September 15

Skills That Will Make You Immune to Automation: Future Proof Your Career

Automation will lead to the elimination of repetitive activities and make once valuable skills obsolete. It's not a matter of if, but when, if you do not develop the skills that will make you immune to automation.

In a recent interview on Unmistakable Creative, author Tim Klein said the following.:

Labor economists have known for about 80 years, that anything that involves a pattern or a process or repeatable actions, anything that can just be done in the same way over and over again, will eventually be automated by technology

  • An ATM allows you to withdraw money from an account without having to visit a bank counter.
  • Kiosks in airports allow you to print boarding passes without an employee being present at the ticket counter.
  • Self-checkout kiosks allow you to buy food without a clerk present

Whenever you do a task without human intervention, there's a chance that technology has automated a task that used to be done by a human. Over the last 100 years, innovation has led to the automation of low-skill jobs. But in the next 10 years, it will displace anyone who has not developed skills that make them immune to automation.

Do You Know How to Use the Internet?

skills hat make you immune to automation
Photographer: LinkedIn Sales Solutions | Source: Unsplash

When my mentor Greg Hartle traveled to all 50 states to work one-on-one with 500 people, he asked people a question that seems ridiculous at first glance: do you know how to use the Internet? If they answered in the affirmative, he'd say, "Great, show me something you have done with the Internet. "

Every time I discover a new tool or technology, the first question that comes to mind is: What is possible with it that was not possible before?

Technical expertise is becoming a commodity because technology is narrowing the gap between ideas and execution. Soon, this gap will no longer exist.

Twenty years ago, it took hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and programming skills to build a website. Today, it takes only 20 minutes, costs less than $20, and a five-year-old can create a website.

As the time it takes to go from idea to execution decreases, the importance of imagination and creativity increases. Unlike technical expertise, it is your imagination that enables you to identify opportunities to capitalize on technological innovations.

The confluence of innovations makes things possible that were not possible before.

  • The confluence of the Web browser and online processing of credit card payments made electronic commerce possible.
  • The confluence of mobile devices and location tracking has made Uber, Doordash, and other billion-dollar ideas possible.

Creativity is the ability to identify and leverage the intersection between two innovations. And as Julien Smith said, you should always ask yourself the question, "What makes this possible that wasn't possible before?"

Short-Term Marketability Leads to Long-Term Obsolescence Without Skills That Make You Immune to Automation

skills hat make you immune to automation
Photographer: Mika Baumeister | Source: Unsplash

AI is very good at spreadsheets and like running algorithms very bad at critical thinking and creativity much worse than my five-year-old kid.- Tim Klein

Any capability that makes you marketable in the short term will be obsolete, unnecessary or automated in the long term.

  • By the time a freshman graduates with a computer science degree, everything he learns is obsolete because the world is changing so fast.
  • When I was a student at Berkeley, I thought it was ridiculous that most of my friends with computer science degrees didn't even know how to build a website when they graduated.
  • Berkeley is one of the few universities in the country where students learn an outdated programming language called LISP in their first computer science class. LISP has almost no practical application.

So why on earth would students who can't even build a Website be so sought after by Silicon Valley tech companies? Because they're learning to think like a computer scientist.

Most of my friends said, "Yeah, I've no idea how to build a website, but I could learn it in a week or less. The ability to think like a computer scientist gave them the ability to think critically, a transferable and timeless meta-skill that many of them literally took to the bank (by working in finance).

My best friend Gareth Pronovost was an Excel genius because he studied applied mathematics.

  • He turned a 5-hour task into a 5-minute task, unintentionally eliminating someone's job.
  • But he was also smart enough to realize that he had developed a skill that would lead to his downfall if he did not apply it to something else.
  • He built a business helping companies automate boring and repetitive tasks, and chances are those companies laid off a lot of people.

The skills that make you marketable today could make you obsolete tomorrow. If not, they eventually will be.

As my friend Clay Hebert said in this simple tweet:

Canva didn’t eliminate graphic designers overnight.

Zapier didn’t eliminate millions of jobs overnight.

AI copy tools won’t eliminate copywriters overnight.

But be honest. Assess your skills.

If you’re average, your days are numbered.

Get better.

Or get replaced.

Short term marketability is a recipe for long run obsolescence. You can either get replaced or get better by developing skills that make you immune to creative destruction.

3 Groups of People Who Thrive in the New Economy

skills hat make you immune to automation
Photographer: Vlad Busuioc | Source: Unsplash

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport says there are three groups of people who will thrive in the new economy.

