“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
Many people are looking for a good life. One in which there are no struggles in paying bills, going on vacations, having a good home etc.
But if the quote by Jim Collins makes sense to you, then you know that there can be better.
Do you want a good life or a great life?
If you are daring enough to pick the latter, then read on to see how to achieve it. If you’re okay with a good life, please read on.
Perhaps you could change your mind and pursue greatness. Then the world will have many great people worth emulating.
STEPS TO ACHIEVING GREATNESS
And how will you know whether you’re living or aiming for a great life and not a good one?
Well, it starts with a dream.
What kind of life do you dream of living?
If you achieve your dreams, then you’re living in greatness.
“A man’s dreams are an index to his greatness.” Zadok Rabinwitz
1. DEFINE GREATNESS
You can define greatness in many different ways. More than that, your greatness is different from your friend’s or colleague’s greatness.
This is mainly because we are all different. And that is why it is not a wise thing to compare yourself to someone else.
If you are to achieve greatness, the first thing you have to do is define what greatness means to you.
If you don’t, you might end up pursuing something you are not clear about.
And in that case, your efforts will amount to nothing.
To make it easier for you, just look at greatness as a goal. That way, you will be able to clarify what exactly you want to achieve.
Whatever your “greatness” is, it should have at least three characteristics.
It should be challenging.
Being great is not a small feat. If it were, then the whole world would be full of great people. In that kind of world, there would be no problems since great people solve problems.
Also, if everyone was great, life would be too competitive. Life is indeed competitive.
But as you will learn by the time you’re done with this article, great people work hard. If everyone worked hard towards their goals, the rate of competition would be extremely high.
So, what’s your greatness?
If you are a soccer player, check out what history has to say about the world’s champions. What did the highest performer achieve? How did the second-best perform? What was the gap in goals scored?
Did the best score five goals in every game? Did the second-best score an average of four per game? Can you aim at an average of six goals per game?
The goal you are looking to achieve must send some chills down your spine whenever you think about it.
Not to mean that it scares you so much that you decide to drop it.
But it should get you to understand that you are setting yourself up to be different.
It should be motivating.
Scary as your goal for greatness is, it should have some motivation in it.
However, this motivation should go beyond the pep talk that tells you it’s possible.
It is indeed possible, but what is it that makes you go for it?
Your idea of greatness alone can be a motivation for you. In case it isn’t, then you should consider the benefits of greatness. What kind of life will you live once you achieve this one goal?
Some of the general benefits that come with greatness are popularity, wealth, coaching contracts, motivational speaking contracts and the like.
Is this what you want?
If your answer is “Yes,” then you have missed the point. And in missing the point, you might end up being a part of the 92% of people who don’t achieve their goals.
Because these are things you can have without being great.
Being great is very different from this. It is much bigger than these things.
You need to be motivated to be a leader in your field. To usher people into a new world. If you are in a scientific field, you should pioneer some research and get the results. If in the technology field, then invent something that will be a real solution to the world.
You should be fueled by a desire to do something more permanent than just have money and influence. The time and effort which you will dedicate should amount to something that will last beyond you.
It should be specific.
You need to be specific about your definition of greatness. You cannot pursue a vague goal and expect to achieve it. You will quickly lose track of anything which is not specific.
You will soon get to a point where you are confused as to which exact path you should take.
To avoid this situation, ensure your definition of greatness is specific.
Look at the comparisons below of vague vs. specific greatness definitions:
|Vague Definition||Specific Definition|
|1||I want to be a great leader.||I want to transform 10 failing companies and personally mentor 10 employees in each to become better than me.|
|2||I want to be a great scientist.||I want to discover the cure for AIDS.|
|3||I want to be a great lawyer.||I want to help human rights organizations win legal battles in China.|
|4||I want to be the greatest athlete.||I want to finish the 100-meter race in 8 seconds flat.|
Do you notice how specific the statements on the right are?
