sport, right?). However, if you got a group of unfamiliar faces, it makes things difficult. How do you select from this group? The captains have no frame of reference for who is good or not. So they pick people based on appearance: players who appear good.
In other words, they based decisions on perceived skill: by looking at how they warm up or how tall/fit/strong they look. Eventually, during the game, their true skills (or lack there of) are revealed.
Like in pick-up basketball, at some point you need to have skills. For those who fake it, the truth will come out, eventually. And everybody will know.
Skills brings rep
On the flip side, true skill carries weight. In continuing with the basketball metaphor, let say a player was picked up by one of the captains. This player was a stranger to everyone but as he played his skills started to show. He was good. Real good. And everyone knew. His consistent performance earned him a good reputation. It was good enough that he was deemed captain during the next cycle of games.
Be so good that they can’t ignore you
Actor Steve Martin famously said, “be so good (at what you do) that they can’t ignore you”. This quote has resonated with many people over the years. Why is that? Because ability speaks louder than words.
Cal Newport, an associate professor at Georgetown University and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You (affiliate link) puts it this way:
“My research on successful professionals underscores that this experience is common: As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle.”
Practice makes perfect
We are all experts at something (or have the potential to be). But how do we get to that expert level? It is pretty simple: you practice.
A study from York University, confirms this. In this study, researchers tested professional ballet dancers and were curious to see how the brain got activated with a long-term rehearsal of complex dance sequences.
Dr. Joseph DeSouza explains the results of the study:
“We found that in the learning process, our brain function makes an inverted ‘U’ learning pattern from a slow pace at the start, accelerating to a peak at the midpoint, before returning to the original pace, once we have mastered the task,” says DeSouza. “An everyday example would be learning to drive a manual car, where you constantly have to think about shifting the gears until you master it and then do it instinctively.”
As noted, the goal of practicing a skill is getting to mastery. Mastery is the point where the skills “sink in” and become more instinctive. In reference to work, the aim of this proverb is to encourage us to reach the level of mastery of a particular skill set we use day-to-day to serve others in the marketplace. And as we do, our sphere of influence will eventually expand and our wealth will begin to grow.
I will end with this quote from Cal Newport:
“Professional success is hard, but it’s not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about.”