  • People Who Can Work With Intelligent Machines: You can use technology to entertain and distract yourself. Or you can use it to educate yourself and become a person who makes things. The latter not only makes you more likely to succeed but creating is More Fulfilling than consuming. The question you need to ask yourself when you come across a new technology is: What could I make with this tool?
  • Superstars: people who are successful and commit to excellence. They become exceptional at one thing, not average at dozens of things. As technology automates work, the market eliminates mediocre people, displaces the average, and empowers the exceptional. In other words, do not settle for mediocrity or the market will punish you.
  • Owners: if you have access to capital, you can use it to build something, help others build something, and share in the profits. You can drive success with labor or capital. And the right kind of work will generate capital to fund other parts of your career with capital. For example, if you start a business, it gets bought out, and you now have money to invest what you have earned in other businesses.

If you want to survive and succeed in the new economy without being displaced by technology, you must develop skills that are not repetitive, that cannot be done by a computer, and that is uniquely human: critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and organization. It's almost impossible to measure these skills with a quantifiable metric.

Uniquely Human Skills That Make You Immune to Automation

1. Critical Thinking

Photographer: Roman Bilik 💙💛 | Source: Unsplash

Mistaking information with knowledge prevents critical thinking. Critical thinking requires questioning the source of the information and asking questions that stimulate in-depth study.

Algorithms are like digital idiots that can only follow if-then and yes-or-no instructions. An algorithm has no opinion, no point of view, and no ability to ask questions and take knowledge in new directions. Critical thinking gives humans a competitive advantage over machines.

2. Creativity

skills hat make you immune to automation
Photographer: Dragos Gontariu | Source: Unsplash

The most creative people in the world ask questions, tinker, and try things out because creativity increases in proportion to curiosity.

  • Curiosity frees you from being tied to results and gives you the freedom to follow your creativity wherever it wants to flow.
  • Your brain has a power of imagination, invention, innovation, and creation that is no match for the machine. AI tools for creative work rely on human input.

Creativity is not the result of a spark of divine inspiration. To become more creative, follow your curiosity, put your ass where your heart wants to be, and make something.

3. Communication

Photographer: Jason Goodman | Source: Unsplash

The ability to communicate effectively is critical, whether you are pitching a startup to a venture capitalist, writing a company newsletter or leading a team. Words are the building blocks of reality. If you learn to use them, you can shape reality to your liking.

And the easiest and most effective way to improve your communication skills is through writing. Writing can teach you everything you need to know about life. It teaches you to express your ideas, make them concrete and improve your communication skills.

When you learn how to use your words to inform, inspire, entertain, and move people to action, you have a powerful skill that no machine can compete with.

If you learn how to use your words to inform, inspire, entertain, and move people to action, you will have a powerful skill that no machine can compete with.

4. Collaboration

Photographer: Merakist | Source: UnsplashPhotographer: Merakist | Source: Unsplash

Creative intelligence isn't only individual, but also social. We increase our creative intelligence by learning, collaborating, and sharing with others.

  • Creative collaboration fills knowledge gaps
  • Social interactions facilitate intelligent thinking

The result is a higher level of creative intelligence than we could ever develop on our own. Even if you don't have the skills to bring your vision to life, you can collaborate with people who can help you bring it to life.

Everything we do at Unmistakable Creative is a collaborative effort.

  • I can't draw a stick figure, but our brand is very visual because we work with a design team that can execute anything we can describe. And when we need a piece of work that stands out in a sea of noise, the only person we contact is Mars Dorian
  • Even though I conduct the interviews for Unmistakable Creative, they're edited and published by my sound engineer.

Become the type of person who can work well with others.

5. Organization

Photographer: Kaleidico | Source: Unsplash

It doesn't matter how many brilliant ideas you have. Your organizational habits are more important than your ideas. And your ability to manage information determines professional success and quality of life.

  • Bad organizational habits are a bottleneck to execution. When people have poor organizational habits, they become distracted, overwhelmed, ineffective, and unproductive.
  • Building a second brain is the easiest and most effective way to develop good organizational habits.
  • When you build a second brain, you can turn knowledge into action, complete your projects, implement your ideas, and create at the speed of thought.
  • You need to develop systems, processes and procedures that reduce the time you spend managing the systems that manage your information and increase the time you spend using that information.

You cannot acquire these skills by acquiring credentials. Credentials don't make you credible. What makes you credible is tangible evidence. As the old saying goes, show don't tell. If you want to futureproof your career, develop the uniquely human skills that make you immune to automation.

Listen and subscribe to the Unmistakable Creative Podcast to develop these skills, and accomplish your most meaningful goals.


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