That is how your definition of greatness ought to be. If it is not specific, you will lose it along the way.
2. BREAK IT DOWN
From the definition, the next thing you should do is to break down your idea of greatness. As it is, your specific statement is very difficult to achieve.
You may see yourself being that which you have defined, but that is only in your mind’s eyes. To achieve it, you have to bring it out into the world.
In this second step of the process, it is all about making a plan.
This is the plan which will get your greatness from your mind and into the real world.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Henry David Thoreau
From Vision to Mission
Do you know the difference between a company’s vision statement and mission statement?
Those are part of what defines a company. From those two statements, you can tell where a company is headed and what it does on a daily basis.
That is exactly how you are supposed to operate.
Generally speaking, a company’s vision talks of its long-term goals while its mission describes its short-term goals.
Depending on the statements themselves, this short-term goal can also be a description of the daily operations.
In other words, the mission is what the company does consistently in order to achieve its vision.
You have already defined your greatness statement. This is your vision.
It’s now time to define your mission. You will do this by answering a simple question: how will you achieve your goal?
Let’s use the third greatness statement from the table in the section about being specific.
What do you want to achieve? You want to help human rights organizations win legal battles in China.
How do you achieve that?
Engage your logical mind here. Follow a step-by-step reasoning as you build towards this goal. In this case, assuming no experience in all relevant fields, the smaller parts of your vision could be as follows.
1. Research on the human rights situation in China – this is the first step because you have to fuel your ambition. You may know that the situation in China is wanting.
But until you do a thorough research about it, you may not have enough conviction to drive your ambition.
Start reading blogs about the situation in China. Dig deeper by searching for investigative articles. Follow renowned experts and analysts on social media for updates.
The more you know, your motivation will increase and you will have a more solid goal.
2. Learn Mandarin – the next step is to learn the language used by the natives. You cannot win a legal battle in China if you’re speaking English or French. Look for a school where you can learn Mandarin and enroll for classes.
Your quest for greatness is already underway.
As such, you have to be the greatest student. Excel above the rest. Do some extra studies at the library.
Learn some more from the internet. Whatever you do, start practicing greatness by beating all your classmates.
3. Study Chinese law – time to attend law school. Legal battles can only be won with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the law. This is crucial. The arguments in court are all about logic and application of the acquired knowledge about the law.
4. Apply for internship in a global human rights organization in China – having done all the above, you will now be like a soldier awaiting deployment. Don’t apply for a job, look for internship. You will have higher chances getting aboard the organization through internship rather than through employment.
With internship, you pose as one offering help.
Also, you are not necessarily looking to depend on the organization for your long-term career.
Though you can get opportunities to advance, you can easily detach yourself in case there are limitations.
Make It Measurable
These smaller parts of the vision have to be measurable if at all you are to succeed in doing them.
If you don’t make them measurable, they will be as vague as the statements used above. With no real direction of what to be achieved on the short-term, you will easily get distracted and frustrated.
In making the steps measurable, check what exactly is to be achieved throughout the stages. If academics, aim for higher than the average. If the average student scores 85 out of 100, aim for 90%.
It can also be an idea worth implementing to define a second-best score for yourself. In this case, it can be the average of 85%.
You will however need to be careful not to be resorting to that instead of going for the idea score.
The other aspect of measurability is setting deadlines. You cannot have a goal with no deadlines to achieve it.
Let’s see how this can look like using our example of becoming a top Chinese human rights lawyer.
There may not be an end to the research on the human rights situation in China. That might be an ongoing process. It might even overlap with learning the Chinese language.
You can for instance set the deadline for learning Mandarin to be 2 years. After that, learning Chinese law might take 5 years with the internship application process taking 3 months.
The timeline could look something like this.
Timeline for becoming a great human rights lawyer in China
All the theory work is done. It’s now time to get practical. It’s time to act.
Achieving greatness takes hard work.
With the above time frame, it’s easy to know how long you will take to achieve your goal. You can stick the visual time frame on your bedroom wall, your kitchen, study area and anywhere else you frequent.
You can also have it as the background picture of your smartphone and desktop or laptop. This will engrave it in your mind.
There are three things to consider in your action.
It is important to realize that the seven years and three months in the above timeline is a lot of time. However, with enough mismanagement, the time can fly past you without warning.
Being great is a big goal and you have set your heart on it. The last thing you want is to lose focus and lose your reward. To avoid that, you need to be dedicated to the pursuit.
Do you watch a lot of TV or movies? You need to cut back on it. Are you constantly on social media? You have to cut back on that too.
Are you always spending time on non-productive activities? You urgently need to unlearn time-wasting habits.
Dedication means you are thinking of only one thing. That one thing must be so important to you that nothing else matters.
A disclaimer on that statement though: if you have a family, you need to plan your time accordingly. Neglecting your family will not do. Just as greatness starts from within—believing in yourself—so must it continue at the family level.
With your family taken care of, ensure there are no distractions. Clear out your study area. Use Adblocking browser extensions to reduce or eliminate distractions when researching online. And also train your mind to concentrate and stay focused.
Work Hard At It
Your dedication is the proof of your commitment to your pursuit of greatness. The hard work you put in is the evidence of your dedication.
That dedication has to come out. It has to be seen through some physical work.
This is where many people fail.
Hard work is not something many are used to. With all the convenience of technology, very few are willing to put in the effort to even do simple math using their own minds. It’s just too tiring and time-consuming.
But if you are to become great, you have to be ready to sweat it out. Understand that some conveniences are actually distractions.
Take responsibility of your ambitions since there will be no-one to blame. As Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”
It is your responsibility to study. It is your responsibility to train your body and mind. Nobody will do these things for you.
As you go along this path, take time to notice the available assistance you might bump into. For instance, in school, you might find a helpful lecturer.
If you get stuck on any matter, be sure to check with him. If there is something you’re finding difficult to understand, reach out to him.
Make good use of him as there may not be many on your path like him.
Tackle the Setbacks
As you journey towards greatness, one thing you will definitely need is a strong resolve to keep going.
No road leading to greatness is clear of challenges. Yet those challenges have to be faced and tackled.
Remind yourself that others have done it. They may not be in your field, but they have tackled challenges and moved forward.
This is where your mindset comes in. You need to be an optimist and see things from a positive perspective.
Here are three setbacks you can bet on facing.
1. Doubt – do you remember that your definition of greatness should be so big that it scares you? Being great means being different. And that can be scary, especially since the world seeks to make us all conform to some type of norm.
If the goal you set excites you, then disregard the feeling of fear. Disregard the voice of doubt. Every human being has potential to achieve greatness.
It is your belief that will propel you to achieve it. Believe in yourself and move towards your goal. Keep the reward in mind.
2. Failure – some of the short-term goals you set may not be achieved on time. This can wreck serious havoc in your mind. Failure may haunt you the whole night while sticking by your side the whole day.
Fear not. That is not an end result but just a setback. Get back on your feet, pick up from where you left off and run.
3. Loss of willpower – your internal strength and capacity to continue will also be challenged. You may find yourself going back to some old habits. You may get tired one day and decide to watch a movie. By the time you realize what’s happening, you’ve watched three or four of them one after the other.
The strength to make the right choices is usually lacking in many of us. But as science tells us, willpower is like a muscle.
If you train it, it expands. So to avoid getting hit when you least have the energy, start working on this soon enough.
Greatness is very much achievable. What makes very few people achieve it is the amount of work involved.
If you can only dedicate the relatively small portion of your life needed to do the work, the results are guaranteed.
Imagine spending only 7 years working to be that great lawyer. It’s a short time of hard work.
But can you imagine what the rest of your life will be like? The satisfaction you’ll get from living out your dream?