How to be Better Than Your Workplace Rival


It turns out that being smart doesn’t matter much. It’s helpful, sure. But it’s not relevant when the only thing you have to do is be persistent for 40+ years.

Okay, not the only thing. But Daniel Pink makes a good argument for persistence trumping talent every time.

The key to outshining that moron two cubes overboils down to stubbornness and grinding. (Videogame disambiguation, not dancing at the club.)

First, we dive into the mindset, and then we’ll journey through strategic actions.

Law 30 — Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

From Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, make a super-suave power play by making your efforts seem effortless.

It’s also one of the basic expectations of any performance. We’re impressed when the athlete does something, and you think, “I could do that if I tried.”

When something seems difficult to other people, they make excuses about why they couldn’t do what you did. You lose the opportunity to inspire. The magic of your performance shatters.

Law 30 also states that you must keep the extent of your skills secret. When people know all of your tricks, you aren’t impressive anymore. However, when they know 95% of your tricks, you get bonus points making you twice as unforgettable.

It’s also wise not to share that you’re reading Robert Greene because some people will start to worry that maybe you’re a psychopath with a Machiavellian bent on world domination.

Be Obsessed

Grant Cardone has a book called Be Obsessed or Be Average. That pretty much sums it up.

Excellence at anything is a Sisyphean task. You know that. It’s easy for me to write it, but regrettably difficult to execute.

One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t quit in the middle or worse, 5% from the end, is to take advantage of your personality’s addictive aspects.

Find an obsession in the details of your area of expertise. Chase it like Pepe Le Pew follows that poor cat around — but try not to be so creepy about it.

Never Tell Anyone What You’re Going to Do

Accountability enthusiasts will disagree. That’s fine. Accountability is important and works for millions of people.

However, there is also a difference between an accountability partner and making a big fuss on Facebook about how you’re going to do X.

When you announce what you’re going to do, you’ll look like a dreamer.

Everyone says they’re going to write a book, become a stand-up comic, or get rich someday. But saying “follow-through is both difficult and rare” creates the understatement of the week.

It’s too bad. The world would be more interesting if even 20% of people did. Oh well.

On the flip side, don’t tell anyone what you have done. Let them discover it. Nobody likes a braggart. They’ll google you and find that you wrote 15 books and won a triathlon. Imagine someone telling you that out of the blue and try not to roll your eyes.

You know what people like about braggarts? Watching them crash and burn. Be impressive, not pretentious.

Don’t Admit How Hard You Work

Don’t tell anyone how hard you’re working until after you have reached your defined pinnacle of success. Affecting nonchalance and humility will make you mysterious and exciting.

“Your sweat is shiny and beautiful.” — Ring from Ring Fit Adventure

Treat Your Skillups Like an Affair

Hiding your skillup time from your spouse is unlikely. They live with you and their support is invaluable.

The point is you need to sneak in time for skillups. You can’t tell anyone because you’ll sound insane. They won’t be impressed either. “Of course you did Awesome Thing. You spent 2 hours every day for a year.”

A Machiavellian interest in deception can be fun too. Plausible excuses for your skill time like “oh, I was at the gym” or “my commute takes an extra hour because I’m dropping off the kids.”

Creating a full-blown alternate reality to hide your skill-up time may not be worth it energy-wise. Deception takes mental effort and memory. But on the other hand, that moron you suffer from 9 to 5 won’t see you coming.

Make an “I am a badass” Playlist

Think of it as your helper and your trigger for getting into practice mode. You can either make an upbeat playlist that makes you feel fantastic or take advantage of lyric-less videogame music to train yourself to focus.

Use it as either your signal to get into the upskilling mode or as background while you’re working.

Seize the Hours Others Take for Granted

Waking up at 5 am to work on your side hustle will make you a billionaire. Ask any productivity guru. It’s the real-life equivalent of falling into nuclear waste and attaining superpowers.

