For the first time in, umm, well, since I can remember, I completely unplugged for more than one week. It was easier than I thought - especially when you're sitting atop the largest cruise vessel in the world enjoying a Mai Tai, sun, and the smell of salt water.
I had the opportunity to get caught up on some of my reading, including two books I highly recommend: Hugh MacLeod's Evil Plans and Seth Godin's Poke The Box. Here's the moral I left with - Mediocrity Sucks!
What I find interesting is that I've never met an owner or leader of a small or mid-market business whose goal was to build a mediocre company, yet so many SME's are mediocre.
One of my favorite business quotes is "Big will not beat small anymore. It will be fast beating slow." SMEs have a natural speed advantage, yet they rarely take advantage of it. They rely on antiquated ideas like best practice - which mean, at best, you'll be like everybody else. They strive to differentiate, and then pull back because, "that's not how anyone does that in my industry."
We all want to be great. I think we forget that greatness is an outlier. It looks risky from the outside, but it's the safest place you can be.
- Greatness takes effort - and patience, as it doesn't happen over night.
- It takes discipline to stay on a different course, even when you're not sure that the it will all work out.
- It means giving up the pre-existing roadmaps and creating your own.
Mediocrity looks safe, but it's an illusion.
- If everyone else is doing it no one can blame you if it doesn't work.
- No one makes fun of the people who do the same thing as everyone else.
- Pre-existing roadmaps create the feeling of certainty, but it's a pretty good bet that if someone else is already there, you're heading to mediocrity.
It's funny, it feels good when you're pursuing a plan that made someone else successful, but remember the advice Bill Gates gave a group of Harvard students several years ago. They asked what advice he had for young people entering the work world who want to accomplish big things and make a lot of money. He told them, "For god's sake don't do what I've done - I've already made that money."
So be uncomfortable. Do something different. Who knows, it might be great!