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Michael Gardon

  • Writer's pictureMichael Gardon

The Three Levers Of Success - The Break Issue 14

Updated: Mar 19

Welcome to The Break! We are all on a mission to break our careers (and that’s a good thing!). Join us to gain the confidence to break out every single week, and pass this along to someone who needs it.

Today’s Break is brought to you by . . . TopStack Resume

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Their unique pay-after option allows you to get started with TopStack risk-free. Both the Professional and the Premium packages come with a 60-day interview guarantee. The Three Levers Of Success Success is a tricky subject. Life, health wealth, family. I’m not going to define it here, other than to say, for me, all of it matters. That’s why I’ve rejected the corporate ladder and 9-5 rat race. But no matter how you define success, there’s really only a handful of things that ever make up the lions share of progress. I’ve found there’s only 3 levers that determine your ability to succeed in any way you define success. If we focus on these three levers, understand how they work and how they work together, we can succeed at anything we want.

The three levers are:

  • Circle of competence

  • Leverage

  • Luck surface area

Here's a deeper look at what they are how they interact

Circle of Competence The most successful people in the world aren’t know it alls. Know it alls are the charlatan experts you see in the 24-7 news cycle. Forget them. No, the most successful people in the world understand the edge of where their expertise ends and uncertainty begins. This is the Circle of competence.

Circle of Competence is the knowledge that you have today. What you actually know, not what you think you know - and there’s a big difference between those two. the COC was popularized by Warren Buffett, the famed investor, and he says it means: being realistic in appraising your own talents and shortcomings.

Why is this important? Because the most dangerous thing for a human being is when we act on something that we think we know, that is just wrong. This happens in daily life all the time because every decision we make is an investing decision that involves uncertainty. But when you know your COC, you can expand it smartly or leverage it in new ways for growth without making huge mistakes. To give you an investing example: think of your COC as your base asset. If you have an asset worth $1 million and an asset worth $100 million, a 1% increase in both results in $10,000 on the smaller asset but $1 million on the larger asset! The goal is to start where you are and use energy to think about ways to grow your COC in related ways or use it differently instead of creating a new one. another way to think about COC is all the things you should do vs. all the things you can do. This comes from executive coach Christine Carrillo.

EVERYONE has a COC, so how to find yours? - write down a list of skills - categorize into common buckets - Create a google form and send it to friends, colleagues, mentors Knowing your COC is key starting point

Leverage So you have a skill set and a circle of competence, but how are you going to use that position for max benefit? You need to find a position of leverage. Leverage is using tools, skills, assets, money, time which enables your COC at some scale, and this concept came to me from Naval Ravikant.

Let’s take two identical people. Both college seniors looking to break into product management roles when they graduate. Identical GPA’s, internships, etc. The only difference is that one has been talking about their journey on twitter and linkedin amassing 25,000 followers and the other has not.

The person online has an advantage because media and audience is leverage. Person 1 has to use his or her own labor to find and apply for positions. Person 2 can be found and engage with hiring managers online much more easily. See how that works?

Leverage is the fuel for compound growth. The idea is to get more output per input.

Examples: -

  • Knowledge work over physical work

  • Skills within your COC that are more in demand

  • automating tasks through software

  • Money - paying for things to get done

  • Using other humans in a business

  • Audience and product (solopreneurship)

The best resources I’ve found and used on audience building and solopreneurship are from Blake Burge and Justin Welsh (who basically says everything I’ve ever wanted to say - damn you!!)

Luck Surface Area None of the above guarantees success. The world is far more unpredictable than we think. We can't predict where good opportunities will come from, so we need to get lucky and avoid catastrophic mistakes. To get lucky maximize our opportunities for luck.


Both concepts above, when used together expand what we call your “luck surface area”. I first saw this term in a tweet from @sahilbloom, and further explained in his newsletter How To Get Lucky (I highly recommend subscribing to his Newletter).

First, by operating in our circle of competence, we are less likely to make a bad mistake that takes us out of the game.

Second, if we intimately know what we are good at, we can become known for it, use it in complimentary ways and eliminate effort in unrelated fields that suck our time and energy. How they interact: Applying leverage to your COC expands luck surface area. This is where the pros play. Applying leverage outside your COC is dangerous. This is where charlatans, hucksters and broke investors play.

An example of how to get lucky Start with whatever skills set you have today. Don't “go learn code” just because everyone tells you it’s a valuable skill.

Instead, learn leverageable skills like writing, sales communication and networking - all of which expand your luck surface area. Go tell people about what you do and network in a meaningful way. Apply this leverage to expand your COC Repeat.

In other words: Be known for something - Build relationships - Take action - Tell people - Build products What’s Happening on the Pod? Hiring and skilling need to get rethought, and my guest in this episode is doing just that. Manoj Jonna has an amazing story from immigrant, through several career transitions to venture backed skills based hiring platform, Ramped. Manoj is an absolute gem!

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