What makes you irreplaceable?

There is no doubt in my mind that you bring something unique to the world.

I also believe that whatever makes you irreplaceable cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence (at least not anytime soon). The challenge, however, is identifying what makes you irreplaceable given your entire life you’ve been trained to become a widget on the assembly line of someone else’s dreams.

Since pre-school when we were innocently asked, “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?” our lives have been designed based on the singular premise that what we do ultimately becomes who we are. We’ve been trained to specialize in one singular thing only to discover this wasn’t in service of our best interests (or our well-being) but instead in the interest of those who capitalize on our labor.

With the current disruption the emergence of artificial intelligence has brought to creative crafts, I see an opportunity for us to redefine who we are beyond our specializations. For some this may mean a significant career pivot. For others this may simple mean reconnecting with why we do what we do. And for others redefining who we are and how we bring value to the world could lead to multiple ways to generate revenue so we no longer rely on a single source of income to survive.

No matter your current job role, no matter your employment status, and no matter if you see a career pivot in your near future or not, I see now as the perfect time to take an inventory of how we bring value to the world and what makes us irreplaceable.

If you’re wondering how, let’s get you started with day 1 in my 4-day email series:
The Creative Within: Rediscovering Who You Are (Beyond Your Résumé).

Day 1: Maximizing Your “Match Quality”

In day 1 of this series I want to help you better understand what makes you an irreplaceable creative by understanding how to maximize your match quality.

“Match Quality” is a term originally coined by economists in the 60’s that has since been popularized in the brilliant book “Range” by David Epstein in which David argues that generalists largely triumph in a world dominated by specialists.

Match quality is essentially the degree of fit between you and your job, and the higher the degree of match quality, the more fulfillment you experience (and the less burnout). A higher degree of match quality also makes you much harder to replace (by humans or machines).

Early in your career, your “hard skills” – i.e. your knowledge of specific applications, highly technical workflows, or specific creative techniques, for example – are what often separate you from your competition. However, there will come a point as you become more experienced where hard skills are just assumed. Every single person up for the same job as you will also know the same applications, have a high degree of skill with specific workflows, and know many of the same creative techniques that you do.

What will separate you from your competition (and from artificial intelligence) is your degree of match quality.

There are four different areas to examine to help you determine where you can bring the most value in alignment with your employer’s, your customers’, and/or your clients’ needs.

  • Your work & life experience
  • Your skills & abilities
  • Your interests & passions
  • Your character traits

Here’s the example of how I maximized my match quality to land my dream job editing & producing Cobra Kai (which I go into much deeper in this Saturday’s live workshop).

My Experience: As a television editor I have a decent amount of expertise in my specific craft, but there are plenty of other TV editors with just as much (or significantly more) experience as I who could edit Cobra Kai at a high level. Therefore, experience alone will not differentiate me.

My Skills & Abilities: In my entire 20+ year career as an editor I have also edited music videos, trailers, promos, featurettes, and a host of other genres & mediums. And a short list of the specialized skills I’ve developed from these many different jobs that could differentiate me from my competition might include:

  • Cutting music montages
  • Temp scoring (including cutting stems)
  • Delivering ‘broadcast-ready’ editor’s cuts
  • Working with complex, non-linear structures
  • Balancing action, comedy, & drama

My Interests, & Passions: I’ve made a conscious effort for the last ten years of my career to build a diversified life outside of my job. And that has led to my passion for both obstacle course racing and 5+ years of training for American Ninja Warrior. And the skills & abilities I’ve developed from this passion include:

  • A keen understanding of the athlete’s mindset
  • How to confront your physical & mental limits
  • The importance of mentorship
  • How to manage fear & limiting beliefs
  • Overcoming failure

My Character Traits: Thinking more deeply about my life’s journey, the experiences I’ve acquired, and the challenges I’ve overcome, I would say these are some of my defining character traits:

  • Resilient
  • Gritty
  • Patient
  • Focused
  • Relentless

Now imagine each of these four areas above are represented by a Venn Diagram.


The intersection of these four different areas is where I become absolutely irreplaceable in the context of editing a show like Cobra Kai.

  • My experience & past credits are not enough to make me the obvious choice
  • My skills are also not enough to make me the obvious choice
  • My passion for challenging athletic pursuits alone does not qualify me to do the job (and as a ninja warrior I still kinda suck)
  • My character traits, while admirable, also do not qualify me for the job in and of themselves

But when you overlap each of these areas and examine the intersection at the center of the Venn Diagram:

  • My experience as a television editor, my specific skills working with music montages, score, and my ability to balance comedy/action/drama, plus my understanding of the athlete’s mindset, the value of mentorship, and facing physical & mental limits, plus the fact thatI’m gritty, focused, and resilient….

There isn’t a ChatGPT or AI editing plug-in coming anytime soon that can replace what I can uniquely bring to a show like Cobra Kai.

To be clear: I’m not saying my experience, skills, & abilities make me the best editor on the planet. But when you overlap my other life experiences and character traits with my work experience, I’m uniquely positioned to provide irreplaceable value to this one specific show that few others (if anyone) could.

This is the power of maximizing your match quality.

And this is just one of three different exercises I’ll be demonstrating in-depth this Saturday morning in my brand new live workshop Design Yourself.

Future-Proof Your Creative Career

Learn in just a few hours (in the comfort of your pajamas) how to leverage a lifetime of experience to make yourself an irreplaceable creative, double down on what makes you human, and separate yourself from the machines.

Save the Date: Saturday, Sep 9th*

Time: 9:30am-12:30pm PT (plus Q&A)
Location: Via Zoom

*If you can’t attend live, the raw recording will be available for 30 days

In this Live Workshop You’ll Learn How to:

✅ Become the CEO of Your Creative Career (and Your Life)

“Work-life balance” might be all but a myth in today’s “hustle” culture, but it doesn’t mean we can’t build a more diverse combination of jobs, experiences, skills, crafts, hobbies, and passions such that we are no longer busy making a living but instead making a life.

✅ Define Yourself Beyond Your Résumé

You are not your credits. Learn how to redefine who you are beyond your job so you can find your true specialization and then diversify that specialization amongst a variety of different skills, crafts, or even multiple career paths.

✅ Identify Your “Creative Calling”

Learn how to clarify the kinds of projects that energize you and the stories you want to tell that really inspire you such that you are excited about solving the problems in your life rather than dreading them.

✅ Set Clearer Boundaries Between Work & Life

Once you’ve reconnected with the passion you have for your craft, the world will come to collect “The Passion Tax.” Learn how to identify your most important, non-negotiable needs so that when you’re ready to make the next career pivot, your new career won’t steal your soul in the process.

✅ Write the Next Chapter of Your Hero’s Journey

You’ll learn how to apply Joseph Campbell’s iconic “Hero’s Journey” story framework to write the next chapter of your own story so you can get people excited to both collaborate with you and also help you along your journey as mentors, peers, and friends.

Learn How to Become a “Jack of All Trades, Master of One”

Saturday, Sep 9th*
Time: 9:30am – 12:30pm PT
Location: Zoom

*If you can’t attend live, the recording will be available for 30 days

👉 Click to Reserve Your Spot

Keep an eye on tomorrow’s email, because in day 2 of this series I’m going to help you better understand what really inspires you so you can not just find the next paycheck job but instead pursue your “Creative Calling.”

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”