1. Ask yourself how you will you stand out. With 7 billion people on the planet what will you do to get noticed? Being good at something is important, but you still need to find a good angle to market yourself. This is true for launching products or even just moving up the ladder in your career. This means thinking outside the box and being original. The UFC fighter Conor McGregor always says, "Losers focus on winners. Winners focus on winning." If you get too focused on copying those ahead of you, you will miss out on your opportunity to be original and perhaps surpass the winners you are fixated on. You will never pass those in front of you if you are staring at their backs watching their every move. No doubt great winners copy and imitate others, but you must strike a balance and know when to step out on your own.
2. Commit time to networking. This may not feel like work, but it is just as important. Build real relationships by providing value to people around you. Ask yourself what you have that can provide real value to others. If you have a skill then perhaps you can use that. If you know a lot of important people, then maybe that's your angle, but if you enter a conversation with nothing to offer, then how can you expect it to go anywhere? Ask yourself, if you were to meet a billionaire investor tomorrow, what value could you provide them that would make them remember you?
3. Short term risks create long term stability. If you just play it safe, then you will not advance. The safest choice to make for your future is to take short term risks as often as you can. Obviously the risk/reward needs to be right, but practice taking short term risks regularly. These will lead you to new heights. How many times have you heard someone tell a story about a risk they took and at the end they say, "I'm just so happy I decided to make that jump because it changed everything for me." The key here though is, SHORT TERM risk. If your risk means investing 5 years or your life savings, then that's perhaps not a short term risk.
I'll close with a short story from my own career. In 2008 Apple launched the App Store, and I decided to build an app to launch as near as I could to the launch date of the store itself. I built a game called Roaring Racers. The main unique concept of the game was that you needed to roar into the microphone to make your car go. The game was not that fun and it flopped. I think I sold around 100 copies at 99 cents while I spent about $1000 on art assets and other expenses, plus a ton of my own time. The next year I took the experience from the first app and launched my second app called Air Horn LOUD! I spent just 8 hours working on this app before launching it and I threw together all the art myself. The timing was right, and the app went on to achieve more than 3 million downloads. I was no longer just some programmer. I was the author of one of the top iPhone apps in the world. My point is that these short term risks greatly impacted my future, my career and my quality of life. Even the first project that failed, led me to my next success because of the knowledge I gained.