The Unfair Advantage - Deepstash

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🚀 The book in 4 bullet points

  • .Life isn’t fair – but it’s not an excuse to have a victim mindset – instead we must equip ourselves with knowledge of the potential obstacles and shortcuts
  • An unfair advantage is a condition, asset or circumstance that puts you in a favourable business position (e.g. being tall in basketball, )
  • There are five categories of unfair advantages – Money, Intelligence and insight, Location and luck, Education and expertise, Status
  • The key to success is working hard and smart (on things you are lucky/have unfair advantages in) – it is not just about hard work or getting lucky


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📑 Key Takeaways

  • There are two leading, opposing narratives on how success/wealth is attained:
  1. Luck – rich people got rich due to factors outside their control (luck, timing, natural talent and fate) – their success wasn’t earned (fatalism)
  2. Hard work – rich people deserve their riches because they earned it through hard work (meritocracy)


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• The reality is in the middle of these two:

- You can be unlucky and still successful (e.g. Oprah Winfrey was raised in a poor, traumatising, unstable household but still became wildly successful)

- But hard work can’t undo luck in all cases (e.g. if Warren Buffett was born black or a woman or in war-torn Iraq, no matter how much he worked, he wouldn’t have the same opportunities/success he did)


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The key to success is working hard and smart (on things you are lucky/have unfair advantages in)

An unfair advantage is a condition, asset or circumstance that puts you in a favourable business position


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We ALL have unfair advantages

Examples of unfair advantages – being tall in basketball, being rich before starting a business, knowing someone at a company when applying for a job etc.


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Properties of unfair advantages Can’t be easily copied or bought

  • Can’t be easily copied or bought
  • Unique to you
  • Build on each other and have a snowballing, multiplicative effect
  • For any early-stage startup, the startup’s UA = sum of individual founders’ UAs

This is why it’s important to choose founders that complement your UAs


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There are five categories of unfair advantages aka ( MILES )

  • Money – the capital you have/can easily raise
  1. Money gives you a safety net, contingency and the power to scale (you need money to make money).
  • Intelligence and Insight – ‘book smarts’, social + emotional intelligence and creativity
  1. Business isn’t an exam – all aspects of intelligence are needed (not just ‘book smarts’)
  2. Insight is required to find a need/problem in the market that can be solved


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  • Location and Luck – being in the right place at the right time
  1. A good location affects your vibe and makes it easier to make friends, find out business insights, have access to capital and better infrastructure
  2. Note – location isn’t just physical – it refers to your environment (which can be online)
  3. Luck/timing is important – you don’t want to be too early (i.e. VR) or too late (i.e. Bing)

To be more lucky – maximise your ability to seize chances, trust your intuition, expect to be lucky, turn bad luck into learning opportunities and take more action


287 reads

  • Education and Expertise – formal schooling and your self-learning/gained knowledge
  1. Education can be formal/informal – doesn’t matter
  2. Three main benefits from formal education – knowledge, network and signalling that comes with a degree.
  • Status – social status (your network and connections) + your ‘personal brand’ (how you’re perceived) + your inner status (confidence and self-esteem)

Status is your perceived ability to add value

It’s comprised of three types of capital – economic (i.e. wealth), cultural (i.e. social class/subculture) and social (i.e. who you know)


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All unfair advantages can be double-edged swords

  • Lots of money can make you complacent, wasteful and less hungry to succeed
  • A lack of intelligence can mean being more humble and willing to ask questions and less overthinking
  • A good location costs money and being frequently lucky means you may not develop the skills needed to develop your startup when luck runs out
  • A lack of status (i.e. being an outsider) reveals powerful insights and enables you to stand out/be memorable


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Trying to manifest fully as a being


I also had a strong tendency to do things the hard way without anyone’s help. Again, in this way, I threw any unfair advantages I had (like my parents being willing and able to invest in me but me choosing to go it alone) down the drain. I’ve foregone a lot of unfair advantages in my life in pursuit of true meritocratic ideals. The trouble was, as this book showed, our society was never purely meritocratic to begin with. I was driven by naive delusion.

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