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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.

There’s been a few people and things that have made lasting impacts on me. All of them (except for my family) happen to me by chance. I would like to share one of them with you in this post.

I was introduced to the StrengthsFinder test three years ago while working at a start-up. The CEO came across the StrengthsFinder book that he found interesting and bought a copy for everybody in the office. The premise of the book is that we benefit more from building on our strengths than working on our weaknesses. Included in the book is an online test that determines and calculates your strengths, an explanation on what the strengths mean, and how to use the strengths accordingly.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was the perfect candidate to embrace the book and its philosophy. The reason was my first and strongest strength — I am a learner. Here is the official explanation of the characteristic of a learner: “People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.”

It was as if a dying star all of a sudden came back into life when I read that! Those two sentences totally explain why I have a boisterous drive to read how-to books, watch how-to TV programs, learn obscure theories and concepts….and when I haven’t learn anything new in a while, I become antsy.

All in all, the test gave me my top five strengths (Learner, Ideation, Command, Activator, Strategic), and each were as revealing about my personality and my drive as the other. I was so in awe of this new found knowledge that I began to dig deeper (again, goes hand-in-hand with my Learner theme) to understand how I can best use my strengths in my career and my life. And what a difference it has made.

So if you are stuck in a rut, especially in your career, you may want to look into taking the StrengthsFinder test yourself. At worst, you will be down a few bucks. At best, you too will find great insights into how to jump start/improve your career and enrich your life. And no, I do not benefit from recommending the book. I do it because I want to share the gold mine.

Update: If you are interested in learning how to define your own strengths, please visit my more recent post here.

Two days ago, I wrote about how companies can win when competing for customers. I believe the same principles can be applied to winning in life.

In Your Career – Although not mutually exclusive, there are two ways that people have succeeded in their careers. One way is the “Mac” way, and that is to be likable. The way you become likable is by anticipating and actively fulfilling the needs of your clients. In other words, your focus would be on customer service. Or you can do it the “Microsoft” way, and that is to become indispensable to your company. If you take this route, you can be the world most egotistical jerk and still get away with it because your skill set and/or knowledge is so vital to your company’s success.

In Your Social Circle – There are two ways to go about making friends. You can strive to be a very likable friend by always “being there” for your friends when they need you, or you can choose to specialize in a few skill sets or knowledge that your friends need. Just be aware that if you choose the latter, you may find yourself not having too many friends when they outgrow the needs of what you provide.

In Team Sports – Everybody stresses the fact that there’s no “I” in the word “team”, but how many of us have managed to completely avoid the self-centered narcissist? Again, you can either choose to be a true team player by being flexible and sympathetic towards the team’s needs, or you can become the super specialized player that the team requires in order to win. Again, if you decide to specialize, you run the risk of being replaced by the next super specialized player who is better than you. The threat of replacement is especially high in a social setting because nobody likes to work with jerks.

Do you agree with my observation? Tell me what do you think by leaving your comments!