Life And Learning:

A Guide To Hack Success — “The Unfair Advantage”

Aaryan Harshith
May 31, 2020 · 7 min read
Image for post
Image for post

TT here are over 2000 billionaires, but over a billion people around the world who live off of less than a dollar a day. Some live in stable and powerful nations, while others live in places where they have to worry about their safety. Some are talented enough to learn calculus in a week or two, while you might struggle to do the same in a year.

Let’s face it — life isn’t fair.

Imagine you lined up all these people and say, told them to make a billion dollars or to launch a rocket into space — you’d probably have a good idea of who would get there first.

Most people think success is something that comes hand-in-hand with hard work — and to a certain point, that’s totally true. Even so, everyone has the option to either work hard or smart.

If you’re working towards your dreams, it might not be a surprise when I tell you that some people don’t have to put in nearly the same effort to achieve the same things you’re aiming for. Unfair, right?

But what if I told you that you could succeed with just as little effort?

No, no, I’m not trying to sell you another one of those shady courses on how to make millions of dollars from questionable sources. What I’m about to share is a quintessential aspect of success, and how you already have what it takes to get there. Here’s how you can win at anything, using the key concepts from the book “The Unfair Advantage.”

The Two Types Of Advantages

Everybody (including you) has something unique — your thoughts, experiences, gifts, and skills all amount to a make you entirely separate in comparison to anyone else. And believe it or not, this applies to literally everyone — from a child that grew into a wealthy aristocratic family, to one who has no idea where their next meal will come from.

According to the authors Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba, we all have two forms of inherent advantages — fair and unfair:

A fair advantage boosts your odds of success and can be replicated by others. If the CEO of a startup wakes up at 4AM every day and works 100 hours a week to build his company, he’s clearly increasing its odds of succeeding. On top of that, nothing’s actually stopping you from following the same routine — that’s why it’s fair.

A crash course covering the major lessons in “The Unfair Advantage” by a Cambridge Alumni

On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, we all have something unique in ourselves that separates us from everyone else, and this is where the second advantage stems from. Unfair advantages come in the form of skills, talents, and backgrounds that you (or extremely few) people have, and are almost impossible to replicate by others:

Take two ambitious students — Mark and Jane. They (like many of us) are vying to build the next billion-dollar app, but that’s where the similarities end:

Mark has a lofty dream and $500 in his bank account, while Jane’s parents are tech entrepreneurs happy to fund her venture and expose her to their massive network. There’s not even a question that if anyone was going to become the next tech-billionaire, it would be Jane.

What Jane has at her disposal is the epitome of an unfair advantage — no matter how hard you work, it can’t change the family you were born into. But keep in mind that this doesn’t make Jane an inherently spoiled person who leverages her parents to succeed. In fact, according to the book, she would be an extremely strategical thinker who recognized her unfair advantages and put them to use. Let me explain:

No matter how wealthy, Jane’s family couldn’t help her if her goal was to become the smartest at her university. Her advantage of wealth just doesn’t align with her goal of pursuing education and knowledge. Having said that, Mark might’ve had shallow pockets, but a sharp mind. By far, Mark has better odds of succeeding in education than Jane, and she has better odds in entrepreneurship.

Finding Your Advantage Using MILES

Over the long-term, every single successful person has either played to their unfair advantages or developed them on their own. Similarly, you can increase your odds of success by either choosing to take up a field where you have the high ground or by building up advantages for yourself.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t enter a field that you aren’t gifted in — if you’re passionate enough about what it is that you do, then go ahead! According to the book, you could miss out on some life-changing opportunities if you don’t at least try to use your gifts.

But how do you find them in the first place?

Well, to help you recognize any unfair advantage you might have, you can use what the authors coined as the MILES framework:

Image for post
Image for post

The MILES “framework” is actually more of an acronym, and it stands for Money, Intelligence, Education/Expertise, Luck/Location, and finally, Status. MILES covers every single unfair advantage you could possibly have. It’s your job to try and figure out your unfair advantages and use them to succeed.

Let’s think about money — what’s a better example than Donald Trump? The man who became a billionaire after taking a small loan of a million dollars from his wealthy father.

Or what about intelligence? Take Elon Musk, who recently launched the Dragon capsule into space. He also just happens to have an IQ of 155 and learned rocket science from scratch to become SpaceX’s chief engineer.

Having education and expertise is an impressive advantage too. You probably don’t know Satoshi Nakamoto (actually, no one really does), but I’m almost certain you know what bitcoin is. Even though he remains anonymous, Nakamoto would’ve had to have been at the forefront of the world’s programming community to build the cryptocurrency.

And, even though you can’t control this one, I’m betting that you’re benefiting from this advantage right now. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably lucky enough to have been born in a stable country with widespread electricity and internet access.

But if you’re more of an entrepreneurial person, here’s the story of how multi-billion dollar ride-share startup Uber. The founders — Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp hit the unbelievable jackpot of perfect timing:

Kalanick explaining the story of how Uber came to be at TechCrunch

Travis and Garrett were lucky enough to have released their app after the iPhone, the App Store, and GPS functionality was added to iOS. Had they incorporated even a couple of months earlier, they would’ve run out of money before they started making any.

And finally, let’s consider how status can lead to success. Almost every celebrity that’s started businesses has leveraged their status to promote its growth. From Kylie Jenner to Oprah, their status helped launched their careers to the point that they’re at today.

Dealing With Disadvantages

Speaking of which, you’re probably thinking to yourself about how you’re not nearly as lucky as the people I mentioned above, to be so extremely gifted. Or even worse, you might think that you don’t have even the slightest bit of an unfair advantage (which is almost impossible).

But, in the rare case that you’d yourself at a loss for any of these advantages, you can always resort to two options. The first (and simplest) one would be to transform your disadvantages into advantages. To understand the process — let’s revisit the analogy of Mark and Jane trying to build a billion-dollar app.

As we mentioned earlier, Jane has the odds stacked in her favour, since her parents are tech entrepreneurs. And since Mark doesn’t have an affluent family, he would struggle to access those same resources. At the same time, the authors stress that people facing a disadvantage have the choice to convert it into an unfair psychological advantage:

Think about what Mark’s mindset would be. Compared to Jane, he’s going to be much more resourceful with what he has, instead of throwing money at every problem to solve it.

And you can apply what Mark just did into any aspect of the MILES framework that you’re lacking in. More times than not, mindset is what determines your success, and that means it can be even more important than all the advantages I covered.

“Realize that the landscape of your advantages isn’t concrete — it evolves with you, and you can choose to develop it as you move along in your life. You can achieve any advantage you fancy — you just have to be willing to put in the effort to get there.”

Your success is in your hands, and you can literally simplify it to a game.

But in the end, success is one thing, and reaching your potential is another. If you choose to not leverage your advantages, it won’t matter how many units you sell, how many people you meet, or if you’ve already reached your definition of fulfillment. You’ll always be that far away from where you could really shine.

So, think about this — are you where you need to be?

Thanks, and stay safe,

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +755K people. Follow to join our community.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store