Competitive edges and how to find yours?

Three things I have learned from trying to be more competitive.

It was 2013, and I was working my first full-time job in Seoul. I was into this game called Line Rangers at the time. It was a quite simple but addictive game. I found myself playing it between my lunch break or when I was waiting for the elevator, or wait for it… in the toilet stall. Until one day, it just hit me.

I was spending roughly 7 hours per week with this game.

The game has changed quite a bit since I last played, but still, I’m still in the Master rank.The game has changed quite a bit since I last played, but still, I’m still in the Master rank.

Doesn’t sound like a lot, right? Well, 52 weeks per year, and I was wasting 364 hours. Say it takes roughly 10 hours to read a book, I could have read 36.4 books a year, well over my target of 24 books per year now.

Over the years, I have learned several lessons like this, and I’m hoping that sharing them here will help you with becoming more competitive in one way or the other.

Spend your time wisely

Nowadays, you can quickly look at how you spend your time on your digital devices. You can do that by referring to the Screen Time report on iOS devices or Digital Wellbeing report on Android devices. The time you spend digitally can be classified into two types of apps:

  • Stagnant app: apps that won’t help you to where you want to go. They can be social networking apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Or they can be entertainment apps, such as Netflix, Youtube (non-educational content), or any non-educational games.

  • Growth app: apps that will help you in achieving your goals. They can be apps in the categories, such as reading, audio-content, brain training, or meditation.

Here are my suggestions for how you can better spend your time. Note that depends on your goal, your collection of apps may be different from mine.

Brain training apps

I found that brain training apps are the perfect replacement for my game frenzies. You can play short games ranging from one to five minutes, ideal for situations when you don’t have a large block of time, such as when you wait for a friend or the elevator.

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  • Elevate: Elevate has a collection of 35+ games that can have you improve a wide range of skills like math, reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It was THE app that I used to replace Line Rangers. This app has helped me increase my mental math, as well as my language abilities significantly.

  • Brilliant: Brilliant is perfect for people who are into STEM. You can find vast topics from math, science, to computer science. Content is delivered in chunk-sized flashcards that are easily digestible. There are frequent multiple-choice quizzes to test your understanding of the subject too.

Reading apps

Reading is THE most important thing that you can do to move toward your goal. There is a saying that I found most accurate: “You are what you read.” You can start reaping the tremendous benefits of reading by using one of these apps.

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  • Medium: Since you’re reading on Medium, you most likely already know what it is. You can check out my more detailed recommendation of Medium on my article about learning how to learn.

  • Kindle: With Kindle on your phone, you have access to thousands of books anywhere in the palm of your hands. What a time to be alive!

  • Oreilly: For the technial audience reading this, Oreilly is the best source of technical books you have access to on the Internet. I found that a subscription with Oreilly makes far more financial sense than buying individual technical books. You can also try and ask your employer to sponsor the subscription for you.

Audio-content apps

Some people learn better by listening than reading. There are also many occasions that you cannot read, such as when you are commuting to work, or working out, or on a road trip. In these situations, instead of wasting your time away, you can utilize it listening to audio content. On my most recent road trip, I went through an entire book, driving from Quebec to Toronto. If your listening skill is good, try and play at 1.5x or 2x speed, it will save you tremendous amounts of time.

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  • Audible: I started listening to Audible when I had to commute for two hours every day. It was a very productive use of my time, as I was able to go through more than a book a week.

  • Podcast: Podcast is like a curated radio station. You have all sorts of topics, from business to science and culture. I subscribe to and regularly listen to several podcasts related to data science.

  • Blinkist: Blinkist is a book summary app that allows you to read or listen to the critical content of books. I have not used Blinkist, but I have heard many positive reviews.

Meditation apps

Meditation, despite popular belief, can be practiced by anyone without affiliating themselves with a religion of any kind. I have found many benefits of meditating, including better control of my emotions, developing empathy, and better in focusing.

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  • Calm: I first come to know Calm in an Apple event when it was introduced on stage by Tim Cook (maybe?). I was surprised by how much I learned from this app. Try the seven days of calm and see for yourself.

  • Headspace: Another popular alternative to Calm is Headspace. I have tried it but chose to go with Calm. I’m putting some options here so you can decide for yourself.

There are other productivity apps that I found very helpful, but maybe I will save those for another time.

Where do you see yourself in … years?

From my personal experience, having a robust and clear drive helped me to where I am today. Do you know what motivates you?

Find your motivation

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Many people say that they are motivated by money, but money is not a motivation, it is a means to an end. Digging down and finding what really motivates you is hard, or at least it was for me. It took me a while, but I realize that my partner and my current/future family is my primary source of motivation.

Your drive can be different than mine, and it can change over time, but finding it is crucial in creating your edge. If you don’t know or don’t have a drive, it is tough to keep going, especially when things are hard. If you have no idea what motivates you, trying using this [Five whys technique](,basis%20of%20the%20next%20question.). It is essentially asking why five times (or as many times as you need) to dig deeper and find your real source of motivation.

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Actively seek the target

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I often use this analogy when describing the importance of having goals. Imagine you need to fire a bow, and if you hit the bullseye, you will get a million dollars (or whatever it is you desire in life). Now picture yourself blindfolded, how likely do you think that you even hit the target, let alone the bullseye. Not likely! But if you take the blindfold off, you will have the target in sight. Even if you never shoot a bow before and require many attempts to fire, you still are more likely to hit the target than if you were blindfolded.

We often go through life knowing that we get a million dollars if we hit our target, but we often don’t know where the target is or even make an effort to look for it. Do not go through life blindfolded, start by taking the fabric off of your eyes, and look for your target. There are numerous ways you can do that. For example, finding your role models, and read about them if they are dead, or talk to them if they are not. Find out what they have that you don’t, what they know that you don’t, what they do that you don’t. Or if you have a job, a career that you aspire to do, find out as much as you can about it. Find out about the career paths or track down some of your friends who have gone similar ways.

Change your mindset

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Last but not least, fake it until you make it. Well, this saying often has a negative connotation due to the word “fake.” What I choose to take away from this saying is trying to be the person you want to be and believe that you can do it. If even you don’t believe in yourself, who would? There are challenges and hardships along the way to success, but you must believe in your ability to do so. It will also help if you have a partner, a friend, or a family to support you through hard times.

The next time you have doubts, think about others who have gone through the hardships and make it. Use your failure to build your way to success. This takes time, practices, and efforts, but building resilience can be one of the best competitive edges you can have.

Summing up

TLDR (too long; didn’t read), what I found to be helpful in creating my competitive edges are:

  • Using my time wisely by utilizing my time for productive activities.

  • Have clear motivations and targets.

  • Believe that I can do it.

I challenge you to follow one of my suggestions in this post (if you do not already have). I would also be happy for any feedback you may have.

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