What Competitive Advantages Are You Building For Yourself? – ValueWalk Premium
Aswath Damodaran

What Competitive Advantages Are You Building For Yourself?

In an age of constant abundance, some texts are meant to be devoured in urgency. Others to be completely ignored. And, there are few that are truly deserving of deep reflection and of a dialogue with the author.

Q1 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

Competitive Advantages Aswath Damodaran

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Daniel Gross’ essay, Personal Moats in the 21st Century, is the latter.

The reasons I like this essay so much are because of how timeless the insights are as well as its incredible relevance for today.

At uncertain times like these, it’s important to focus our energies on what we can control and be optimistic in working to scale ourselves. This essay, in my opinion, sets the perfect stage to do just that.

I agree with every single one of the ten moats he discusses, and they are ones which I believe we should all be striving for.

I just want to share my take on his essay, focusing on process-oriented moats that I believe can lead to the best outcomes. The reason being that I feel that if we focus on the right process, keep ourselves disciplined and accountable, we have a much higher probability of winning in the long-term.

Here are the 5 process-oriented advantages that I’ve been focusing on:

  1. Master consistency: A precursor to any kind of success in to keep at it for a bit, with discipline and consistency. Sure, we aren’t cut from a different cloth, but I feel that mastering consistency in everything one does truly makes the difference. I haven’t always been the best and sticking with a specific topic or idea or project. But I know we can’t succeed if we don’t follow through with something. That’s the only way that we are able to find if our ideas or projects truly have the wings, we believe they do, and to truly understand the value drivers or the vulnerabilities behind them. Sticking with something is the only way to fundamentally know whether something is worth our full efforts or if pivoting is the right step – but nothing in the world is free, and like with every kind of insight, we have to pay somehow. Initial effort is that payment. But it pays off beyond just knowledge. It leads to true experience and wisdom.
  2. Take action: Don’t over-research, don’t be a spectator. Move fast, experiment and timebox your experiments. These lessons come from masters like Tal Raviv and Gary Tan. If you have an idea or have a project, just focus on taking small action every day. And use these lessons. They make sure that we are taking action while being mindful and thoughtful, always focused on having a plan, acting on it with speed and getting quick feedback to improve. One of the key pillars to professional, as well as personal, evolution. I’ve read this in many places, but have now chosen to act with intention in being an executor rather than a thinker. There’s a place for brains and a place for balls in the world. As 7even’s put so elegantly in their ad slogan, “Smart has the brains, stupid has the balls”. Therefore, progress belongs to those with brains that take action. I hope to become one of them.
  3. Become more self-aware: Here, I mean practically. This can be seen a science – there are many different methods to follow written by a variety of thinkers. One of them, and perhaps the main one in my life right now, is Ray Dalio. His frameworks around jotting down and acknowledging my Values, Abilities and Skills, as well as his simple 5-Step Process for Creating Success, are practical and intuitive. Easy to get started with. That’s what we all need. I recommend downloading his mobile app, Principles in Action, as a great starting point. After reading Principles over 3 years ago when it still just a manifesto for Bridgewater, I have now truly begun applying learnings and processes from his book to my life. I can say with confidence that these systems have been making my life much more organized and my actions much more intentional. On top of that, doing so, has also made me more interested in applying learnings from other books to my life, helping me better internalise the many lessons they offer. Overall, my readings have become much more worthwhile. Therefore, the value there has already compounded! And that’s where I see a competitive advantage being built.
  4. Do your homework, then be opinionated: Lots of people get far and ahead by being opinionated. But I think this comes after all of the above – that’s when the power of opinions has a compounding effect. Being opinionated without being prepared is a huge problem. We see loads of examples of this every day. It’s incredibly frustrating. However, being opinionated when we’ve done all our homework allows us to propagate a worthy view to the world at a global scale. The effects of this goes beyond internal validation. It’s the variety of intelligent opinions out there that keeps up honest with ourselves and our neighbour and optimistic on the future while being present to today. The world deserves all the different well thought out opinions out there. That’s how we can best wrestle all the noise out there to find the signals that point to a greater truth. That’s where we will find progress.
  5. Write more often: Last but certainly not least, is writing. I’m trying to focus on writing more and better for two simple reasons: one, it serves as the main vehicle to becoming more opinionated, as writing is the best way to scale an opinion; and two, I’m writing to become more self-aware and learn better, as the act of putting words on a page shows what and how we’re thinking, and as we edit – which is what writing is all about – we question and challenge our assumptions and resold them, learning along the way. Writing is just as much process of learning as it is a reporting mechanism. Both elements are what allows us to us writing to reach out to people we otherwise wouldn’t have access to, to increase the rate at which we improve our reasoning process, and to cultivate the reputation we want for ourselves.

Challenges are so much more bearable if we focus on the process. But to do so effectively and to grow through it, we need a plan.

That’s what this post is.

I write these in an effort to keep myself accountable to my plan for personal evolution. That’s the start to any true skills development. We must first know where to go to get there.

I hope that this post can provide some illumination for you to think about the personal moats that matter most to you.

Article by Ahead Of The Crowd


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