There are nearly 7 billion people in the world, hundreds if not thousands of them with a skill set similar to your own. Many of them are better at what you do than you are.
Plenty has been written on this phenomenon; as the world flattens it makes each of us easier to replace. It hit home for me recently as I have worked to help my brother with a job hunt. My brother is UC Berkeley-trained artist, who most enjoys sculpting. He hopes to earn a living sculpting fantasy miniatures for one of several large gaming companies. Much of the work is spec, and can be done from anywhere.
Now, the title of this post is a bit overboard. “Skill is not enough,” is more like it. But my brother’s situation highlights very smartly where the world has gone. Interesting and rewarding work in general requires special skills, but in the globalized economy, those special skills are more and more abundant. And that means those who have them are less and less valued.
It is because skill is not enough that I am more and more convinced that community building and social networking are going to continue to increase in value. As the global workforce continues to stratify into low-wage manufacturing jobs and creative endeavors, it will be passion and connections that set apart the successful from the merely skillful.
For my brother, the difference between success and anonymity among the merely skillful may mean launching his own line of figures. At the very least, it means illuminating his passion for the form to potential paymasters, marketing his hours of gaming and message board discussion along with his purer mechanical abilities.
In the new world of work, the difference between success and mere skill is the entrepreneurial spirit, whether in service of a corporation or one’s self.