Part II: Cultivating superpowers to maximize career trajectory (self-evaluation)

Applying a framework for identifying potential superpowers

Last week I wrote a post about Cultivating superpowers to maximize career trajectory. I used Andrew Yang as a case study, breaking down how his improbable presidential run was the result of him applying his superpower at a larger scale. 

But hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to reflect on Andrew’s ascent and write about his traits that drove that catapulted him to a top 7 democratic presidential candidate.

For most of us, we’re still figuring out what our superpowers are or what they could be.

This week, I’m diving deeper into the framework from last week, where I suggested that superpowers sit at the intersection of three things: (1) things that make you weird, (2) elite talents, and (3) practices which give you energy.

I’ll be using myself as an example. Since I’m exploring my own potential superpowers, this will by far be the most self-aggrandizing thing I’ll ever publish. But hopefully it can help others think about how to apply this framework.

For each of the three elements, I’ll surface questions that you can ask to get the juices flowing, along with my own answers.

Things that make you weird

From last week’s post:

If a superpower is built on some of the traits that make you weird, you’re more likely to be differentiated and world-class. It also means that your innate tendencies will effortlessly make you better at it.

Question(s) to ask:

  1. What has been a consistent thing that peers, friends, or family members have teased or criticized me about over the years?

My answer

I try to use math and logic to explain abstract concepts. In college, I was at a date function, and my date asked me about things I was interested in. Two minutes later, I was in the middle of a long-winded explanation around the math behind traffic, and how when someone on the highway taps on their breaks, it can cause a traffic jam a mile behind them. I went to a small school, and for the following two weeks, people called me the “traffic guy,” and my college friends still make fun of me for talking to a girl about traffic. They also made fun of me for starting to blog in college. They were especially ruthless in calling me a nerd for a post I wrote 9 years ago called “The Prime Factorization of an Entrepreneur,” where I tried to use math to make the self-interested case that math majors made for good entrepreneurs. I try – and often fail – to codify abstract, complex concepts. This can range from “building entrepreneurial careers” to “fundraising” to “building new programs” (day job) to, well, “finding your superpower”

Elite Talents

From last week’s post:

Something can only be your superpower if it’s something that you’re really good at…. Answering this question requires self-reflection, feedback from others, and learning what “varsity” looks like regarding the skill.

Question(s) to ask:

  1. What do I think I’m really good at?

  2. What do others think I’m really good at?

  3. What do I genuinely believe I have the potential to be world-class at?

My answer

When asking myself these questions, I brainstormed a list of talents where my talents were the most above average:

  • Creating processes (taken from a recent 360 performance review)

  • Overcoming inertia and standing up something new (taken from a recent 360 performance review)

  • Creating structure for complex concepts (from feedback on this newsletter, feedback on my fundraising book and workshops, and a few day-job-related projects)

  • Coaching entrepreneurs (something I think I’m good at, with some good feedback from entrepreneurs who I’ve helped navigate challenges)

  • Public Speaking (from lots of reps public speaking and strong positive feedback)

  • Writing (from writing a book and this newsletter)

With each of these talents, I asked myself each of the three questions:

The only talents I have which have the potential to be elite talents are (1) Creating structure for complex concepts, (2) Coaching entrepreneurs, (3) Career coaching, and (4) Public speaking. And importantly – public speaking is the only one of those where I think I could be world-class. For the rest, I’m not sure what world-class looks like. 

Practices which give you energy

From last week’s post:

Something can only be your superpower if you get energy from working on improving it, even without any pay off. Malcolm Gladwell posited in Outliers that it requires 10,000 hours of practice to become world class at something. And even if you were to become world class at something, without practice, that skill would erode.

Question(s) to ask:

  1. What are the things I would do for the love of the process even without a successful outcome?

  2. What are the things that make me invigorated after I do them?

My answer

Of my potential elite talents, there’s one that I really don’t enjoy practicing – public speaking. I enjoy the thrill and dopamine rush of public speaking, but I really dread practicing. If I wanted it to be my superpower, I would probably need to start doing improv classes and start practicing in front of a mirror – both things I really don’t want to do. I’m fine with just being a pretty good public speaker, and if I ever need to become great, then I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. 

The other three potential elite talents definitely give me energy: (1) Creating structure for complex concepts, (2) Coaching entrepreneurs, and (3) Career coaching. Learning or practicing these three things make me feel invigorated. 

When blending these potential elite talents with what makes me weird, I end up with this potential superpower, which is non-coincidentally a way that I would describe this newsletter: 

Codifying frameworks for navigating complex entrepreneurial concepts and using them to coach entrepreneurially-minded people to unlock their career potential. 

I already have some evidence of this working in my career, as I’ve been able to use a framework I made for raising seed capital to coach hundreds of founders, increasing my own career trajectory. But before I can cultivating this superpower further, there are some big questions I need to answer, which have clear action items.

Question #1: What does it look like to be world-class at creating structure from complex concepts?

  • Action #1: I need to read a book by someone who does this in a world-class way and potentially try to meet and learn from them.

Question #2: What does it look like to be world-class at coaching entrepreneurs and career-coaching?

  • Action #2: I need to pick a few (1) world-class career coaches and (2) world-class CEO coaches and dive deeper into how they do what they do.

Also, just because a talent isn’t a potential superpower doesn’t mean it can’t be honed and used. While I may not try to turn public speaking or writing into superpowers of mine, they’re undoubtedly going to be useful skills for anything I do in the future and will likely accelerate the progress I’m able to make with any ventures down the road.

If you’re still reading this, I’d be curious if these questions help you hone in on what your potential superpowers could be. Shoot me a reply if you have a potential superpower that you came up with or if you have any follow-up questions that arose from thinking about these questions.


Questions for superpower brainstorm:

  1. Things that make you weird: What has been a consistent thing that peers, friends, or family members have teased or criticized me about over the years?

  2. Elite talents: What do I think I’m really good at?

  3. Elite talents: What do others think I’m really good at?

  4. Elite talents: What do I genuinely believe I have the potential to be world-class at?

  5. Practices which give you energy: What are the things I would do for the love of the process even without a successful outcome?

  6. Practices which give you energy: What are the things that make me invigorated after I do them?