Four Modern Competitive Advantages You Can Build Now

If you perform at an average rate, you’ll probably have an average life. Yes, there are exceptions, but counting on an exception is a weak plan. If you want an above-average life, you’re going to have to perform above at an above average rate.

You don’t need to be above average in every single respect. That would be nice, but strong gains are usually made through focus. Someone who is average in every way except for one key skill will probably have a better than average life.

The old way of accruing advantage was accumulating general knowledge. Universities were created because access to experts (teachers) and information (books) were scarce. Getting into a college and having access to those resources (and the ability to absorb some of them) was a valuable thing.

Now we have the internet, so general knowledge isn’t very valuable. That’s not to say it’s worthless, just that the average amount of general knowledge people are working with is so high that’s it’s hard to really stand out there, and that if you’re missing a piece of knowledge, you can quickly and cheaply fill that gap. I know nothing about botany, but I bet that in one day I could learn more than 85% of the general population. In the past that wasn’t the case.

We’re moving out of a time where knowledge was a rare competitve advantage. Now it’s a commodity, thanks to the rise of technology. General competitive advantages can still be found where society is weak and you can be an outlier, though. Here are some obvious opportunities I see:

1. Persistence and Patience

Our society has become addicted to speed. Not the drug, but the pace. We don’t just want information fast, we want fast achievement. If success doesn’t come quickly, the impulse is to give up. Weekend project isn’t an instant overnight success? Start another one next weekend. Diet didn’t cause weight loss in a month? Go back to the doughnuts. Can’t figure out the solution to the problem? Go find another problem.

Becoming someone who is willing to put a lot in to get results has always been valuable. It’s a durable skill that will never lose its utility, even if the world becomes less ADD.

2. People Skills

When Sean Parker started working for Facebook, his job required him to start interacting with a bunch of slick finance guys. He was a nerd, but he studied how they talked and dressed, and he started going to the gym and tanning. He learned their culture and became a part of it.

The rise of texting, email, and other asynchronous communication have made it possible to avoid learning good social skills. It’s very common to meet people here in San Francisco who are completely socially inept. They interrupt, stay on topics long past the point of losing interest, and are generally awkward. Not everyone is like this, of course, and when you interact someone who’s really socially adept, it’s refreshing.

3. Sleep

A huge percentage of people, especially high achievers, are operating on low sleep. This is a shortsighted strategy which makes it biologically impossible to operate at your best. When you’re underslept you can continue to do low impact work, but are incapable of doing your best and most creative work.

I try to get eight hours of sleep, and I don’t wake up with an alarm clock. If I need nine or ten hours, I take them. In the past I felt bad about sleeping too much, but now I have enough reference experience to know that it’s worth it. I’ve had many days where I was tired and tried to push through, only to complete almost nothing of consequence. I’ve also had days where I took a huge nap, cutting my working hours to 5 or 6, and I’ve created some of my best work. Quality trumps quantity.

4. Diet

Like sleep, a healthy diet is a major overlooked advantage. Good food allows you to think clearly and it actually gives you more years of life. It tempers your mood and allows you to remain mentally consistent. The effects of diet seem to be less noticeable to me than to others (veganism, raw food, and intermittent fasting had no noticeable effect), but quitting sugar and simple carbs had a significant effect on my brain. I was able to concentrate better and my mood was much more stable after switching.

Despite not being widely practiced, these advantages, are available to anyone and will serve as a multiplier to everything you do. You can start a regimen today that will create these four advantages for yourself within two years (patience…). It may not be a guarantee of infinite wealth or eternal happiness, but it would be hard to argue that your life wouldn’t be significantly better if you improved in these four areas.


Photo is of hieroglyphics from the Met.

Significant visual refresh coming to SETT this week! Working hard to finish it!





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