What’s Your Unfair Advantage?

What’s Your Unfair Advantage?

Do you have an unfair advantage?

In August of 1346, the French finally caught up with the English army. A summer of pillaging the French countryside had left the English worn out and running out of supplies. The French, with a force more than 3 times larger, were preparing to crush them with a vengeance. But the English had an unfair advantage. They had the longbow.

The longbow was a simple enough weapon: a tall war bow made of a single piece of wood. But unlike the crossbows their enemy wielded, the English bows required years of practice. Most archers began when they were seven years old to build up the muscles required to pull the heavy string. They could regularly hit targets at over 300 yards. Though a crossbow was easy to learn, it was hard to aim, slow to reload, and did not shoot near as far.

When King Edward decided he had no choice but to turn and stand against the French, he chose his ground well. He placed his army at the top of a hill near the village of Crecy, because the dominant tactic of the French was to send cavalry charging toward the enemy. These charges were dependent on a line of knights riding close together as they hit to completely smash through the enemy line as a group. But as the French began the charge up the hill, the archers laid waste to the large horses as easy targets packed together. By the time the few tired horses reached the top, the English infantry was able to overwhelm the knights to secure the unlikely victory.

It’s Okay to Play Unfair

Life, like battle, requires leaning into your strengths, which – through careful positioning – can be maximized to your favor.

When investors consider funding a brand new startup, one of the things they ask is, “What do these founders have that no one else has? What’s their unfair advantage?” An unfair advantage is what gives one a competitive edge over someone else who might be able to work just as hard (or harder) and just as smart (or smarter).

In your life – your career, business, or maybe even investments – what advantage are you able to lean into that can help you face the forces against you? It could be:

  1. Relationships: do you have an usually powerful network of connections?
  2. Story: is your own history a compelling narrative?
  3. Experience: can your successes – and failures – help you leap ahead?
  4. Skills: do you have training or gifting in an area that few others do?

Once you’ve identified your unique edge, refine it. Most people already intuitively know where they are unique, but it takes a focused effort to get that working to an advantage. It wasn’t enough for King Edward of England to bring his archers with him, he also made sure he chose the battlefield so that he could get the most power out of them. It may be time for you to do the same.

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