Beware Skillset Tunnel Vision

You’re in some danger when you think you’re kicking ass at your job.

If no one is complaining about your performance, it can be easy to assume you’ve learned just about everything you need to know. You can start to feel comfortable with your skillset. Or you can assume that, even if you don’t know everything yet, you at least know what you will need to learn. You can be working so hard and going so deep into your own experience building that you’re only exposed to what’s right in front of you.

Thinking about these “known knowns” and “known unknowns” is satisfying. Focusing on what’s right in front of you seems efficient and practical. But it’s also how companies get out-innovated and become obsolete.

I know that the few times when I felt most comfortable about my knowledge/skillset as a marketer were the times when I made the biggest mistakes and missed the most opportunities.

When you’re focused on what you know, you’re not looking around enough to see the “unknown unknowns” that really matter for skill formation. You get skillset tunnel vision. 

Without comparison points, there’s no easy way for the people around you to know if you’re doing a good job. And, more importantly, you won’t know either. You won’t know what you don’t know. You won’t know what skills you lack, what knowledge you lack, and what wisdom you aren’t bringing to bear on the job in front of you.

There are some easy ways to counter this tunnel vision:

  • Go to industry events
  • Talk to other people in your profession
  • Read content created by other people in your profession
  • Look at how other companies/people are doing your job
  • Ask people in your profession for feedback
  • Hire people in your profession to work/consult with/for you

In short, go see how other people are doing your job and learn from them. You’ll probably be shocked by what you don’t know you don’t know about your trade.

Never self-compare on the things that really matter: meaning, virtue, integrity, self-esteem, truth. But don’t be afraid to use the power of self-comparison and peer pressure (AKA competition) to improve your skills and your perspective. Look at the best and bring it all together. This is the soul of creativity.

If you’re constantly being reminded of how much you have to learn and how much you have to try, you are doing a good thing. This has been my mindset in my best moments as a marketer. And the learning and trying will never end.



James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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