Greatness as Repeatable Goodness

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Don't be fooled by the title -- "How to Be Great? Just Be Good, Repeatably." And by that, I don't simply mean that the author, Steph Smith, isn't giving advice on how to achieve greatness effortlessly.

In a nutshell, Smith is advising specialization, and improving processes incrementally over time -- but she has lots more to say than that about the process of becoming great. For example: the journey has emotional lows and highs, stemming both from how our emotions operate and the unsteady nature of progress.

And then there's the small matter of what good even is. How do you know you're picking something you want to think about all the time? How do you know you're not beating your head against the wall one more time instead of making an investment in your processes? Here's what she says about that, reminding me of Barbara Sher's advice to take a bad job (scroll down):

Progress? (Image by Eugene Zhyvchik, via Unsplash, license.)
Before you find the path that you want to double down on, this habit of progression takes the form of iteration. I see many people who are stuck in this stage and feel like they're moving nowhere. Perhaps they go take a degree for a year and find that wasn't right. Maybe they go and work for a company for two more and realize that wasn't right either.

If you're struggling to identify the right path, create more nodes of optimization. For example: if you're making changes every year, you only have maybe 80 in your entire life to make. Instead, try testing things intentionally every month or even every week. Pilot a lot and then double down when you have found your path towards "good".

You may ask, "what makes good, good?". Ask yourself the question: "If I were to continue this every day for the next year, would I be in a better place?" If the answer is yes, you have a path towards "good".
I find the third paragraph thin gruel -- I bet people starting courses think they'll be in a better place ... until they don't. But Smith's larger point of evaluating one's progress more frequently and thoughtfully is valuable and can be expanded upon. Let's say one decides on a path and is dissatisfied: Were there especially good (or bad) points that could help with a course correction? It is valuable to me to see that this kind of approach can be applied more often than once or twice a year, and to things less dramatic than changing jobs.

This piece, although only about 3200 words long, is both instructive and thought-provoking, and it will likely require several readings and some thinking over time to fully benefit from it.

-- CAV

No comments: