If you’ve ever used an app like Waze or your phone’s GPS program, you know they advise you on the best route to get to a destination. Usually, it’s also the fastest route.
If you decide to go in the “wrong” direction, choose to turn right rather than left at a fork, or end up making a detour for any reason, the system reroutes you to the best of its ability. But the altered route may make the trip longer or could involve some winding paths that don’t allow you to get to your destination as effectively.
Apply this concept to any area of your life where you would like to excel. If you want to be great—rather than good—at anything, you need to stay on the straight and narrow path that gets you to that destination.
The Meandering Road
For example, if I had focused on being a great writer, I might not have taken the fork in the road that said “editing.” Nor would I have chosen to turn at the road that said “entrepreneur.” I would have continued turning toward “writer” every time I had that choice.
Because I took a meandering path and went other directions when presented with the chance, I would say I’ve remained a good—maybe even a better than average—writer. But I’m not great.
The Straight Path
On the other hand, my son decided at the age of three to become a dancer. While he tried other activities, like soccer and gymnastics, he gave them up for dance. Eventually, he also stopped doing all types of dance and focused on ballet. Now, at the age of 25, he is a great ballet dancer.
Then there is my daughter. She tried dance, then ice skating, synchronized swimming, and swim team. She could have been great at any one of these sports, but she was good because she didn’t focus on them long enough.
However, she’s been an artist since she was a tot. She’s tried lots of ways to express her art and to learn to become a better artist. For the last nine years, she put her efforts primarily into building sets and props for the theater. Now, at the age of 26—and in her second year of grad school, she’s becoming a great props artisan. Why? She’s focused solely on that one endeavor.
Ten Thousand Hours
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes how people become great at anything. He claims they spend 10,000 hours practicing one skill.
If you know what you’d like to excel at but keep changing up your route to getting there, you’ll never put in the 10,000 hours. Therefore, you’ll remain good, not great, at that skill.
Your Path to Greatness
Think about your aspirations. What did you always want to do…and do well?
Then, consider the path you’ve taken to move you toward that goal. Was it fraught with u-turns, detours, and choices to take a different route when presented with forks in the road? Or have you traveled the best—maybe even the most direct—path to your destination?
If you’ve focused on traveling the direct route, I bet you’ve put in a ton of hours and are now great—or close to great—at whatever you’ve chosen to do. If, however, you didn’t, you’re likely struggling to be good—or even good enough.
Decide to Go from Good to Great
You can change that fact, though. It’s not too late.
Draw a map that delineates where you are now and where you want to go. Then mark the best route for you to get there. What do you have to do? Where do you need to stop? What skills do you need to obtain along the way?
And…how long will it take you to get there? You must know how many hours you need to put in to move yourself from good to great.
Then get moving!
The Need for Honesty
It can feel hard to be honest with yourself—honest enough to say, “You know…I’m really just good at this. But I could be great if I just did ________.”
It wasn’t easy for me to admit that I could be a better writer…
Once you admit that to yourself, determine if you are willing to do whatever it takes to become great. You might even have to give a something up, but it will be worth it in the end.
For me, it means looking at ways to change my business model so I have more time to write. It means putting my focus on writing over promotion, training, speaking, or coaching. I don’t have to stop these activities, but I need to make sure those roads run parallel to the way to writing greatness. Otherwise, they are detours— actions that slow down my progress.
Dissatisfied with Good
I bet you will never be satisfied with “good.” Most of us know we could do better…we could be great…if we did what it takes.
That dissatisfaction is helpful. It directs you to the straight and narrow path to greatness.
So now, do what it takes to become great. Decide on the best route to get to your destination, and don’t be swayed by other paths. Stay the course…and you’ll arrive at greatness.
Are you good or great…and why? Tell me in a comment below.
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