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Skill Stacking: How to Make the Most of Your Downtime

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Oct 19th 2020 1:00PM

As an expediter, you can’t always control how long you’ll sit between loads.

But one thing you can control is what you do with that time you’re having to sit.

So, how can you get the most out of your downtime to increase your value—and your income?

Try building your “skill stack.”

What’s a Skill Stack?
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, coined the term “skill stack” in his bestselling book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.”

His idea is that if you want to gain a competitive advantage in your profession or business, then develop skills that you can stack, one upon the other, to create a rare combination that makes you more valuable in the marketplace.

For example, Adams would say that he has slightly “above average” skills in illustration, humor, and running a business.

But the combination of those three skills has made him “exceptional” as one of the most famous and wealthy cartoonists in the world.

Think about it this way. Remember the adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”?

The same could be said about skill stacks, where the “stack” is greater than the sum of its individual skills.

Examples in Expediting
What are some examples of building skill stacks in expediting?

Consider industry YouTubers The Crafty Trucker (Jason and Hutchens) and The Trucking Couple (Frank and Stephanie Rebelo).

They have attracted large audiences, positioned themselves as experts in the industry, and created a “side hustle” by stacking skills such as:

  • Selecting cameras, microphones, and other audio-visual gear
  • Shooting video
  • Editing and post-production of video
  • Developing interesting topics that draw in the audience
  • Creating a format that keeps the audience engaged
  • Producing compelling graphics
  • Mastering YouTube as a platform to grow the audience
  • Social media marketing.

Today, they’re reaping the benefits by making a positive impact on the expedite industry while generating extra income doing something they love.

But you don’t have to aspire to be an industry YouTuber and vlogger, like the Hutchens or the Rebelos, to build your own skill stack. Instead, focus on developing the skills that best fit your interests and talents.

My Skill Stack Story
And don’t worry about whether or not the skills you want to work on today will have anything to do with your business right now because you never know where your skill stack can lead you down the road.

At least, that has been my experience.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I had recently empty nested when our youngest daughter left home for the University of Florida. So, I decided to pick up playing the saxophone again after about a 10-year layoff. It would become my fun “empty nester project.”

But I had no idea at the time how developing my saxophone “chops” could lead to other skills that, when stacked upon each other, would open new doors to business opportunities for me.

Here’s what happened.

A few months after I started playing again, I performed at an open mic night at a party, where I met a few folks who liked what they heard and invited me to join their rock band.

Over the next several weeks as I performed with the band, I learned about microphones, audio interfaces, and audio editing software.

And with that new knowledge, I purchased my own equipment to learn how to record, edit, and mix in backing tracks to produce high-quality sound—something I knew absolutely nothing about only a few months earlier.

I also learned how to film and edit videos of me playing cover songs.

Then, in January of this year, a breakthrough idea came to me. I’ve built my own recording studio and learned video and audio production skills. Why not use the studio and my new skills to produce podcasts for clients and myself?

Today, podcast production has emerged as a substantial revenue stream for my business. And this likely would not have been possible if I hadn’t started with relearning how to play the sax—a skill that has nothing to do with podcast production. But when I layered other related skills on top of the sax, I built a “skill stack” that has increased my value in the marketplace.

So, What’s Your Skill Stack?
Think about what interests you. What new skills do you want to learn and develop?

Here are a few ideas to help stimulate your thinking:

  • Fitness: Perhaps you enjoy staying fit and want to develop workout routines you can do while you’re out on the road and share them in videos, blogs, and other platforms with other truckers.
  • Nutrition/ Meal Planning: Suppose you’ve gone through cycles of Keto, Whole30, or other healthy eating plans and have gotten excellent results. You could develop a trucking food blog or YouTube channel. You could create a healthy eating recipe eBook for truckers. You could share recipes on Instagram, Pinterest, and other platforms.
  • Photography: As an expediter, you get to see so much of the country. You could build skills as a photojournalist, capturing sunsets and sunrises, people and events, and landscapes and landmarks. Learn about lighting, photo editing, and how to build an audience on Instagram.
  • Writing: If you love to write, develop those skills. Find places where you can publish and share your work with the world. Learn about social media and how to grow your audience.
  • Travel Guide: What are the most trucker-friendly places for expediters to visit or spend their sit time? Perhaps you could post video reviews of places/ truck stops or create a written travel guide for other expediters.
  • Podcasting: Today, with Zoom, Google Meet, and other video platforms, it’s easier than ever to interview interesting people and share those conversations as a video on YouTube or an audio podcast on any of the podcast platforms.

The Bottom Line
These ideas are just scratching the surface of the possibilities. So ask yourself, “What’s my passion? What do I really want to learn?”

Identify those skills and then commit to using your downtime wisely to build a skill stack that makes you unique and more valuable in the marketplace.