Nowadays I will admit it, I take certain short cuts, and do pro-actively build links to my site, but in the most white hat manor I can. And yes, this will give my sites "unnatural" ranking boosts. However, now that I am also focusing on making it much better than every competitor, and have so much experience I am able to do so, then these sites should be ranking ahead of them anyway.
But to make sites that good, does require a significant investment in peoples time, and money, so I want to get a return on it asap. And from Google's point of view, I am literally improving their index anyway, with more reliable and useful content, better user experiences, tidier and easier to use web sites.