I am a woman of many interests (i.e. I get distracted a lot). Most of these interests have to do with creating things, but in the past I have had a hard time prioritizing these interests.  The main reason was because I was just having too much fun creating new things!  Over the years, I have created lots of flashcards, games, theory worksheets, along with composing music and teaching and are testament to my need to “create” and my difficulty in prioritizing.

Define What What You Want To DO and BE

Good to Great helped me define what I really wanted “to do” and “to be.”  In the chapter entitled the Hedgehog Concept, Jim Collins explains that Hedgehogs do only 1 thing, but they do it well.*

good-to-great2The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty—the fox looks like the sure winner. The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.

The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. “Aha, I’ve got you now!” thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast. The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, “Here we go again. Will he ever learn?” Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defense and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.

How to figure out what you were born to do

The hedgehog always wins because he is doing what he was born to do and what he is best at doing.  Collins encourages individuals and companies create a Hedgehog concept,  a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of the following three circles:

1. What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at). This discerning standard goes far beyond core competence. Just because you possess a core competence doesn’t necessarily mean you can be the best in the world at it. Conversely, what you can be the best at might not even be something in which you are currently engaged.

2. What drives your economic engine. All the good-to-great companies attained piercing insight into how to most effectively generate sustained and robust cash flow and profitability. In particular, they discovered the single denominator—profit per x—that had the greatest impact on their economics. (It would be cash flow per x in the social sector.)

3. What you are deeply passionate about. The good-to-great companies focused on those activities that ignited their passion. The idea here is not to stimulate passion but to discover what makes you passionate.

Once you define these parameters in your life, you will find more clear direction in what to prioritize.  My Hedgehog concept is now about composing (loosely defined).  This doesn’t mean I don’t take a few minutes now and again to create a cute little flashcard, but since I’ve turned my attention to composing, I’ve found my efforts are much more satisfying and I am able to sharpen my composing skills faster since this is where my attention is.

What is your Hedgehog Concept?

Maybe it’s not something you want to share (but feel free to do so below). But, it’s important to think about. It has taken me years to get the answer and I only found the answer by continue to walk on the path before me (rather than just sit and do nothing). But, finding it means that my work is much more fulfilling and I hope that asking the question might help you find your hedgehog concept as well.

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*The original “hedgehog concept” came from an essay by Isaiah Berlin in which he talks about Leo Tolstoy’s theory of history.  The original quote, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing” is from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus.