Personal Moats, commonly referred to as “unfair advantages”, have become a more prominent topic of conversation recently. On a high level, a “personal moat” is that thing that makes you stand out from the crowd, whether it be due to your experience, network, or something else.
The best personal moats should be durable to change and will be something that you can build over time. Your personal moat will become a critical part of your life, and will inevitably be the thing that makes other people want to talk to you. If you have a unique insight to share, then you will be the only person someone else can go to for that perspective. Companies also have their own moats, although they refer to the economics of the business.
I have been developing my personal moats since the age of 8 upon further reflection, but I have not been conscious of that point until very recently. Below I will list the things that I consider to be my personal moats, so you can consider what your personal moats are.
Focus on a particular subject matter. Go deep. This seems obvious but the best way to develop a personal moat is to focus on a particular subject matter. One cannot become a master of everything. I personally focus my time on business, economics, and technology — the areas I am interested in learning more about and have been working on for the last few years. Discover what you can be great at if you invest the right amount of time and resources, and consider how that aligns with your goals in the future.
Listen to podcasts and consume as much content as possible. I listen to two podcasts every morning, and while anyone can do this, audio can provide a new way of communicating a particular issue, and can help you complete your thoughts. When you have finished reading an article, consider looking for a podcast with complimentary views to reinforce your knowledge, which will help you retain the knowledge and develop a larger picture of an issue.
Maintain a healthy body. This is a difficult one, especially if you are in a routine of eating poorly. If your diet consists of a significant amount of caffeine, sugar, and carbohydrates, your ability to retain information will be limited and you will find it difficult to focus on work for prolonged periods of time.
An investment in your body is an investment in your knowledge and future productivity. Get enough sleep. Exercise when you can (even if it is just taking a 10-minute walk). Eat more substantial and healthy food. Meditate. These habits can be hard to implement but when they are a part of your life, you will be a more productive person, allowing you to focus on what matters most to you.
Build a company. Arguably this is one of the easiest ways to develop a personal moat. Even if your company fails after a few months, starting a business requires a significant amount of in-depth thinking and creativity to ensure survival in the future. This type of thinking normally asks that you think differently about an issue and consider it from all angles to stay ahead of the game. Build a company in an area you are passionate about, and you will learn so much.
Be productive. This one ties into everything mentioned in this post. If you have a spare minute, try to do something constructive. This could be related to your job or a hobby that you have. Doing something that you enjoy can help you relax and learn more about a subject that you are passionate about. Be that person that people see as productive and efficient. If you are struggling to think about the work you want to do, then reflect on your life. This is an investment in your future productivity and thus falls into this category. I try to do as much as possible in a day and if I have nothing else to do, I will take some time to research my passions.
Jump on new opportunities. As humans, we are conditioned to avoid unreasonable risks. Getting in on the latest opportunities involves risk. People need to consider the benefits of an opportunity, rather than the costs if it fails. The people in this mindset normally are the ones that think positively and show a stronger motivation towards a particular cause. Be the ambitious one and don’t be afraid to do something new. In fact, I encourage that you try to do something venturesome and enterprising every day, no matter how small, and use the experience that gives you to your advantage.
Do something different. The ideas that nobody is pursuing or thinking about make for the best personal moats. Think about the issues in the world that you think should be solved that have no reasonable solution, and then think about how you would fix them. If you do something completely different, it will be more difficult for people to catch up and you will always be ahead of the game. The pioneers of a revolution always have the most unique insights on the issue they are trying to solve.
Personal tracking. I have been looking into personal tracking for the last few months, and have started tracking key metrics in my life on Airtable. While many are subjective, the practice has allowed me to identify my most productive periods and the factors that contribute to decreased mental states and motivation. This data has helped me become a more happy and positive person, and also affords me the opportunity to track my progress in a tangible and measurable way. Furthermore, this data has allowed me to avoid putting myself under unnecessary pressure and further understand what I am actually capable of.
Build an inspirational community. The people you spend most of your time with are a reflection of you. Immerse yourself in an environment with people who inspire you. This is not always possible, but you can always read about other people (or listen to podcasts about them). Your community will be there when you need help to offer assistance, provide you with feedback on your latest ideas, and also allow you to formulate your ideas into a more cohesive plan. Talking to someone is an underrated way of refining your knowledge.
If you are thinking about what your personal moat could be, do some research online for “how-to guides” or a group of other people who are doing the same thing. If there is such content available, it means that there are already other people with that unique characteristic or ability, which makes for an ineffective personal moat.
Building a moat often involves doing something that others have not done before. Don’t be afraid to look crazy. How do you think people reacted to the work of Steve Jobs when he completely changed the way we interact with phones in the start, or Thomas Edison when he developed a loud but innovative way to illuminate a whole house? Take some time to reflect on what your unique edge is, and build upon it.