6 Rare Superpowers of Highly Productive People

Jun 24, 2020
 Created by the author — original image from Pexels.


Are you tired of reading the same advice? So am I.

You can’t expect to stand out if you’re trying to do the same things. Do you want to be productivity drone #92342? It feels like people choose to run on the track with the most people rather than the other lanes where they can move faster.

Look at the people you admire in your life. They probably won’t tick all the boxes on the internet’s perfect human checklist. Maybe they’ve thrown the list in the bin and forged their own version of excellence. It’s logical they stand out because their abilities are rare and not everyone is trying to do it.

I looked at my traits which don’t come up in every story. The same ones I’ve seen in those who’ve inspired me to live a better life. While you read this I want you to think of other superpowers that are underrated. You have some right not which I’d kill for. Here are my superpowers though:


Instantaneous Self-Induced Napping

The ability to nap at will

I can fall asleep standing up on the train on the London Underground in the heat of summer. With people pressed up against me and the carriage violently swinging side to side.

I can nap whenever and wherever I want. On the bus on the way to exams? Nap. Bad day at work? Nap. Ate a bit too much? Nap. I know this doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it’s been so valuable to me.

Some people are obsessed with squeezing more productive hours into the day. We read about Elon Musk sleeping 4 hours a day. It sounds like a nightmare, do you want that?

I never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death. — Nas, rapper

Sleeping is cool despite what hustle culture will try to make you believe. Our brain gets rid of toxins when we sleep. The cells shrink and create space for waves to wash away toxins. Sleep deprivation is a punishment used on prisoners, not something we should do to ourselves!

Naps can unlock creativity by forcing our brains into diffuse mode. We have limited memory slots for conscious thinking so we can miss the bigger picture while awake. In nap-land, your mind tries to make sense of it all and connects the dots. A break is sometimes exactly what you need to move forward.

Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali had weirdly similar napping practices. They let themselves fall asleep in their chair loosely holding something in their hands. When they got into a deep sleep, they’d drop the item waking them up again and write down whatever they dreamed about!

Some people have trouble sleeping and it’s a big deal. Get yourself checked out. Don’t struggle on, it doesn’t make you strong. I want the fog of your brain to be cleared. Imagine if whenever you were stressed you could instantly take a nap and wake up with fresh energy.


Selective Memory Erasure

The ability to not dwell on the past and move on

Maybe this is my most annoying trait but I’m super forgetful of things I don’t care enough to remember. I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday. It took me a few seconds to remember what day it is. This is a gift when it comes to negative events.

Our memories don’t work the way we think they do. When we recall past events, each time we are distorting them. Sometimes this works in our favor and we absolve ourselves of any guilt. Other times our mind invents issues that weren’t even there. You can waste energy worrying about fiction.

Not everyone will like you and you’ll never be perfect. The other people in your life aren’t perfect either. What’s the value in holding onto anger and petty grudges? All it can do is damage us. Buddhism teaches the analogy of the first and second darts. The first dart happens to us and is unavoidable. The second dart is our reaction and often we throw this at ourselves too because we can’t let go.

You’ll see so many memory techniques online and sure somethings are important but a lot isn’t. Forgetting is just as important. It’s dangerous when our history is available at the touch of a button. Do you have friends who screenshot month-old messages from their exes to you too? Escape this cycle and delete things that can’t bring you joy anymore.

We cannot change the past and can only live in the present. Take Stephen Covey’s idea of our circle of concern and circle of influence. Our past is outside the circle that matters. We can’t influence it in reality and we can only rewrite it in our brains. Dive into the past only when it adds value to the present. If you need help to get out of the past, seek it, it’s worth it.


Grind Culture Invulnerability

The ability to be unashamedly lazy

“I chose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”— Bill Gates

I wish people would stop trying to impress me with how hard they work. If you’re working 16 hours a day and your colleague is working 8 but getting the same done, they are the ones I want to talk to. Grit and hard work are overrated.

Taking hard work as a badge of honor can stop you from looking for accelerators. Plenty of people can work hard at existing processes. How can you make your life easier and free up time? At my first job, every week I had to come in early on Friday to run a 1-hour process. I hated it as Thursday was going out night. So I spent a few hours automating the process then it could be run in minutes.

The problem is as we go forwards, AI and technology will replace more and more “hard work” style roles. Robots can do the same thing repeatedly and never get tired. You aren’t coded and your laziness can inspire you to break the rules and innovate. Some people worry about globalization but in the long run, technology is what you’re battling against. Don’t make it easy!

