I’m reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, and although most of it is focused on companies and economics and other stuff I really have no idea about, some of it is very applicable for a person.
The book has me thinking about how often I settle for “good.” If something is good, I typically leave it be. What would happen if instead of settling, I strive for great? What would happen if instead of accepting where things are, I push for something better? I often settle for fear of making something worse or fear of admitting that I’m not great and can’t be great without even trying. But maybe, if I didn’t settle, if I give it a shot, I might accomplish something that’s not just good, it’s great. Frosted Flakes did it. I can do it too.
“To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.”
Often, we view competence as a good thing. If someone calls you competent, we usually take it to mean capable of completing a task. Usually, we use it as a compliment. But is it? Is competence all we should strive for? Collins doesn’t think so. And I’m finding myself agreeing with him. We have the opportunity to be so much more than competent. We have many opportunities to be excellent. Why aren’t we? Too often, our reason is “Oh, I’m good.”
Collins has several points on how to become great, but the one I want to share here is The Hedgehog Concept. In an essay called “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin talks about a fox and a hedgehog. The fox keeps trying to attack the hedgehog, using different plans and strategies, and the hedgehog keeps using his quills in defense, and the fox gets nowhere. He then divides people into foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes are chasing several different ends and are often scattering their focus onto different concepts and ideas. Hedgehogs focus on a single organizing idea and anything that doesn’t relate to that one idea is irrelevant.
We have to find that one idea, that one thing that we can be the best at. Then, we are able to focus all our efforts on that one thing. Collins is careful to point out that this shouldn’t be a goal to be the best, rather it’s finding what you can be the best at and focusing on that.
My challenge for the next few months is to find that idea, to discover what I can be the best at. Then I can focus on becoming the best at that one thing and achieve greatness instead of settling for good.
Collins, Jim. Good to Great. 2001. Collins.
Image taken from Meditations of My Heart “They’re More Than Good; They’re GRRREAT.”