What it Takes to be Great

August 22, 2007

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I recently came across this extremely enlightening article that references some scientific research into the subject of “greatness.”

The lesson I gleamed from it, is that it’s just too easy to see “greatness” and think, “Well, that could never be me because (fill in the blank with whatever lame excuse happens to be convenient ). Sure there may be lots of reasons why one shouldn’t succeed (too: poor, uneducated, short, tall, ugly, handsome, unintelligent, etc.) but it’s not until one allows these “reasons” to become “excuses” that one fails.

Of course like all nature vs. nurture debates, there are valid points on both sides of the argument. But this article seems to be hinting that true success is exhibited by individuals who have learned to use whatever they’ve got to the absolute fullest. That’s the moral of this lesson - learn to do whatever it is you do, exceptionally well!

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields. Understand that talent doesn’t mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It’s an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, “The evidence we have surveyed … does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.”

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One part of the article I found particularly helpful was this part about building “mental models.” I call it building the “mental machine” … by creating a mental image that illustrates how all the details are interrelated and affect each other.

“Through the whole process, one of your goals is to build what the researchers call “mental models of your business” - pictures of how the elements fit together and influence one another.

The more you work on it, the larger your mental models will become and the better your performance will grow.Andy Grove could keep a model of a whole world-changing technology industry in his head and adapt Intel (Charts) as needed. Bill Gates, Microsoft’s (Charts) founder, had the same knack: He could see at the dawn of the PC that his goal of a computer on every desk was realistic and would create an unimaginably large market. John D. Rockefeller, too, saw ahead when the world-changing new industry was oil. Napoleon was perhaps the greatest ever. He could not only hold all the elements of a vast battle in his mind but, more important, could also respond quickly when they shifted in unexpected ways.”

 

Click here to read the whole article … it’s a little lengthy, but well worth the read.

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