Unlocking Your Unfair Advantage: How Your Unique Story Powers Your Entrepreneurial Success

Unlocking Your Unfair Advantage: How Your Unique Story Powers Your Entrepreneurial Success written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba, award-winning authors, entrepreneurs, and advocates for unlocking your unfair advantage. With their extensive experience in the startup world, Ash and Hasan share profound insights from their book, “The Unfair Advantage: How […]

Unlocking Your Unfair Advantage: How Your Unique Story Powers Your Entrepreneurial Success written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba, award-winning authors, entrepreneurs, and advocates for unlocking your unfair advantage. With their extensive experience in the startup world, Ash and Hasan share profound insights from their book, “The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes to Succeed.”

Embark on a journey of self-discovery as Ash and Hasan discuss the concept of unfair advantages and how your unique story can be a powerful catalyst for entrepreneurial success. Gain valuable insights into the Miles framework, a strategic approach to identifying and leveraging your strengths.


Key Takeaways

In this insightful episode, Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba, renowned authors and entrepreneurs, introduce the transformative concept of unfair advantages in the entrepreneurial journey. Through the Miles framework, they guide listeners to identify and leverage their unique strengths, turning constraints into creative opportunities.

The discussion explores the proactive approach to luck, emphasizing strategies to create one’s fortunate path. Underscoring the power of insight and innovation, showcasing real-life examples of individuals who harnessed their unique perspectives for success. Additionally, it highlights the role of gratitude and a growth mindset in nurturing a positive entrepreneurial mindset, offering practical techniques such as the ABC model and cognitive behavioral strategies. This holistic guide empowers aspiring entrepreneurs to unlock their unfair advantage, embrace their stories, and chart a path toward unparalleled success in the business realm.


Questions I ask Ash & Hasan:

[01:01] What is your take on the expression ‘life is unfair’?

[02:53] What are some easily recognizable advantages of unfair examples?

[04:38] Luck and hard work, does success really lie in the middle?

[05:55] Would you characterize your book as a business book or a self help book?

[07:47] What are some hidden unfair advantages that people don’t realize they have?

[10:02] How do you respond to the notion of creating your own luck as an entrepreneur?

[13:20] What are your unfair advantages?

[18:39] What do you say to someone who believes they have zero unfair advantages?

[22:08] Where can people connect with you and obtain a copy of your book?


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John (00:00): Welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba. We’re going to have two guests today. They’re award-winning authors and entrepreneurs. And despite not going to University, Ash became a serial tech founder and the first marketing director of the Unicorn Startup Just Eat. Hassan built a successful startup from his bedroom with nothing more than an online course and a yearning to escape the rat race. They’re now international bestselling authors, coaches and keynote speakers, and we’re going to talk about their latest book, the Unfair Advantage, how You Already Have What It Takes to Succeed. So Ash and Hasan, welcome.

Hasan (00:43): Hello. Thank you. Thanks for having us.

John (00:45): Hi. Awesome. So the book starts out with this premise, and we could probably do the whole show without me asking another question, but here it is. Life is fundamentally unfair. Who wants to take that dollop of hope?

Hasan (00:58): I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Go on. So life is unfair. Yeah, that is the underlying principle behind our book is that life is not fair. And sometimes when you get into self-development like I did, and I still enjoy a bit of self-development, you learn that what you got in life is what you deserved. You built the life that you’re living now. You designed it, your decisions led to the moment you’re in now, and all these kinds of quotes and beliefs and mental models to make you take responsibility for your life, which is a very useful tool, but it’s limited because it’s not actually that accurate. So one of the ways to look at when we talk about this in the book is it’s all about mental models. So there’s one extreme, which is to think that all success is based on hard work and merit.

(01:46): And the other extreme is to think it’s all luck and unearned. And the reality is squarely in the middle, there’s a lot of serendipity in life. There’s a lot of luck of births and genetic lotteries, and there’s a lot of things that just happen because you are in the right place at the right time. But at the same time, you can stack the deck in your favor, you can make the right decisions, you can be consistent in how you think, in how you behave and the decisions you make to lead towards success. So it’s a mixture of both. Life is unfair and ultimately we’re so lucky and we should all be so grateful for everything that we have going for us. And at the same time, we can also exert our own agency on the world. We can also take bear some responsibility. We can also take control of our lives to an extent.

