I was introduced to the concept of Edge about 6 months ago when I got a place on Entrepreneur First. EF have helped 350 individuals build 100 companies worth over $500m, and Edge is one of their key predictors of founder success. But I’d argue that it’s important for whatever you plan on doing in life, whether that’s founding a company, scaling the corporate ladder, or following a non-commercial career path.
// WHAT IS EDGE?
Your Edge is the skills and knowledge you have that are particular to you, and make you stand out against the other people you are competing against. EF like to call it your super powers. It’s something that can be developed over time through practice and study, and expressed as fulfilling your true potential, it’s the key to a rich and rewarding life according to everyone from Aristotle to Maslow.
Edge gives you credibility to approach otherwise daunting challenges. If you can’t articulate why you are the right person to take on a challenge, then you will have difficulty finding allies, investors and followers. When you can articulate why you are the best person in the world to tackle a problem, these flow in abundance.
// THE MYTH OF EDGELESS SUCCESS
It can be tempting to think that if you’re smart enough and driven enough then your natural talent is more important than a developed Edge. After all, didn’t Mark Zuckerberg start Facebook when he was 19? But look a little closer and success almost always grows from some form of head start or advantage.
Zuckerberg took private tuition in software development as a young teenager, and had built a number of social apps for both his father’s dental practice and fellow Harvard students before Facebook. Neither software, nor social dynamics were new to him. Of course, not everyone would have had the success that Zuckerberg had given the same starting point, but Facebook’s inception was no accident – rather the culmination of years of accumulated knowledge in related areas.
// FINDING YOUR EDGE
Deciding what to develop as your Edge comes more easily to some people than others. Some people have their calling and need look no further. For others, variety is the spice of life, and choosing where to feast from the world’s smorgasbord of experiences is difficult.
There’s no need to make a hasty decision. Our careers look set to span 40-50 years, and progress is often very fast once you are fully committed to a direction. But it’s worth bearing in mind “the jack of all trades is the master of none”, and at some point, hopping from job to job will start to impede your ability to play at the same level as more dedicated peers.
There are a number of questions that are useful to ask yourself to figure out where you want to focus:
- Who are your role models? Who do you really respect? Why?
- Imagine you are 70 and have had a long and successful career. What have you achieved?
- Imagine writing your obituary or Wikipedia entry. What does it say?
// DIRECTION OVER GOALS
Once you’ve decided what your Edge is and started nurturing it, it helps to remember that life is an ongoing journey of discovery. Thinking about the ongoing direction you want to build your Edge in is a much better frame for your career than setting yourself a goal to use your Edge for.
- GOAL: Run a marathon
- DIRECTION: Become the best runner I can be
There are three main reasons why. Firstly, failing to reach goals is depressing and leaves you with nothing in return for your effort. You can always be pushing yourself in your chosen direction, however incrementally. If your goal is running a marathon and you don’t finish, then your training can feel like a waste of time. But if your direction is to make yourself a better runner, then every step counts.
Secondly, succeeding in your goals removes your sense of purpose in life. It’s not uncommon for your sense of accomplishment to give way to anti-climax after reaching a big goal. Once you’ve run your marathon, what do you do next? A direction always has more to give though. Completing the marathon is just assessing your progress in the journey to becoming a faster runner.
Finally, goals are often binary, whilst directions can be constantly redefined. You either run your marathon or you don’t. But your direction can change from being a great runner, to being a great athlete, or a coach or a sports blogger and the experience you’ve accumulated will still count towards your new Edge.