Life isn’t fair.
You’ve been told this since you were a kid.
I’m here to tell you something different.
But don’t worry.
I’m not suggesting you cheat.
I’m not suggesting you commit a crime.
I’m not suggesting you pump your veins full of steroids.
JUST REMEMBER: You can play the “life isn’t fair card” and wallow in your self-pity, or, make a conscious to join forces with the unreasonableness of life.
Here’s how to create an unfair advantage for yourself:
1. Study your advantage carefully – it’s not what you think it is. I’ll never forget the day my mentor pointed out my unfair advantage. Completely blindsided me. I thought my advantage (as a writer, speaker, entrepreneur) was based on volume alone. But Arthur explained to me that volume +velocity was the real differentiator.
“Scott, your biggest advantage is that nobody can keep up with you,” he said. “That’s what you bring to the table. You are dangerously prolific. You will out execute anybody. Nobody who does what you do can do what you do, as fast as you can do it. And nobody who does what you do can do what you do, as much as you can do it. And even if they could, they won’t.”
Thanks to a pair of unbiased eyes, Arthur helped pinpoint my unfair advantage: That my velocity and volume are unmatched and uncopyable. That it’s not about intellectual property – it’s about executional velocity.
Your challenge is to gather feedback from dispassionate observers. Ask people with no stake in your company what they think your unfair advantage is. You might be surprised. How are you immune from imitation?
2. Unfair means committing to being the best. Actively seeking reasons for your mediocrity – then defending them to the death with twisted logic – is a one-way ticket to failure. Instead, think about the one task, that if you could do exceptionally well, could propel forward in your business.
Then, ask two questions: What is the next step in becoming remarkably proficient in your ability to perform that task? What three people need to experience you performing that task in person?
Remember: As Seth Godin wrote in The Dip, “Average is for losers. Quit or be exceptional.” Are you spending your time searching for excuses for poor performance, or investing your time in becoming a better performer?
3. Develop deep domain experience. Meet entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, Mark Suster. A recent post on his blog suggested the following:
“You never really have a handle on the minute details of the industry until you’ve lived in it,” Mark writes. “That’s where domain experience comes into play. It brings wisdom and relationships. This gives your business a faster time to market, a better designed product, more knowledge of your customers problems – a higher likelihood of success.”
Now, obviously you can’t change the past. So, if you’re short on domain experience, find someone who’s been there. Pursue a mentoring or advisory relationship. Hell, pay them if you have to. Nothing wrong with investing a few thousand bucks in an unfair advantage.
Just remember: Don’t drown yourself. “Too much domain experience has the potential to harm you,” says Suster. “You might become cynical of all the things that can’t be done because you’ve got the scars to prove it.” How will you out experience the competition?
4. Diminish your unwillingness. Marathon junkies frequently train in Colorado to practice running at higher altitudes. This gives them an advantage over the competition when running in, say, Boston, two months later.
But it’s not being unfair – it’s being geographically strategic. It’s training smart. And it’s going the extra mile (no pun intended) to excel beyond the mediocre masses. Whether you’re an athlete, entrepreneur or artist, you can’t just pound the treadmill in your living room while catching up on season three of Lost.
You’ve got to get out there, practice with distractions and make yourself better. Even if you have to climb a mountain to do so. How are you leaving the pack in your dust?
5. Pork isn’t white meat – it’s green money. The best way to bring home the bacon is to raise your own pigs. Let me say that again: The best way to bring home the bacon is to raise your own pigs. I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Steel Tycoon Orren Boyle argues that competitor Rearden Steel has an unfair advantage because it owns iron mines, while his Associated Steel does not.
Lesson learned: Whatever industry you work in, ask the key questions. What if you bought your own equipment and made it yourself? What if you built everything proprietary and created your own studio? What if you never had to hire anyone ever again because you learned how to do it yourself?
Just a thought. After all: Having done it yourself makes you a more educated entrepreneur. Plus execution occurs faster. Maybe being a pig farmer isn’t as bad as it sounds. How much (more) money could you be earning working solo?
6. Reduce your mass. During a recent post-race interview, NASCAR driver Robby Gordon complained about the unfair advantage of fellow driver Danika Patrick. But not because she made racing history as the first female driver. And not because she’s beautiful enough to make drag queens drool.
According to Gordon, “Danika weighs seventy pounds less that most drivers. Her car is lighter. She goes faster. And I won’t race against her until something is done about it.” Good luck, Robby. NASCAR’s bylaws don’t indicate a weight restriction. Either learn to drive faster or take a trip to the liposuction clinic.
Lesson learned: Lowering mass means raising profits. Cut. Cut fast and deep. Cut down to the bone. Just be sure not to cut an artery. Or muscle. And be sure not to cut so deep that you diminish your capabilities. What do you need to delete from your business?
7. Hack the rules. Don’t break them – hack them. Huge difference. And you have three options: Change the rules so you can win at your own game, change the game so there are no rules, or play the game but become the exception to every rule.
The question to ask when faced with one of these so-called rules is, “Can this rule be ignored, modified or changed?” By doing so, you give yourself permission to refuse to accept your current circumstances. This opens the floodgates to diligent work on creating a new set of circumstances.
Learn the rules, learn which of the rules are irrelevant, and then hack the hell out of them. What could I do in this moment that would be the exact opposite of everyone?
8. Work (your ass off) and you shall receive. Snowboarding legend and multi-gold-medalist Shaun White receives constant criticism for his success. But not for his natural athletic ability over his competitors. And not for his trademark mop of flowing red hair. Rather, for his personal training facility in Colorado.
That’s right: White has his own private half-pipe. On a mountain. In the middle of The Rockies. Totally friggin awesome.
And it’s not like his parents cashed in his trust fund to pay for it. It was only after fifteen years of hard, long and smart practice; his commitment to building a personal brand and his ability to command legions of fans that White (finally) earned a major sponsorship from Red Bull. Then, while training for the 2010 they made Shaun’s half-pipe a reality.
Lesson learned: Hard work pays off; but hard patience pays millions. How long are you willing to sweat in obscurity before the right people notice?
REMEMBER: Just because life isn’t fair doesn’t mean you have to be.
As long as you’re not doing anything illegal, unethical or disrespectful – hitch a ride on the current of unfairness.
Take advantage of your advantage without remorse.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How unfair are you willing to be?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Life isn’t fair.