John (02:30): Yeah, it is interesting. I mean, we all know people have had everything handed to them, all the funding, all the backing, all the mentors, all the whatever, and they’ve still found a way to piss it away, haven’t they? So it really is kind of that combination. So let’s maybe start out by defining what an nfa, maybe some examples of what you would call an unfair advantage that people tend to recognize.

Ash (02:54): So an unfair advantage is something that’s unique to you based on your circumstances and also based on your background and who you are as an individual. There’s so many books out there that talk about strengths, but what we do is talk about your strength, but also about yourself as an individual, as a unique person. So we talk about life is unfair and it’s not a level playing field, but sometimes when life is unfair and it’s not a level playing field, some people can grow up with a victim mindset and a victim type of thinking say, I didn’t have this, I didn’t have that. But actually what we say in the book is actually how do you turn that around? How do you make that stuff that you felt was unfair growing up in poverty or growing up in an area that wasn’t great? How can you turn that around and make it part of your authentic story and use it to an advantage? So an example for me would be I grew up with little money and when I start companies now, and I know a lot of listeners are listening here who run small businesses when you don’t have a huge amount of money for marketing budgets, for example, I’m the perfect person to come in and work with you because I know how to be resourceful because I had no money. And so my mindset is always based around being resourceful. That’s just an example of something that you could use

John (03:59): Straight. But again, the flip side of that, I guess we all know people who had everything and should have made it. We all probably know at least somebody, or at least you’ve read their story of somebody that never should have. Like you said, they didn’t have the education, they didn’t have the backing, they didn’t have the money. They didn’t really, seemingly didn’t seem that smart. They’ve made themselves successful the way we define that. So I guess to Hassan’s original point, it’s kind of somewhere in the middle. It

Ash (04:32): Is somewhere in the middle. It’s interesting because I’ve got a daughter now who’s growing up in privilege, and I look at her and I look at my life and think, okay, does she have the fire in the belly? And what can we do to help her have the same mentality of working hard and trying to achieve things in life? And one of the things I found was that interestingly is that constraint does kind of foster creativity. And if you just give everything to your children, for example, straight away, then they’re not going to feel grateful for it straight away unless they’ve worked for it. So sometimes having constraints does make you more resourceful and more creative. And that’s as an example of something. We live in an abundant world now where everything is available quickly. You can order your takeaway quickly, you can order your cab quickly, and they’re growing up in a different environment compared to us where we had to wait for something, but we had to have some patience around something. So it’s understanding what constraint is and how to manage that, I suppose was,

John (05:27): Yeah, of course, it’s so cliche now, but I like to tell even 30 year olds about a dialup internet and things of that nature. Can you imagine that now it would take 10 minutes and we had to take turns. Who could use it? Only one person could be on at a time and pretty crazy. So I think would you classify or would you characterize this book as a business book or a self-help book?

Hasan (05:50): Yeah, good question. It really is in the middle because what we’ve done with our book is we’ve the origin of the book, let’s get into the origin. We did this book because we were getting pitched by loads of startups for funding, and it was just like Shark Tank essentially that’d come in and pitch us. And we thought, what is the difference that makes a difference here? When we confer between ourselves, we’re like, what is it with some people that we’re like, even if we did believe in them, they’re not going to close out their funding ground. Nobody else is going to believe in them and they’re going to really struggle here. And what is that difference? And we start thinking about this and really diving into it, and we decided to write this down, this idea of the unfair advantage, it’s essentially a sustainable competitive advantage for a big business.

(06:32): It’s the type of thing Warren Buffet talks about in value investing. You want a business that has the economic moats, the defensibility that it’s going to sustain. And it’s the same thing for individuals because at that early stage of a business, when you don’t yet have a product, even sometimes when you don’t yet have customers, you don’t yet have traction and sales, how are you going to judge it? Well, you’re going to judge it by the team, by the co-founders. And when you’re judging it by the co-founders, that’s when you have to try and decide, okay, what have they got going for themselves? What do they have that’s going to allow them to push through? Do they have a track record? Do they have something that gives you the idea that they’ll be able to get into this? Do they have the unfair advantages? And essentially that was the idea behind the book, and that’s what made us think about how we can help people to gain that kind of self-awareness to know what kind of business to go for, to know what kind of strategy to go for. Should you raise funding? Should you bootstrap? Who should you partner with? These are the kind of decisions we wanted to help people with at that early stage. So we’re just bringing it back to the individual. So that’s why he’s in between a business book and a self-development. It’s about the early stages of a startup to

