Being Great is easier than being Good

In Jim Collin‘s “Good to Great”, Jim and his team of researchers detail their painstaking research on companies that have started out as Good and, through a process, has become Great. Following “Built to Last”, which explored companies that were founded under strong culture and foundations, Jim received a question at dinner one night from a McKinsey partner:

“Well Jim, that’s great that these companies are already great – they had great founders and a foundation for sound processes, but how do normal companies become great in the first place?”

Always up for a challenge, Jim decided to find out the answer to that question. The result in Good to Great details a breed of companies that have, through several transformations, become Great. (Wal-Mart, Boeing, Gillette, to name a few)

His concept of BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goals has become management lore in business. The concept applies to pickup artistry also – in that when you set high, ambitious goals, it prompts you to take measure to achieve them.

Towards to end of the book, one of Jim’s students asks him a great question. We hear this question uttered in seduction classes all over the world as well.

“Maybe I’m just not ambitious enough,” he said, “But I don’t really want to build a huge company. Is there something wrong with that?”

Translation: “What if I don’t want to be GREAT? I am happy with just being GOOD or GOOD ENOUGH”

Listen closely now to Jim’s answers. Perhaps you will see a parallel in his answer to the rest of your life:

First: Jim believes “that it is no harder to build something great than to build something good. It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity…. it involves less suffering, less work…the beauty and power of the research findings is that they can radically simplify our lives while increasing our effectiveness. There is great solace in the simple fact of clarity – about what is vital, and what is not.”

His continues:

“Indeed, the point of this entire book is NOT that we should “add” these findings to what we are already doing and make ourselves even more overworked. No, the point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improve.”

A caveat:

“To be clear, I am NOT suggesting that going from good to great is easy, or that every organization will successfully make the shift. By definition, it is not possible for everyone to be above average. But I am asserting that those who strive to turn good into great find the process no more painful or exhausting than those who settle for just letting things wallow along in mind-numbing mediocrity. Yes, turning good into great takes energy, but the building of momentum adds more energy back into the pool than it takes out. Conversely, perpetuating mediocrity is an inherently depressing process and drains much more energy out of the pool than it puts back in.

2nd and last point:
“But there is a second answer to the question of greatness… the search for meaningful work… The question we should be asking is, ‘What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness?’If you have to ask the question, ‘Why should we try to make it great? Isn’t success enough?’ then you’re probably engaged in the wrong line of work.”

“Get involved in something that you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.”

His ends succinctly:

“Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even again that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered.”

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