What are the flywheels of your desired life?

“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.”

Zig Ziglar

One of my favorite leadership tomes is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Even after more than twenty years, the principles of effective organizational leadership outlined are just true today as the day the book was written. Some examples cited in the text as great organizations are no longer excellent or even in existence due to a failure to adapt to evolving market conditions or were destroyed by self-inflected shifts in focus and discipline. Regardless of how the examples cited fared, the principles of greatness are enduring.

Why do I bring this up? Meditating on the quote above brings to mind the power of the flywheel. When you identify those things that create momentum and compel progress, it becomes a self-sustaining and powerful driving force in your life. 

The simple image below highlights the cycle demonstrated through the quote above. How would this apply in the different domains of your life? Faith? Health? Work? Etc? What’s your flywheel?

A personal health flywheel example

Is mediocrity the path you are choosing?

“The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconstancy. The signature of Greatness is a disciplined and consistent focus on the right things.”

James C. Collins

Mediocrity = Chronic Inconsistency

Greatness = Disciplined Focus

The Right Things = What most fail to identify correctly…

How much time and effort do you put into identifying the most important things you wish to accomplish? Of course, I am talking about truly the most important, not the most urgent, the loudest or squeakiest wheel, or the coolest shiny object clamoring for attention.  

If you were to order the list above to align on desired outcomes and score each component on a scale of 0 – 10, how would you rate yourself? These questions could apply to you in the professional arena, personal life, etc.  

  1. Mediocrity:
    1. On a scale of 0 – 10, how am I performing today? Be honest.
  2. Desired outcome = Greatness: (as measured by…)
    1. Do I have clarity on what greatness looks like and how I will know if I have achieved it?
    2. How am I/are we performing against this measure on a scale of 0 – 10?
  3. The Right Things:
    1. On a scale of 0 – 10, how focused am I/are we on the few right things that would be necessary to achieve greatness? Do I have certainty on what they are?
    2. What are the most significant gaps between what we want to achieve (greatness) and where we are today? 
    3. Where are we spending time, energy, resources pursuing things that won’t help achieve greatness?

Are you choosing to sign off on your life with a signature of mediocrity, or are you going to pursue greatness?

What matters more, optimism or honesty?

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Vice Adm. James Stockdale

Admiral Stockdale indeed spoke from a place of deep personal experience. If you don’t know his story, I highly encourage you to click to learn more about him via the link embedded with his name above.  

Rather than write about my thoughts on this quote, I’ll simply share the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ here. Those words say it all.  

James C. Collins related a conversation he had with Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his period in the Vietnamese POW camp. When Collins asked which prisoners didn’t make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:

“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Collins called this the Stockdale Paradox.

Are you willing to embrace the brutal facts?

Great can be the enemy of good…

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

Jim Collins

It comes to mind that possibly great is also the enemy of good. Sometimes there is such a desperate desire to do great things that the good things never get done. Maybe it is a fear of failure; perhaps it is an inability to know when ‘enough is enough.’ The key is to be able to execute with speed and agility. If you only want great, but you never get there, is that good?

While I fully agree that ‘good is the enemy of great,’ there can be too much of a good thing. Don’t let the pursuit of the great prevent you from being good…

It’s your choice to be on the bus…

“If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.  The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up.”

Jim Collins

Are you a person that would be considered “the right person on the bus?” Do you have to be tightly managed or fired up? If so, then why? If you are doing work you genuinely care about, that you find compelling and rewarding, then “getting motivated for work” is something that should never happen. If you don’t feel this way about your work, either change yourself, or change the work. Being the wrong person on the bus is never a good option.

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dusty

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