John (07:39): Workshop. So I think there are some unfair advantages that are pretty obvious that people could identify. But if I’m out there listening, what are just some of the places that you go looking? I know you have a framework you call the Miles framework, so we can kind of go letter by letter for the acronym, but what are some of the places maybe that are less obvious that you’ve said, Hey, these are unfair advantages that people don’t even realize they have? So

Ash (08:03): The Miles framework is, it stands for money, intelligence, location, and luck, education and expertise and status. And it sits on top of mindset. And we talked earlier about why it’s important for people to understand the unfair advantage in the context of business because business is all about people. And most investors invest in small startups and early stage startups because of the people, not because of the idea itself. It’s the founders themselves. And so if you can identify your unfair advantages and then amplify those in your pitch, in your message to hiring people to your or getting customers, it’ll help you get your early traction, which is what starts a business. So coming back to the Miles framework, it’s about understanding within each one of those miles frameworks in each one of those letters, what you have that’s going for you. And one of the big ones is insight.

(08:54): For example, when you’re starting a company, if you have insight into something that nobody else has and you are starting a business around, that’s a very powerful unfair advantage. And there’s so many case studies in our book around that about specific insights around that. Another one is being in the right place at the right time, the location and luck. Can you find the right co-founder? Can you find the right customers who are close to you potentially who can become customers straight away? Status is another one, your network. And here, when you are starting a business, if you know how to raise money quickly and you have a network, that’s an unfair advantage. And if you need to go out to the market to raise money from ground zero and have nobody, no network, it’s much harder to do, much harder to do. And we know that’s how investment generally works. So there’s lots of little examples in different places for different types of projects or businesses. It depends where you want to apply the framework itself, whether it’s a project, whether it’s your career, whether it’s a business itself.

John (09:48): I want to come back to insight in a minute and have you share some examples to help clarify that one. But let’s talk about luck. Some people are purely lucky. I mean, they run into luck, right place, right time, like you said. I would say a lot of entrepreneurs have come to the realization that they make their own luck, and that’s almost something that’s earned as opposed to something that’s an unfair advantage. How would you respond to that notion?

Hasan (10:12): I totally believe in making your own luck as well. So we talk about luck and we talk about the fact that it’s overlooked and luck exists. Hey, luck does exist, talent does exist. All these books has become trendy to say there’s no such thing as talent. Just work super hard and get the 10,000 hours in. And that’s enough. These things exist. Tiger Woods could swing, a golf could swing a club before he could walk. These are the kinds of things that is pure talent. Oprah Winfrey was giving speeches to whole congregations at church when she was three years old. So these things exist, but making your luck also definitely exists. We talk in the book about how you can actually increase your luck. There have been psychologists who’ve studied the phenomenon of people who think of themselves as lucky, less of people who don’t, and how the fact that they think of themselves as lucky just makes them more proactive, makes them more observant to opportunities that come up. And it’s been literally proven in studies. So it’s quite interesting that you can make your own luck. We say, put yourself out there more, increase your surface area to luck, and maybe more lucky things will happen. So it’s essentially rolling the dice. Just keep rolling it. No one’s counting how many you’re throwing the D, how many times you’re throwing the dice. If you keep rolling, you’re more likely to roll the double six.

John (11:25): Yeah, I actually, I started my blog in 2003 that I talk about being in the right place at the right time. That was luck to spot that technology. But also it led to my first book four years later. But that point, I had also written a thousand blog posts. So I always talk about, really that was a lucky decision on my part to go that route. But then I do think you can also then turn that luck into something that is very fruitful.

Ash (11:52): Yeah, absolutely.

John (11:54): So what’s your unfair advantages? And I’ll let you both answer that one. Go on. For example, as you mentioned, you didn’t go to college, so we can

Ash (12:03): Take, okay, I’ll

John (12:03): Stop the college degree from Oxford off the table, right?

Ash (12:07): Yeah. That can be an unfair advantage if you know how to use it. Some people don’t know how to use that as well. We see people coming to us and like, oh yeah, I went to Oxford in Cambridge or wherever, and it’s just par. It’s normal for them. But actually that could be an unfair advantage if you know how to use it properly. An unfair advantage, there’s several different things with strength. They can be double-edged swords as we call them. So having something and not having something, and we talk about constraint earlier on. I’ll go through it from my perspective, which is the double-edged sword version of it, and has someone go through it from his perspective. So from my perspective, I had no money growing up. So now when I’m building startups, I’m really shrewd and very lean and I can build things very quickly and I’m very resourceful.

