In the tech world, there is the concept of the stack. This is the combination of technologies a company or entity uses to build and operate an application or project. It is all the different pieces that come together to give the final solution.
It is also a concept that has expanded to use in adjacent fields to refer to the idea of a collection of tools or resources to yield a result. For instance, the full stack creative might refer to a person who is able to conceptualise, write, design and code. They employ a wide range of tools to take a project from start to finish.
What does that have to do with you
Life is crazy. Our world is perpetually in motion, from the rotation and revolution of this rock of ours, to the ever grinding gears of industry, we are always moving. Things are always changing. shifting. Technology continues to change and upend our lives with new realities and new possibilities, and new challenges. What worked yesterday, will falter tomorrow.
How do we stay resilient? How do we remain robust? How do we thrive?
By building a stack – your collection of skills, your portfolio of resources, your body of work.
In a world of perpetual change, it is better to grow a body of work than to stay in one strict lane if you want to remain in the game.
The successful are always building stacks
If you look at creatives, entrepreneurs and the like, you will noticed that they are never really just about one thing. Sure, there is a need for focus and specialising and conquering a domain, but eventually, successful people expand into a web, or cluster of related hustles or projects. You can’t just be one dimensional.
The biggest musicians don’t just record music, they perform, go on tour, make appearances, branch out into branded businesses, investments, etc. The biggest churches don’t just get people in the pews, they broadcast on tv, they sell books, and albums, and so on. Your favourite YouTuber probably doesn’t just make videos, they also do brand deals, they stream, they sell merch, they do Patreon.
We all need a portfolio of tools, a cluster of strategies all working together to move us forward towards our chief goals. When they all function, they can support and reinforce each other. If some fail, the others can keep things afloat. You end up building an ecosystem, with things growing, evolving and dying but working together and balancing things out.
Build a stack for anything and everything
You can apply this concept to different areas of life.
Many of us probably have just one or two sources of income – a skill we peddle, or a job, or a business. But that keeps us very fragile. If something happens to that one skill or avenue, we are fucked.
To combat this, you’ve got to build a stack. Find ways to open up more avenues, to offer more things, to give more value outside of your core expertise. This applies to things like skills, it also applies to areas like finances and business.
Let’s talk about skills. It is great to have a core skill, for instance I have the core skill of design, it is the thing I have practiced the longest. But over time I have had to evolve and add more things to that list. And I continue to work to add more.
Having only one viable skill is a fragile situation to be in. Not to mention boring. If something happened to my hands, or my workstation, or if AI suddenly became smart enough and cheap enough to replace designers, then I’m toast.
But I have built different skills – brand strategising, web development, writing, speaking, facilitating, these allow me to do more, to offer more value and be better even at the original core skill.
Let the pieces connect to each other
Even better if these skills feed to or relate to each other. It is a natural progression from designing a brand, to building a website for it. Or creating a brand strategy, or helping them to write or create their content. If one thing dries up, maybe the other picks up. I have months where I’m mostly building sites, and months where I’m doing more designs, etc.
In business, it pays to build a portfolio of strategies, of creating products and services or solutions that complement each other. In this way, you can meet different segments at different points and provide a richer solution over all. Maybe you go from just servicing clients and executing designs to building an audience online, and creating digital products and tools for them.
Maybe you start creating workshops and meet-ups, maybe you do online courses. The point is you are building and weaving multiple threads that weave together into a brilliant tapestry, your stack.
So make your stack cohesive. Let it leverage your strengths. Craft the pieces to be complementary and be able to feed each other. And make sure it is all designed and organised towards a chief aim.
More reasons to build your stack
- It keeps you growing and evolving
- If you do it right, you can create things that can live on and bring returns for a long time
- It makes you antifragile and able to stand when the inevitable hits happen
- It increases serendipity, making it easier for amazing things to happen to you
- It offer variety and a richness to life