"Sources of Personal Competitive Advantage"

Shane Parrish is collecting a list on Twitter of sources of personal competitive advantage. Readers soon joined in and now it’s a long thread that received the following response from business author Kevin Kruse:

“If he doesn’t turn this into a book, I will.”

Here’s what the list started with (I bolded my favorite — I could probably write an entire book just on this one point):

  • Delayed gratification

  • Capital

  • Network (who you know)

  • Unique skills or combinations

  • Platform

  • Ability to suffer

  • Family/home life

  • Speed

  • Ability to change your mind

  • Ability to learn/adapt

  • Ability to persuade others

  • Ability to look stupid

  • Advanced Pattern recognition

  • Focus

  • Ability to say no


This is one of the sentences I say regularly that drives people crazy:

“Consistency is great, but we don’t want to be consistently wrong.”

Consistency really is great when it reinforces good habits in your readers (weekly newsletters, daily posts, etc.).

It’s terrible when it’s used as a crutch to keep making the same mistakes over and over, because trying something new and different (or “weird”) is scary. It’s akin to saying, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” which is the last wheezing breath of a dying business.

How to Be the Dumbest Person in the Room

James Altucher recently posted about the smartest piece of financial advice he'd ever received:

"Everyone has to be smarter than me for me to get involved."

The whole post is a great story of ups and downs that's all about having a beginner's mind at all times.

Read the post, then watch Jeremy Irons perform this very idea below. In this scene, from the movie Margin Call, he's the CEO of a large investment bank on the brink of the housing collapse a decade ago. In my career I've dealt with many high-level executives in banking and other industries. The best of them approach meetings exactly like this (even with very small problems).

Focus on Done

Personal blogs are fertile ground for posts about what a person is going to do. This bores the reader and provides the blogger with the self licensing to not do what they said they were going to do.

If you announce it before you do it, your brain thinks you've accomplished something. This explains why changing your social media icon for a cause is a thing, when action for a cause tends not to be a thing.

I have a challenging year ahead of me. I'd like to take you on that journey from cubicle monkey to independent creator. But, I don't want to promise myself or you anything I "will be doing." I hold myself accountable by what I've done.

Two and a half weeks into the year, I've done the following:

  • Decided to take this journey (this is a bigger step when you've tried and failed as often as I have).
  • Compiled the last 400 posts to my blog for at least one new book. Editing will take while, but this has been my primary focus for January. I find releasing or completing a new project every month to be an intoxicating notion I can't get out of my head. 
  • Had dinner with Shawn Blanc. I want to see more of my "target readers" in person. These are the people I envision reading the post I'm about to publish. I don't want to necessarily "pick their brains" for new ideas. That's a waste of their time and they have their own blogs for that. I want to get an impression of what I do that works for them. To me, their views are more important than anything analytics or surveys can tell me. In fact, Shawn disagreed with what many of you expressed in the last survey and that's the best thing I took away from meeting with him. That, and, he's a nice guy (unlike many I've met in this business). I can buy and recommend his products with complete trust.
  • Signed up for two gatherings later in the year among like-minded people.
  • Woke up every morning an hour early to write more and meditate.
  • Met with my doctor and discussed the latest advances in anxiety and IBS research. These afflictions have held me back personally and in business for 30 years. There are no cures for IBS and the emerging treatments have been ineffective for me. Anxiety, on the other hand, is something I've learned to live with. I may write more about this if I have the time, but, for now, I consider any progress in this area a milestone towards living a better, more useful life. I came away with two new leads for treatment.
  • Gave the Twitter app on my phone a back seat. I've given up on consuming most forms of social media, but Twitter remains a place where the smartest people I know say the smartest things (with proper use of filtering and lists). However, those same people usually have blogs/newsletters/podcasts I can subscribe to. I don't need Twitter to be front and center anymore. It goes in a folder for now, and in the trash in due time. Baby steps.
  • Decided on what will be the first physical product offered on this site. I'd go into more detail, but this is all that is done with this project.

Please let me know you've done. Keep the "what I'm doing" to a minimum and see what forces its way out through action.

Shawn Blanc, Shawn's assistant Isaac, John Vorhees and I trying to navigate an unusual winter thunderstorm in Chicago to get to what really matters...to what we'd risk pneumonia for...the food.

Shawn Blanc, Shawn's assistant Isaac, John Vorhees and I trying to navigate an unusual winter thunderstorm in Chicago to get to what really matters...to what we'd risk pneumonia for...the food.

The Economy that Never Dies

Hugh MacLeod:

"Business Insider projected in 2015 that over the next twenty years, we’ll lose 47% of our jobs to robots. So what’s protecting the other 53%?
Creativity. The fundamentals of humanity.
We will always need music, photography, books, stories -- the things that open our minds and stop our breath."

If you think making a living in these areas is easy, you're crazy. But, if you're creative enough to figure out how to do it well (like Hugh did), you'll never need to work a "job" again. 4 of the 10 richest people in the world are in the publishing business, and the other 6 rely on publishing to conduct their business. Stories run the global economy.

Give It Away

Tim O'Reilly explains on when it makes sense to give your product away. This is another reason to blog/tweet/instagram/share anywhere with regularity:

"The less people are aware of you, the better idea it is to give your product away. A lot has to do with the ratio of possible consumers of the free product who might be converted to paying customers to the total market size. If I have awareness with .01% of the target market, giving copies away to raise awareness to 10% of the market, where 10% of those might convert (1% total) is a good deal. But if I have awareness with 60% of the target market, and give my product away, with a 10% conversion rate, I’ve lost a great deal.”

It’s a blizzard out there. Nobody cares about your hand crafted, artisanal snowflakes.
Hugh MacLeod

Meeting People Still Matters

“It was interesting...because I hadn't given much thought to how networking had impacted my life and success in business. But by the time I was finished writing, I realized that EVERY success I have ever had can be attributed to the people I have met.” – Nick Usborne


The Lure of Diminishing Returns

Keith Green points us to this New York Times article on Kwaku Alston:

“‘I just got back to basics,’ said Mr. Alston, 40, who has divided his time between Venice and New York for nearly 10 years now. 'I had been just pumping out commercial images all day long, that when you looked at it, you said, 'There’s something missing here.’ The passion wasn’t there. I didn’t enter this to take pictures of celebrities.  I had a passion for the things I saw when I was walking down the streets.”

If you ignore what you’re naturally best at, the product will either become boring or, if it makes money, a business. It isn’t art anymore and it isn’t much of a life anymore.

This is not a touchy-feely sentiment. Follow your passion into business, without the background of Kwaku Alston, and you may end up homeless.

But, ignore your passion (as a hobby or business) and you’ll continue to see diminishing returns on your creativity until your work is just like anyone else’s. That’s the kiss of death in both art and business.