(12:46): And actually what it does has done to me is made me more creative. So one of my high skills is creativity, intelligence, and insight. I have lots of insights with businesses because I’m doing things all the time. I’m always taking action. So I’m seeing opportunities and getting insights and different things and intelligence. There’s different types of intelligence. A lot of people said to me, Ash, you’re really cool. You’re the glue amongst your friends. So I’m good at bringing people together and doing things together, which is cool. And I don’t like to be the smartest person in the room. I’d rather not be the most intelligent person in the room, but I can learn from other people quickly. So I suppose that’s the eyesight location and luck. I was born in Birmingham, which is the second biggest city in the uk, an automotive retail industry kind of community.

(13:24): And the tech industry was booming in London. So I moved to London at the age of 19. If I didn’t move, I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities, wouldn’t have been able to join companies like Juste and do the IPO and luck, the IPO, how many companies IPO, far and few between once again, and there’s a luck factor behind that and the right timing of that. And then seeing how that would work out. Education, excuse. I didn’t work university, so I didn’t feel entitled. So that’s why I kind of did everything and anything. And I built my expertise up in digital market and the time when everyone wanted to know how to do SEO and online marketing, I was there. And then status a few, and your Rolodex of contacts, I didn’t know many people, but now I know lots of people. So if I need to do anything now, for example, I can open my black book of contacts, LinkedIn network connections and make things happen because of my status of having connections that I’ve built up over time. So that’s become an unfair advantage for me.

John (14:14): It’s interesting, as you said, the degree from a prestigious school used to really mean a lot. It feels like particularly in the entrepreneurial space, it’s more about what were you doing for your summer job than what degree you got or your side hustle or whatever. It seems to actually hold more weight than college. And I think a lot of it’s because people realize college is great for making connections. What they teach in a lot of a marketing course in college will have very little application to what it’s like to market in the real world. And so that education, the actual learning classroom education is probably not that valuable.

Ash (14:52): I mean, if you want to learn,

John (14:53): So Hasan, how

Ash (14:54): Then the fastest way to learn is reading blogs like yours, John. And if you want to learn about marketing, you can learn a lot more from reading blogs and marketing books can get old very quickly. What happened some time ago, timing-wise might not work now. So it’s keeping fresh and up to date with knowledge. I think that’s really important. And we talk about this in a book about, there’s three aspects of university, but I’ll let Hasan talk about the Miles’s favorite from his side and what his advantages are.

Hasan (15:20): So for me, so it is easier to simplify it to what is your unfair advantage. But the reality is we all have a set of unfair advantages and a unique set of them. And that’s why Ash goes through so many. For Ash, I would definitely say his creativity is just one of the top things about him. And the fact that he just gives things a go, he just goes for it. So for me, I would say that it’s my ability to learn really fast. So I think I have that kind of the intelligence where I pick things up fast and then I’m able to communicate them. So one thing that really helped me to get my initial clients and start to develop and get referrals is the ability to build rapport and build trust very quickly. So I think that’s partly just from my ability to absorb information and knowledge in a space that’s so new and something, one of the main things I was doing was SEO.

(16:08): I was doing branding and website stuff, but SEO and getting people to the top of Google was huge. And so the fact that I was able to explain it to local businesses, build connections with them, build trust, I think that massively helped me. So that was huge for me. And then you can go further back and just say, listen, I was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and I came to the UK and London when I was three years old with my family to escape the war and all of that. So my unfair advantage is we moved to the UK when I was a baby, and I grew up here in London. If you imagine if I’d come when I was 20 years old and I’d have the thickest accent, and I’d have so much difficulty in terms of just how I come across the status side of it in terms of building rapport, building trust. So this is so lucky. So you can kind of go into the genetic cluttery of it all. You can go into where you grew up and what kind of schools you went to. You can go into your ability to skill stack and build your skills and expertise and learn things quickly. So I think that learning side is kind of the massive piece for me.

John (17:06): So I suspect as you’ve both gone out there and maybe given talks on this or done webinars on this, that ultimately somebody comes to you and says, look, this is great, but I don’t have any unfair advantages. What do you say to that person that feels, especially since mindset really sits on top of this, what do you say to that person that has that mindset?

