Over the period in the history of humankind and its development, the desire to be outstanding in terms of achievement, success and discovery has haunted men like a hunter hunts its prey. Yet, standing out remains a puzzle to a lot, a puzzle that is difficult to solve. This puzzle and the desire to provide an answer to it has been responsible for masterpieces like the book Outliers, the Innovator’s Dilemma, and Think and Grow Rich, to name a few. But what seats at the centre of outstanding?
The principle of a personal moat
Moat is generally a concept used in describing a company’s competitive advantage. A company with a moat is one with an advantage over competitors for an extended period, e.g. having a patent, having a cost advantage, customer loyalty etc.
Applying this principle on a personal level is an idea popularized by Eric Torenberg in a now well-referenced Twitter thread. Eric defines personal moat as a unique, accumulating competitive advantage that compounds over time. To be outstanding, therefore, you need a personal moat. You need to do those unique things that accumulate over the period with a tendency to compound.
Standing out – doing unique things that accumulate
It is not enough to have activities going on in your life, those activities must be such that accumulate. Accumulation means add up. Things you do must always add up with things you’ve done and things you will do. You must pursue your goals holistically. Your goals and desire to stand out must be at the centre of your activities, and all must add up. Attending a meetup in a community of people whom you might need a few years from now is a good add up, sleeping 8 hours a day is compelling add up, adding a new skill in a new but related domain to your current domain is a great add up. These things accumulate and come to pay in a matter of years.
Standing out – doing things that compound
It is not enough for things that you do to accumulate, they must compound. How do things like personal moat compound? Let me use the examples from above.
- Attending meetup
You meet one more person that may go on being a great influence in helping you get a competitive advantage and hence standing out. Do this for an extended period and you have a powerful network of friends. Friends whom themselves go on to become great in their respective endeavours. The result is compounding and you will see that when you need to call on them.
- Sleeping 8 hours a day.
Counterintuitive right? Well, you need health to get wealth, if you are not healthy, a great ceiling is placed on what you can do. Mathew Walker said in his TED Talk….
“Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity. It is your life-support system, and it is mother nature’s best effort yet at immortality”.
It looks like the most unproductive thing to do especially if you’ve heard about how some people work 16 – 18 hours before they became outstanding. But for health sake and immortality sake, taking enough rest compounds.
- Adding new skills.
If you add more and more new skills enough, you will find intersections of these skills and you might end up innovating the erstwhile unimagined. Adding new skills also enables you to be able to think from first principle.
What it takes to stand out is a lot, and there is no one-way road to follow. The path is rough, but those who have gone through it left traces. One of the traces left has been conceptualized on the principle of a personal moat which I have tried to distill. Personal moats are those unique things that accumulate and compound overtime for you. They set you out and place you on a pedestal of outstanding if you carefully cultivate them.