The Tim Ferriss Show: #316 Jim Collins was one of those transformative podcast conversations that got me fascinated with the way Jim Collins lives his life. I decided to read Good to Great (GTG) which is the #1 Bestseller in Business Books and took him and a 21-person research team five years to complete.
I read the book not knowing what to expect as I generally don’t read books in the business category. What made GTG fascinating was that Jim Collins states that many of the concepts that apply to great companies in GTG and the rest of his books can be readily adapted to one’s personal life. I’m inclined to agree because his research is too convincing for me to logically ignore. This is why I’m designing the next decade of my life around the concepts I’ve learned through reading Jim Collins’s books.
As I’m slowly incorporating Jim Collins’s teachings into my life, I find them to be rather difficult but not painful. It’s more of an emotional discomfort. In real life, I don’t know anyone who lives this way and anyone I’ve talked about Jim Collins with thought it’s asking almost too much.
I’m choosing to continue because Jim Collin’s logic backed up with evidence-based research is too salient for me not to give it my best. GTG makes many great points. The most memorable for me are the three concepts below.
GTG Concept #1 Surround Yourself With the Right People on Your Bus First, Put Them in The Right Seats, and Then Figure Out Where to Drive It
Applying this concept on a personal level to me means ensuring that the people on my bus are people I want to take advice from. Putting them in the right seats means I’m taking advice from people whom I consider knowledgeable in these specific areas.
Current people on my bus: Jim Collins (living a disciplined life, facing brutal facts, pursuing excellence in one specific area), Elizabeth Gilbert (everything writing related), Esther Perel (romantic relationships insight), Nedra Glover Tawwab (setting and holding boundaries in all relationships), and close friends on my bus.
For Mark and close friends, this time, I make sure to put them in the correct seats on my bus. For example, it makes no sense to ask friends who are not therapists for relationship advice or ask friends to critique my writing when many of them dislike reading.
Notably not on my bus who were formerly on my bus are my mom, relatives, and in-laws. For example, as much as I love my mom and she loves me, the fact is following her advice has significantly hurt me emotionally, medically, and financially. Her well-meaning intentions translate into terrible consequences for both of us and my late father when he was living. She is aware of her mistakes and no longer gives me any unsolicited advice, because she knows my response will be, “I did not seek your advice, therefore I won’t be following it. Thank you for understanding.”
Also, notably not on my bus are ultracrepidarians and people who love to give unsolicited advice.
In the past couple of months, following Jim’s advice gave me a clear destination of where I want to drive my bus. Currently, I believe I want to pursue greatness in my chosen writing niche, fantasy fiction influenced by Chinese history and mythology.
Concept #2 Facing the Brutal Facts of Your Current Reality With the Faith That You Will Prevail in the End
Jim says that “it is impossible to make great decisions if one does not face the brutal facts of their current situation.” I would agree completely.
Brutal facts are not easy for me to face. Most notably concerning my writing. For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be a writer without actively putting in the work daily. I think it may be from watching too many movies. I used to believe that one day this great plot will come to me and the book will write itself in a couple of months. After reading GTG, I no longer believe that nor do I want that. Writing for me I’ve learned is mostly about refining through copious revisions.
Before 2022, I didn’t have many friends who read regularly (20+ books a year). I also didn’t have a single friend who is writing a book or who wrote a book. From an impartial bystander, those are not the actions of someone who wants to be a writer! The brutal fact is that the people and the environment I surround myself with matter greatly. I need to be around people who are passionate about reading books, wrote a book, or currently writing a book, to cheer me on in my writing. Being part of a supportive writing community is important to me and in 2023 I will actively be seeking one out.
I’m happy to say that I accidentally became friends with a career author (through playing board games) who gave me a great tip to use Scrivener (a word-processing program, outliner, and management system to organize my writing). It helped me immensely!
Another brutal fact about my writing is that my writing descriptions are lacking in both simplicity and imagination. That’s likely due to the fact that unless I’m trying extremely hard to be observant, I notice very few details about a person, place, or thing. To overcome this, part of my goals for 2023 is to be more observant of my surroundings.
And lastly, my vocabulary needs a lot of improvement. In the words of Mark Twain, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
As I’m working on rectifying many of my shortcomings in regard to writing, I’m finding great satisfaction in my daily struggle. I will prevail because I don’t see myself ever giving up until my writing goal is reached. Accompanying me on my journey will be Jim Collins’s books.
Concept #3 Finding Your Hedgehog
Jim Collins’s Hedgehog Concept is finding the intersection between (1) your understanding of what you can potentially be the best at in the world not what you want to be the best at, (2) your economic engine, the single denominator, profit per x, that will have the greatest impact on your earnings, (3) what you are deeply passionate about and will want to wake up excited every day to do or improve.
Since reading GTG, I’ve constantly asked myself this question and discussed my career options with friends who I’ve asked to give me the brutal facts. Part of me seriously considered getting a master’s degree to become a dietitian after admitting to myself that I have an eating disorder. Except it did not make financial sense (80K for 2 years of school and 60K starting salary with about 100K career cap) nor was it suited to my personality (disliking surprises and being an introvert).
What made financial sense (75K starting salary and about 300K career cap) and was suited to my personality was becoming a computer programmer and putting my computer science degree to use. Except, I don’t feel deeply passionate about the field or excited to improve my skills.
Currently, after evaluating my career options, I believe writing makes the most sense for me. Financially, it can work well as my author friend makes a pretty good living (about 150K a year) being a niche writer and does not have to do publicity. More importantly, I truly do believe I can be great in my chosen niche and that I will wake up excited every day to write my novel. It’s been 101 days of a continuous book-writing streak for me and I don’t ever recall feeling this fulfilled in life.
For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquillity that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered.Jim Collins, Good to Great
The question, I still sometimes ponder is do I want to give it my all and try to have a great life when it is much easier to settle for a good life? Or put to it another way, will me trying to create something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution be a more satisfying life than the one where I can simply coast along with medium effort?
P.S. This post took me much of my free time in the entire month of January to write! It was such a great book and it was hard to keep the post succinct without losing what I think are the most important concepts.