Develop Your Skills, Not Your Platform

Let me preface this by saying that everyone is different and we are all embarking on different journeys. The individual circumstances of your specific situation are going to vary from everyone else. That’s life. That’s just the way things are and we can all take a different path to achieve success, however we choose to define what that means.

Back to School?

A lot of people are going to tell you that pursuing higher education at a college or university is a waste of money, particularly if you’re going after a liberal arts degree. They’ll tell you that getting a Bachelor of Arts in political science or linguistics or art history is a huge waste of time and money. I totally get where these people are coming from, because it can be extremely difficult to draw a straight A-to-B line between these degrees and successful career paths. It’s true.

These are the same people who will then offer one of two main types of advice. First, they’ll tell you that if you’re going to go to school, you should go into the trades, because that kind of practical education provides a direct path to a specific kind of job and many of these jobs can pay a very healthy salary. You can learn to be anything from a plumber to a dental hygienist.

Alternatively, they might tell you that you should skip school (after getting your high school diploma, of course), because you can learn anything you want to learn on the Internet. For free. And then you can start your own business, be your own boss, make your own rules, and reap the endless rewards of entrepreneurship. To some extent, this can be true too, but it can also be very limiting.

Can you make it as a big Internet marketer with no formal education? Absolutely. But you’ll also find that many of the most successful entrepreneurs online have some background in sales, marketing, business, or some other related discipline. School can have its place.

The MySpace Generation

I came across a video the other day where the person was recounting a conversation they had with an enthusiastic young man. He asked him about his strategy to achieve success online. The response was that the young man was going to make a YouTube video and get it to go viral.

If it really were that simple, everyone would do it. You can’t just say that you’re going to make a viral YouTube video and suddenly it racks up millions of views. It doesn’t work that way. There are tactics you can employ, but there is never any guarantee of anything “going viral” online. There is no magic bullet. The other big problem with this strategy was that it relied entirely on YouTube.

YouTube is huge right now. Some people might even say it’s over-saturated. But that could change in a heartbeat. If all you’re doing is developing specific strategies for only this one platform, your entire online business will implode the moment YouTube goes kaput. The Internet is fleeting and fickle.

Several years ago, I knew someone who had developed a successful online business on MySpace. She sold these special customizations and everyone loved them. She was making more money than she had ever thought possible, so she threw all of her eggs into that basket. We know all know what happened to MySpace. During that time, she never thought about her long-term viability and how she would outlive MySpace. Last I heard, she has a fairly conventional 9-to-5 type job.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a 9-to-5, but that means her online “dream” died along with MySpace. This is why you shouldn’t work solely on building on a single platform. You need to develop skills that can adapt to other platforms and other opportunities.

Skills to Pay the Bills

I graduated from university with a degree in psychology (minoring in English literature). Some people will look at that degree and say that I wasted five years of my life and untold thousands of dollars. I disagree. It was through my university career — including enrolling in the co-op program for real work placements, attending a number of student workshops, and engaging with other intellectually-minded individuals — that I gained and honed a number of soft skills.

They didn’t connect directly back to a specific career or job path. I do not make my living today as a psychologist, but I do leverage my research skills, my logical thinking skills, my writing skills and so forth each and every day as a freelance writer and professional blogger. The world will continue to change all around me and the specifics of the situation will be in a constant state of flux, but these soft skills allow me to be more malleable, to adapt as circumstances shift.

That’s how you set yourself up for long-term viability and success.

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