Learn to innovate like Elon Musk, hoop like LeBron James, or act like Meryl Streep and you will, barring spectacularly bad luck, end up successful. But achieving this level of skill is, of course, beyond most of us. Helpfully, though, there is another way for those not gifted with world-class talent to achieve impressive success. 

What's true for money is true for skills. 

Einstein is often quoted as saying compound interest is the "most powerful force in the universe." That story is likely apocryphal, but the underlying truth behind the sentiment is undeniable. Modest investments with small rates of return can add up to huge payoffs over time (just like small debts at usurious rates can ruin your life). 

And what's true for money is true for skills, VC Morgan Housel argued on his consistently thought-provoking blog recently. "It's tempting to want to find the one big skill that will set you apart. But most incredible things come from compounding, and compounding isn't intuitive because the incremental inputs are never exciting on their own," he writes. 

Launching rockets and winning Oscars grab headlines because big, rare skills are sexy. Smaller skills are less sexy, but honed over time and combined with other humble-but-useful skills, they can still add up to huge success. And this type of skill is far more achievable for most of us mere mortals. 

What are some examples? Housel offers a long list, but here are 10 to get you started (links are mine and point to more information on the value of the skill or how to develop it): 

  1. Curiosity across disciplines, most of which are outside your profession. (Steve Jobs agreed on the value of this one.) 

  2. A well-calibrated sense of your future regret. (Recommended by Jeff Bezos.) 

  3. Respecting luck as much as you respect risk.

  4. Low susceptibility to FOMO.

  5. A sensitive bullsh*t detector.

  6. Valuing your independence over someone else's priorities.

  7. Respecting history more than forecasts.

  8. Thinking in probabilities versus certainties, including the idea that a good decision can result in a bad outcome and vice versa.

  9. Quitting while you're ahead before you've exhausted or outgrown what made you successful.

  10. Getting along with people you disagree with.

The world is full of bad news and reasons to feel discouraged. Housel's post is a nice tonic to counter feelings of being inadequate and overwhelmed. You don't need to be a genius to make substantial contributions to the world. You just need to doggedly and thoughtfully cultivate a personal portfolio of relatively uncommon but useful skills. 

And if that isn't enough to buck you up, I leave you with Housel's encouraging closing words: "Most things that look like superpowers are just a bunch of ordinary skills mixed together at the right time."