I encourage you to pick up Jim Collins excellent book, Good to Great. In it he presents the results of exhaustive research into what distinguishes those companies that make the transition from ordinary, to having great results sustained over decades.
One of Collins’ core findings is relevant to every potential leader seeking to create a great career, consulting practice, or small business.
One characteristic Collins’ discovered that distinguished great companies (and great leaders) is the “hedgehog concept.” Those great leaders would uncover and then stick unwavering (like a hedgehog) to the intersection of 3 overlapping areas:
- What you can be the best in the world at.
- What you are deeply passionate about.
- What drives your economic engine.
I would summarize this concept as “focus.”
I’ve found that those who have a clear focus are the most successful. Others may get good results on many occasions by luck, but those who are focused create their good luck. For example, years ago when I decided I wanted to earn a promotion to vice president, I got very focused in my actions, taking charge of our Officers Advisory Group and demonstrating the leadership I knew was expected of VP’s. Sure enough, within the year I received my promotion.
Applying The “HedgeHog Concept”
Try applying the “hedgehog concept” to your own career:
- Think deeply about the things you are really passionate about doing.
- Explore which career directions among those are ones where your natural talents can let you achieve a ‘best in class’ status. These may not be the directions that require many of the skills you have been using most heavily to date; if you have the passion, you will put in the hard work and study required to develop them.
- Only after you’ve aligned #1 and 2, figure out how you can follow those directions in a way to satisfy your more general life goals (to ‘drive your economic engine’).
Applying The “Flywheel Principle”
Finally apply what Collins refers to as the “flywheel principle.”
This says that you consistently push on this very heavy flywheel, and at first it is very difficult to turn. As you continue to push, it slowly accelerates and gains momentum, until at some point it reaches a “breakthrough” point and starts moving fast enough that everyone else starts to notice, and the momentum becomes very easy to maintain.
This only happens if you maintain that clear focus, and continue to push in the same direction, i.e., don’t take the wheel off the track! Keep the faith and stay with what you are good at and passionate about, pushing forward steadily and you will reach that breakthrough point.
And when you do, everyone will see you as a committed, engaged leader who does what you set out to do!