How to Become the Best in the World at Something

With skill stacking, you don’t need to be at the top to be extraordinary

Tomas Pueyo
Published in
7 min readOct 17, 2019


It’s better to have three okay tools than a single, perfect one. The axe is great at breaking obstacles, but not that useful to jump over pits. The grapple is great to jump over ice or pits, but not amazing for slaying dragons. The only way to win is by having both tools. Illustrations: Tomas Pueyo.

CConsider what it takes to become an NBA player. Most of them have been honing their skills on the basketball court practically since infancy. Years of countless practices, camps, and games have helped each player develop a skill set based around shooting, ball-handling, passing, defense, and anything else that brings one success in basketball.

As you can imagine, the success rate for becoming an NBA player is remarkably low. There are 30 teams of about 15 players each, for a total of roughly 450 — not a ton of people, especially given the estimate that more than 500,000 young men play youth basketball. When you crunch the numbers, that means fewer than one in a thousand will make it to the pros.

Credit: Tomas Pueyo

So let’s be realistic. You aren’t going to make it to the NBA. You will not become the president of the United States. You will not be the world’s greatest writer, nor the top chess player, nor the most masterful public speaker. You will never be the best in the world at any given skill. There will always be someone working harder. There will always be someone with greater genetic gifts, or more luck, or both.

Most people (in the blue zone) have very little of a specific skill. A bit of work can quickly get you to the top 10% (the green zone). But as you join the elite, it becomes harder and harder to move up, because you are facing competitors who are deeply committed to that skill.

But trying to be the best at one thing isn’t the smartest path to success. Instead, you should put your effort into mastering a combination of skills. The solution is skill stacking, a concept popularized by Scott Adams. Here’s how it works.

The basics

Years ago, a friend of mine was about to take the GMAT. He was hoping to get into some of the top grad schools, and nailing this test was a key step in the process. His first-choice school, Stanford, would only accept the top 6% of applicants. That meant he needed to score in the 94th percentile to have a shot at getting in.



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Tomas Pueyo
Writer for

2 MSc in Engineering. Stanford MBA. Ex-Consultant. Creator of applications with >20M users. Currently leading a billion-dollar business @ Course Hero