Specialization is for insects

Selling is interesting to me because of who you become through learning to ask for what you want. And, like selling, there are a handful of important life skills that everyone should try.

While these activities are useful, they are also meta-skills, with application beyond the specific activities themselves.


Practice failing

Surfing comes with a lot of failure. You miss most of the waves that you try for. Failing to ask someone on a date or failing to sell your first product can feel mortifying – so much so that most people don’t try.

Practice failing by chasing waves.

You can’t fight the ocean

In a significant car crash, drunk drivers sometimes walk away uninjured because they don’t tense up. Don’t drive drunk or surf drunk, but that same quality of letting go is useful in the ocean.

When you get swept off your board and caught in the “washing machine” of rough surf, the only thing to do is to let go.

In business and in life, some things are outside of your control.


The ocean is vast. And there’s no better way to recognize your insignificance than by sitting on a surfboard.

When life feels overwhelming, it is useful to reflect how insignificant we all are. (And then get back to work!)

Several years ago, I wrote an article about learning to surf. You can read that here.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Physical chess

Chess trains you to think strategically and plan several steps ahead. Brazilian jiu jitsu does, too. While it doesn’t look like much to people with no experience, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a good form of both physical and strategic training.


We’re all confronted with aggression. And there are times when being aggressive – going after what you want – is useful. It is helpful to not be intimidated by other people’s aggressive behavior, to channel your own and use it to your advantage.

Jiu-jitsu is a good way to practice channeling that aggression.

Every fight ends on the ground

The stereotype of a bar room brawl consisting of punching and kicking is more Hollywood than reality. There’s a common phrase in martial arts that every fight ends up on the ground. And since most fights end up on the ground, it is useful to know how to begin there.

Ask questions

Asking questions as thinking

I once heard Tony Robbins say, “Thinking is the process of asking and answering questions.” There are no right and wrong questions, but there are questions that are more useful for a specific outcome. In asking and answering questions, you train yourself to think more clearly.

Talking under pressure

Whether you are on a first date, applying for a job, or talking someone down off a bridge, it is useful to be able to talk persuasively under pressure.

The only way to train for this unpredictable environment is to practice. And the best time to practice thinking on your feet is before the stakes are high.

Job interviews

There’s no better training for a job interview than asking questions. Most people are passive participants in an interview process. If you’re able to turn the tables and make an interview interesting and informative for the person conducting the interview, you’re more likely to succeed.

Manage People


We think about leadership as a noun; something people are or aren’t. Actually, leadership is a verb; something to be practiced.

To manage people well you are, by definition, leading them. Learn to lead by practicing management.

Learning to follow

Following is as important as skill as leading. A good leader is also a good follower; they share power and allow other voices to be heard.

The goal of managing people is to help them learn and grow. In managing people, you have to listen, support, and follow their lead.

Practice taking action

Bystander apathy – the tendency for people to stand passively by on the assumption that someone else will take action – is insidious.

The best way to combat bystander apathy is to remember this tendency and take action.

The world needs more leaders; people willing to take courageous action.

Learn to sell


The definition of courage is taking action despite your fear or uncertainty.

Since most of us are afraid to ask people to buy what we’re selling, selling is an act of courage.


The world needs more people who are willing to advocate for what they believe, and able to do so in a way that brings other people along.

Sales is a way to practice advocating for what you believe and enrolling other people in those beliefs.

We need more sales people

Selling is a form of leadership. In asking somebody to purchase, you are asking them to buy into your beliefs, product, or service.

In a world that is increasingly fraught and divisive, selling brings people together.


What is a skill you already practice, which is a meta-learning skill?

Spend five minutes writing out the 3-5 secondary skills that your practice helps develop.

Just by writing out the benefits, you’ll be more aware of them.

Until next week,

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