It’s weirdly socially acceptable to boast about you trying harder than everyone else. We can’t get away with bragging about other things in the same way. It’s no wonder everyone overplays their grit and underplays their other skills. Anyone who’s interviewed anyone has heard it a million times before. Stand out and be lazy.


Radical Self-Acceptance

The ability to accept your weaknesses

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

One of the beauties of humanity is our diversity. Some of us are hilarious, others are strong and others are creative. Yet we create anxiety for ourselves by comparing our weaknesses to someone else’s strength. The monkey envies the fish for its swimming and the fish envies the monkey for climbing.

Indian culture can place a high value on the status of becoming a doctor. I know people who ten years after leaving high school are still obsessed with getting into medical school and keep failing the exams. Maybe they’ll get in one day and it will make them happy. Yet if instead they had found something they enjoyed and they were good at, where would they be?

The internet can make things worse by making people think they need to do certain things to be successful. If you’re no good at business, you don’t need to create a business. Release yourself from the compulsion to do things to meet a rigid life template. It makes me sad when people ignore their talent to chase something because of a misguided sense of worth.

It takes strength to break this cycle and admit you just aren’t good at something. Unless it’s critical to your health, allow yourself to move on. A life of beating yourself up about your weaknesses won’t be fun. Improve yourself but be realistic. Build your skillset to support what you’re good at to become even better.


Respectful divergence

The ability to disagree with others civilly

Unfortunately, when it comes to disagreements, we can fall into two camps most of the time:

  • We pretend we agree when we don’t
  • We rage against others without compassion

There is a third path though; the path of respectful divergence. It’s less traveled but you want to be a superhero right?

When you’re surrounded by people who think in one way, the easiest thing to do is change your thoughts to fit in. Evolution is to blame as we want to be part of a tribe. Yet if you’re a star, don’t contort yourself to fit in with squares. The fear of disagreeing with friends openly is a paradox. Why are you friends with people if you can’t have a reasoned discussion without fear of being judged?

Loyalty to our group can lead to a psychological bias of naive realism. We start believing the group opinion is an objective fact. It is not. How many times have you ridiculed people with opposing opinions to your friends? These attitudes reinforce viewing outsiders as stupid or insane. When you think like this how can you possibly respectfully debate? I’ve yet to have my mind changed by someone who treated me like an idiot.

It takes superhuman strength to escape this trap. We crave the approval of our peers and act for status with our group rather than genuine discussion. This is known as the Iron Law of Institutions.

The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. — Jon Schwarz

It’s the people who can break this law who change the world. They can reach out to the other side and treat them like human beings. Plant the seeds of change in their minds. If you want to change people’s views, you’ve got to actually talk to them.


Enhanced Positive Empathy

The ability to be happy for others’ successes

This is perhaps the rarest superpower of them all. Modern western life promotes the individual above all else. Everything relates back to us as our ego is the center of existence. This is tragic as when you celebrate other people’s wins like they were yours, life is flooded with moments of joy.

I used to be naive and thought everyone was happy for each other when they said they were. As I grew up, I realized many people would be all smiles to someone’s face then behind their back criticize them. Do you tear down others in your mind to make yourself seem taller? A friend of mine recently confessed they were down because their colleague got promoted. She posted on LinkedIn congratulating her but inside she wondered why it wasn’t her.

What people forget is our lives are narrow. There are billions of people out there and many will do things we never do. I’ll never know the feeling of lifting an Olympic medal. Yet if deep in my heart I can be happy for someone who does, I can feel some of their joy.

When life is going rough, some people avoid their friends and family. The success others have serves to only highlight their failure. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can live through them and raise yourself and them up.

Brene Brown has a system with her husband where instead of each of them being perfectly in sync all the time, they try to balance each other. When one of them is having a bad day then the other ups their kindness and energy. If you say you are 20% then your partner will aim to be 80%. If you can be happy for them and their energy then you can raise yourself up again.

We’ve all got different paths through life. When someone takes a path you haven’t, it’s an exciting opportunity to see the joy in their eyes.


What You Need to Take Away

Not all heroes wear capes. We’ve gone through some extraordinary powers here and I hope you can develop them to become the best version of yourself. What rare superpowers do you have?

  • Instantaneous Self-Induced Napping — The ability to nap at will
  • Selective Memory Erasure — The ability to not dwell on the past and move on
  • Grind Culture Invulnerability — The ability to be unashamedly lazy
  • Radical Self-Acceptance — The ability to accept your weaknesses
  • Respectful Divergence — The ability to disagree with others civilly
  • Enhanced Positive Empathy — The ability to be happy for others’ successes

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.