Although much of the advice in the book "Good to Great" is geared towards improving corporations, there is a lot of good stuff that equally relates to personal improvement:
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.
"That's what makes death so hard - unsatisfied curiosity." - Beryl Markham
Curiosity. There is nothing I find more exciting than picking a question that I don't know the answer to and embarking on a quest for answers. It's deeply satisfying to climb into the boat, like Lewis and Clark, and head west, saying, "We don't know what we'll find when we get there, but we'll be sure to let you know when we get back."
Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.
You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
As one of my professors once said, "The best students are those who never quite believe their professors." True enough. But he also said, "One ought not to reject the data merely because one does not like what the data implies."
"You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit." - Harry S. Truman
Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.
And under the right circumstances - self-reflection, conscious personal development, a mentor, a great teacher, loving parents, a significant life experience, a level 5 boss, or any number of other factors - they begin to develop.
... it is worth the effort. For like all basic truths about what is best in human beings, when we catch a glimpse of that truth, we know that our own lives and all that we touch will be the better for the effort.
...they developed a simple, yet deeply insightful, frame of reference for all decisions.
And even if all decisions do not become self-evident, one thing is certain: You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts.
The "hardiness" research studies...looked at people who had suffered serious adversity - cancer patients, prisoners of war, accident victims, and so forth - and survived. They found that people fell generally into three categories: those who were permanently dispirited by the event, those who got their life back to normal, and those who used the experience as a defining event that made them stronger.
The Stockdale Paradox: Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties, AND at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
If you are able to adopt this dual pattern, you will dramatically increase the odds of making a series of good decisions and ultimately discovering a simple, yet deeply insightful, concept for making the really big choices.
The "rinsing your cottage cheese" factor:
The analogy comes from a disciplined world-class athlete named Dave Scott, who won the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon six times. In training, Scott would ride his bike 75 miles, swim 20,000 meters, and run 17 miles - on average, every single day. Dave Scott did not have a weight problem! Yet he believed that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet would give him an extra edge. So, Dave Scott - a man who burned at least 5,000 calories a day in training - would literally rinse his cottage cheese to get the extra fat off. Now, there is no evidence that he absolutely needed to rinse his cottage cheese to win the Ironman; that's not the point of the story. The point is that rinsing his cottage cheese was simply one more small step that he believed would make him just that much better, one more small step added to all the other small steps to create a consistent program of superdiscipline.
Good to great comes about by a cumulative process - step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel - that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.
There was no miracle moment. Although it may have looked like a single-stroke breakthrough to those peering in from the outside, it was anything but that to people experiencing the transformation from within. Rather, it was a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create other, turn by turn of the flywheel.
When I look over the good-to-great transformations, the one word that keeps coming to mind is consistency.