But seriously, getting up even half an hour earlier creates time-void magic where suddenly you’re getting more things done.

It’s also hard. Late nights work too if that’s what swings your pendulum.

The time that other people take for granted creates a bubble for you. The 10-minute mandatory breaks. The commute to and from work. That slow time right after dinner when most people plop on the couch to digest.

The problem with pushing excellence is you don’t get to have the other hours people take for granted. Downtime is essential for mental health. Scheduling it means you have more time to pursue your dreams.


Studying your current interest feels like progress, especially if you use that knowledge to create something. Studying your expertise is important too, but the only people who will be impressed (or understand) are your colleagues.

Study your friends’ areas of expertise. Chances are they’re in different occupations and have a variety of interests. Solid knowledge of the fundamentals of what your friends know shows affection for them and gives you another anchor point for relating to new people.

Study your rival’s expertise. There is no motivator in the world like a good rivalry, even if your boss is trying to set one up between you and that moron in your department who isn’t worthy of challenging your supremacy.

Plus, meddling in your rival’s area of experience becomes immensely satisfactory to watch them work harder to beat you. In turn, it motivates you to push even more and achieve unfathomable heights of awesomeness.

Excellence is in the Fundamentals

Josh Waitzkin (chess grandmaster) decided to take up push hands tai chi and take it to the limits.

He didn’t do what most people seem attracted to in martial arts (either bro out or learn the cinema-friendly wire-fu moves.) He learned from his chess career that excellence is in the fundamentals. That’s why he started winning martial arts competitions with few years of study.

Excellence hides in the boring parts that nobody else wants to practice. It’s not cool. It doesn’t look impressive. The videogame universe calls this grinding — something to push through so you can go on to more exciting quests.

For example, if you play an instrument, your teacher will tell you to practice scales every day. They aren’t emotionally moving, engaging, or feel like an accomplishment. But they’ll make you better, fast.

Produce. Produce. Produce.

Demonstrate your excellence by creating things that demonstrate your credibility. The more you produce in the area you want to look superhuman, the bigger demonstration of excellence you build.

Bonus, the more you create, the easier it is for others to discover how awesome you are.

For example, a friend shared a story about the new marketing manager at the small company he works for. This new marketing manager beat out all of the job competition and is making an extra $15,000 a year because he has a published book.

Now, most books don’t make $15k in sales, but a salary bump is a good paycheck too.

Monitor your Consumption to Creation Ratio

Consuming is easy — fun too. But all things need balance.

If you consume, consume, and consume some more, what’s the point?

You can read a hundred books on how to write a novel, listen to countless hours of podcasts, and join forums. But is it worth it if you never write?

Don’t Quit

The long-haul is more impressive. That’s why long-haul truckers get paid more.

Suppose you decide to balance your consumption to creation ratio and publish your novel. That’s awesome! Congrats! You have done a thing that most people only dream about.

Do It Again

Think of it as the training montage in The Mask of Zorro. Antonio Banderas does the rope swinging exercise perfectly. Anthony Hopkins grins at him, cigar in hand, and says, “Perfect. Do it again.”

That’s superhuman excellence. Plus, it’ll be easier next time. You published one book. Why not three? It’ll both be more impressive and easier on the second time around.

Build Relational Frameworks

How does this area of excellence relate to everything else in your life? The more you can tie it into what you already know and who you already are, the easier it will be to transfer that excellence into an even broader sphere of awesomeness.

Your brain already has the framework for memory when you link new ideas to old understandings.

It’s like how after you learn your second language, numbers 3 thru 10 become easier.


The only thing you need to do to beat your rival, your previous self, and everyone else is put in the hours while no one else is looking. Get back on the stupid, uncooperative horse every time.

Plus, everything you have right now comes as a direct result of your previous small decisions. Your future self will appreciate you if you make them more comfortable. Conveniently, you’ll also forget the tedious hours of grinding out your skills.

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