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I wrote about the application of the Hedgehog Concept a while back, an idea I borrowed from Jim Collin’s Good to Great. It has become clear to me now that the post was a bit too general to be helpful, so I am going to write more to clarify the points. Briefly, the Hedgehog Concept refers to intersection of the following three circles:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be best at in the world?
  • What drives your economic engine?

This post is going to concentrate on point #1 – discovering your passion.

You know the phrase, “it hit me while I was…”? Ideas don’t float in the air and hit you on your head while you are idling. Similarly, you will not discover your passion by just sitting around. So the first thing to do to discover your passion is to do something…anything! Read a book, do crossword puzzles, talk to people, pick up a new hobby, take a class, learn a new language. At this point, you are at the discovery stage, so any activities that you don’t already do count. And don’t limit yourself — sky is the limit. And while you are doing these activities, ask yourself, “Am I enjoying it?” Then observe if the activities make you happy and want to do more.

After you’ve stumbled upon the activities that seem enjoyable, you need to narrow it down a bit more. My favorite way to narrow the scope of anything I encounter is to ask oneself the following sets of questions:

  • Does it matter with whom I do the activities?
  • How about when and where I do them?
  • Will the “why” and “how” change anything I like about the activities?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you are ready for the next steps: Find people who share your passions — join a group, go to themed parties and gatherings, and if you are adventurous, find them on listings such as Craigslist (just be sure to practice common sense and stay safe). Learn more from these people, and through your conversations, you will discover even more what fuels your passions.

Nothing worth learning comes easy. This exercise, too, is very time consuming. If it makes you feel any better, it took me three years to find my passion. And things didn’t stop there. I am continuously sharpening the focus of my passion even today. Yes, it is hard work, but it’s hard work that pays handsome dividend with the dividend coming in the form of deep joy and lifelong happiness.

So how would you know when you’ve finally found your passion? For one thing, you will have the deepest craving to do it again and again, and you will want to learn more about it. You will find yourself thinking and talking about it with other people, and most importantly, you will find a deep sense of gratification, joy, and felicity.

I am a big connoisseur of how-to and self-help books (and TV, and magazines, etc). It has everything to do with my “Learner” strength and hence my insatiable appetite to always be learning something new. However, there are a handful of books that I reread and reference often, and one of my favorites is the bestseller Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book was written for businesses — specifically on how to turn mediocre companies or even bad ones into great companies that triumph over time. However, I find several concepts within the book equally applicable to personal success. Today I want to share with you one that has made a great impact in the way I think about my life and career; it’s called the Hedgehog Concept.

The term “hedgehog” used in the book is based on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” and actually originated from the Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Very briefly, “foxes” pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity whereas “hedgehogs” simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. The Hedgehog Concept states that anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.

So how does one arrive at and apply the Hedgehog Concept? First, the Hedgehog Concept consists of three circles:

It will probably take you a while to answer those three questions. It took me about three years to really understand myself, so don’t be surprised if it takes you just as long. However, once you have answers to those three questions, then you are ready for the next step — find the intersection of all three circles.

hedgehog-concept.jpgIn order to fully engage in the Hedgehog Concept, set your career and/or life goals and strategies based on the area where the three circles intersect. The beautiful thing is, once you have finally grasped your Concept, it will be as clear and appear as matter-of-fact to you as stating that the sky is blue or the grass is green. As Collins wrote in his book, “When you get your Hedgehog Concept right, it has the quiet ping of truth, like a single, clear, perfectly struck note hanging in movement of a Mozart piano concerto.”

Last but not least, once you found your Hedgehog Concept, go through another round of refinement because getting and applying the Concept is an iterative process. Good luck!

For more information about the Hedgehog Concept, please visit Jim Collin’s website: www.jimcollins.com.