Hasan (17:28): So I would say that essentially this idea, and as has touched on this idea of double-edged swords, what you think is a disadvantage, you can turn into an advantage, and I’ll give you an easy one. So we have a few examples in the book of people who had a kind of classic disadvantage. So a classic disadvantage is a woman entrepreneur. So woman founder. The example is Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx. Now, if you think about it, what was her unfair advantage? Okay, well, it was tough. She had no idea about how to raise funding. Nobody would believe in her. She had no connections in that space, et cetera. But what did she have? She had an amazing insight into a problem based on her status as a woman, which is that this idea of shapewear and Spanx turned out to be Spanx. She would cut off the feet off tights.

(18:15): A man wouldn’t have come up with that, wouldn’t have had that insight. The same with Tristan Walker, who’s another example in the book. He grew up in the projects in, I think he was the Bronx maybe, if I’m remembering correctly. Queens actually Queens in New York and really poor. His dad was murdered when he was young. But hey, he was smart. He got scholarships, he got into good schools. He spent a long time thinking about what his big idea is. In the end, his insight was that black men need a different shaving system than other people do because they have more ingrown hairs. And so he developed this single blade shaving system. He used different wrappers who also from his location, so the wrapper Nas grew up also in Queens, and then he promoted his brand, and then eventually he was acquired by Procter and Gamble for $30 million.

(19:00): So it’s like what seems like a disadvantage you can use to your advantage if you grew up poor. Then you have an insight into how poor people live, what needs they have, what mass market products you might be able to create, let’s say. Or if you grew up as whatever, you grew up from another country or you’re learning languages or there’s all these different aspects to everything. So it’s all about your mindset. If you have a growth mindset, and we talk about in the book the growth, the reality growth mindset because we want to root it in some reality, then you can grow and you can turn what seems like a disadvantage into an advantage. And listen, if you’re listening to this podcast, if you’re able to read this book, if you probably have a lot to be grateful for, so you just need to do a sort of an audit. And gratitude is one of the underlying themes of our book.

John (19:46): And it’s interesting too because as we grow up, a lot of the things that drive our parents or teachers crazy ultimately come out as an advantage. We were told they were a negative. For example, my parents used to always joke about how curious I was and always getting into things because I had to teach her same thing. I was told for a long time that that was a problem that has served me extremely well in my professional life. And I think that’s sometimes we just have to overcome what society has told us is a negative, don’t we?

Ash (20:15): Yeah, absolutely. When people focus on your weaknesses more than your strengths, that’s when you start to misunderstand really what your unfair advantage is, because we’ve all got strengths. And the idea of the premise for the book is to double down on your strengths rather than focus too much on your weaknesses and then plug those gaps where you can appropriately and understand that we work in teams and people is about business, is about people. So it’s not just about you as an individual.

John (20:41): So Ash Hasan, tell people where they can find more of you, more of the work you’re doing, and obviously grab a copy of the unfair advantage.

Hasan (20:49): Yeah, we’re all over social media. So I’m @startuphassan. Hasan is spelled with one s and Ash, is it @AshAliuk. Ash, for most of your socials you can find us and our website is unfairadvantage.com

John (21:02): Awesome. And the book is, will be available in, I don’t believe there’s an audio version, is there?

Hasan (21:07): There is,

John (21:08): Yeah, there is. Okay, so an audio and then in ebook format as well as hardcover and available depend upon when you’re listening to this available everywhere that you buy books.

Hasan (21:19): Yeah, it’s available now at time of recording. It’ll be released tomorrow, so it’ll be available by time

John (21:24): From that. And I should have mentioned this, but the book has been awarded. I don’t have it written here. Tell me the best business book in the UK in 2021 or something. You could do it better than I just did. Tell me what the award was.

Hasan (21:36): So we were surprised and happy to learn that we’d won our category of the startup category of the business book awards. And then it was like 12 different categories, and then it turned out we’d won the whole thing as well over all the categories. So we’d won the business book of the year 2021. It was actually, it’s based in the uk, but it’s an international award as well. The only country that the book hasn’t come out yet until now is in the US and Canada in North America. So yeah, it’s done really well. It’s really popular on Goodreads, it’s on YouTube a lot. Viral videos on YouTube summarizing it. So if you want to check it out a bit further, you can see some summaries on YouTube. You read all the reviews it’s doing, it’s thankfully, it’s spreading by word of mouth. People are loving it.

John (22:21): Awesome. Well, thanks so much for stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, and hopefully we’ll run into you both, somewhere out there on the road.

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