Philip Guo (Phil Guo, Philip J. Guo, Philip Jia Guo, pgbovine)

Superpowers of Highly Successful People

Every highly successful person has at least one superpower – something that they are far better at doing than their peers.

I'm obsessed with finding out how certain people can become far more successful in their jobs than peers who grew up with similar socioeconomic conditions, cultural and technical backgrounds, and material resources. I think MMM is part of the answer, but here I want to explore a different idea:

Every highly successful person I know has at least one superpower – something that they are far better at doing than their peers.

Highly successful people are above-average in many areas, but some truly stand out in one area in particular. A superpower is so obvious that you just know it when you see it. For instance, here are some superpowers I've observed in my friends and colleagues:

  • super good at asking the right questions
  • super good at getting timely help from the right people
  • super good at writing
  • super good at programming (like wayyy better than peers)
  • super good at being forceful and pushy while being super nice
  • super good at Inception – getting others to work on one's ideas by convincing people that those ideas are actually their own
  • super good at asking for candid feedback about themselves
  • super good at self-reflection and self-improvement (#meta)
  • super good at intensely focusing on one task
  • super good at knowing when to quit, and when to double down
  • super good at getting themselves unstuck
  • super good at handling and dissipating stress
  • super good at taking risks and bouncing back from failures

I'm sure this list is super incomplete, but it's a good starting point for discussion.


The words smart and hardworking are often thrown around when describing highly successful people. But I think that neither is a superpower. The word smart is so vague that it's meaningless. Everyone who is successful is smart. Also, just being hardworking isn't a superpower, because you can be working really, really, really hard toward something that ultimately doesn't matter. If you do have a superpower, though, being hardworking augments it with a multiplier.

Subscribe to email newsletter
Donate to help pay for web hosting costs

Created: 2014-09-20
Last modified: 2014-09-20
Related pages tagged as productivity:
Related pages tagged as social observations: