If you are a creative person hoping to move beyond the simplistic advice of pursuing your passion, the idea of developing a talent stack is a useful place to start.
I first heard about "talent stacking" on the ChooseFI podcast. It's a concept the hosts Brad and Jonathan reference throughout different episodes. I was eventually intrigued enough to go to their website where I found a useful article written about it.
Our Talent Stack Exercise
Below is a breakdown of our skills. We conducted this exercise in the third person while trying to be as objective as possible (ha)! I listed what I knew about my skills and asked my husband to comment before I shared my list with him to see if my assessment matched up with his assessment of me. Then we switched places. Feel free to look over this over if you are curious about our work-related experiences.
Also, in order to experience career and side hustle fulfillment, we use a three-ring model representing an intersection of intrinsic passions aligned with accurately assessed skills geared at meeting the needs of others.
Some of our skills (while able to make us money) have fallen by the wayside (such as giving guitar lessons). Other skills are being developed in the upcoming years (like my life-long desire to write nonfiction).
Michelle's Skill Stack
1. Reading Teacher/ Bibliotherapy Consultant (Day Job Alert)
Michelle (that's me!) is a full-time teacher at a school down the street. While teaching the basics of reading to middle school students, she also matches books with students who are facing potential personal or social issues. This is a four-step process called bibliotherapy. She studied this process in-depth for her master's thesis. Bibliotherapy is used to empower others through cathartic release while studying a character's growth and perspective.
Potential Future: Michelle is interested in expanding her bibliotherapy service to include book clubs and possible consulting to people of all ages. This process also aligns with the way she writes music.
2. Creative Psychology
Michelle has read numerous books on creativity and giftedness, in addition to getting her master's with a focus on gifted education.
Potential Future: A lot of creative individuals and people in the personal finance community can be identified as gifted systemizers. Michelle has insight into the mental health needs of these individuals and hopes to offer relevant expert content. In addition, creative artists and musicians are people who could benefit from personal finance knowledge.
Creative people are often financially vulnerable by the very nature of their work. It can be said they have the most to gain from obtaining financial freedom in order to unleash their vision with less monetary pressure.
3. Writing Nonfiction
Potential Future: Michelle will continue to write songs from the perspective of overlooked people in history. She hopes to do this in themes and batches (like how she narrowed in on inventors for the songs she is recording now). She'd also like to create tailored songs for historical museums and businesses. In addition, she hopes to blog regularly, freelance, and write a book addressing giftedness, mental health and/or money.
4. Home Remodeling (Budget Management/Thrifting)
With three home remodels under her belt, Michelle has inadvertently come to love the process of turning a shack into a straight-up masterpiece.
While remodeling earlier homes, Michelle really loved the role of browsing Craigslist for sinks, showers, doors, windows, stoves, etc.
Potential Future: While definitely not into physical labor (that's Adam's part), she will be on the lookout for rental properties following the 1% rule and thrifty ways to continue remodeling their current home.
Adam's Skill Stack
1. Sound Tech (Day Job Alert)
Adam was able to use his past experiences with music to obtain full-time work as a campus programmer at a local college. The music and art venue he works at comes with a pretty decent schedule. Unlike other work as a musician, it requires very little traveling. He once ran sound at a local open mic for very little pay, but that experience created connections and skills to help him land this gig.
Potential Future: Adam could use these skills to help produce a podcast and record more albums with Michelle. Also, since he is asked to work as a sound tech for a lot of events in the community, he could expand on this and legitimize it as a business. He's not afraid of out-pricing himself because he wants to leave time for...
2. Home Remodeling
Home repair and remodeling has been a reoccurring theme in Adam's life. He has completely gutted and remodeled five homes. Pictures and details of minor tasks (painting) and major tasks (blowing out walls and putting up support beams) are discussed occasionally on this blog.
Potential Future: The above skills will be used soon for remodeling the deck and master bedroom/bathroom at the current house, and remodeling a rental and/or flipping another home in the distant future.
3. DIY Coaching for Hesitant Home Owners
Adam spent several years as a carpenter and now does it on the side occasionally. He likes empowering single women (like many of Michelle's friends) who have the desire to be homeowners or who are homeowners already. He takes time to teach them how to do simple repairs and tasks themselves (like hanging curtains, solving pest problems, leaky sinks, etc).
Potential Future: Expand the above idea into a local business where he sets advertised prices and walks others through common home repair/maintenance issues.
4. Bass Guitar/Singing
A small sample of this experience can be found here.
Potential Future: Continue with occasional enjoyable live shows. Add vocal harmonies and bass parts to the Savvy History songs.
5. Pet Care and Animal Rescue
While in Austin, TX Adam worked with Austin Pets Alive as an adoption counselor in order to match potential pet owners with dogs in need of a home.
Potential Future: Adam and Michelle would like to help their son start a dog walking business if he is interested and get involved with Rover in the distant future.
A Quick Comment On Awkward Exercises and Self-Esteem
We've definitely had crummy jobs we left off this list. It feels great to have turned it around and found a way to enjoy our careers now. This took years to do and a lot of self-reflection.
Revealing throwback: I was in group therapy as a kid. At times, no one in the room could manage to say a nice thing about themselves or their abilities.
As a result, I have an aversion to the word "talent." I wanted to use the word "skill" the entire time while talking about this. However, I decided to go with the ChooseFI terminology so people could search out more about "talent stacking" if they desired.
It's hard to believe now, but there've been times in my life when I was so down on myself, I wouldn't have had anything positive to say during this exercise. In fact, it may have just made me feel even more hopeless. If you are in this headspace, I highly suggest finding professional counseling or professional career advice. At the very least, find a trusted positive friend or partner to go through this exercise with.
Best wishes. I hope you got something out of our brainstorm.
How about you? Have you conducted a talent stack before? Have you heard about this idea?
DISCLAIMER: AS ALWAYS, IF YOU NEED PSYCHOLOGICAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE PLEASE SEEK A PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION.