I think there’s a lot to learn from these ideas for a personal-trajectory set of questions, and I would just like to highlight that for our students who are here. When I was your age, I wish I would have known a lot of the things that our research has underscored for us.
#1: When you’re coming out of school, you’re always thinking about, “What am I going to do?” Right? “What’s my career? What’s my trajectory? What am I going to be?” But, you know, maybe that’s really a less significant question than “Who?” Maybe the most important questions in our lives are not what, but who. Who you spend your time with. Who you choose to spend your life with. Who you choose to work with. What kinds of people do you want to be around? That’s a who question more than a what question. You can pick the right what, but if you’re with the wrong whos, life is going to suck.
The flip side of that is—because life is always changing—if you’re really focused on connecting up with right whos, the whats can change, but life is so much better and meaningful because you’re with great whos.
A second thing I would point out is, in the area of thought, those three circles are a very powerful way to think personally. Just translate them. Instead of being best in the world, which we don’t want to use as an individual criterion because then we’d have only one, say, orthopedic surgeon in the world; that would be a bad thing. As you try to find a path in life, see if you can discover for yourself an intersection of three circles. One, discovering or finding or creating work that, when you do it, you just feel so incredibly lucky that you get to do it, that you’re passionate about it, that you love doing it. And yes, there’s drudgery. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have drudgery in their life. But that the basic thing—you say, “I love that I get to do this.”
Then imagine you were able to marry that with a second circle, the second circle being you’re genetically encoded for it. That when you do it, there’s this sense of “I was just made to do this.” It’s not that you’ve pounded yourself to be good at it because somebody said, “You should be good at that.” It’s just that when you do it, you feel like a fish in water. “I was wired to do this.”
Then the third is—imagine you had something you love to do and you’re passionate about, that you’re genetically encoded for, and on top of that, you can make a living at it. That is your personal Hedgehog.
The big mistake I see with young people is that they start with the economic circle. The real path is to start with what you’re passionate about, refine it by what you’re genetically encoded for, and be very realistic about the realities of life, of having to make a living, and look for all three. The only challenge I give you is don’t in the end compromise. Don’t settle for only two circles.
Copyright © 2017 Jim Collins, All rights reserved.