I love everything Malcolm Gladwell writes, or in this case, talks about. The below article covers a discussion between Gladwell and Lance Armstrong that captures a great message for all of us on the journey to be successful.
When talking to Armstrong, Gladwell points out: “The job of running a complex organization or starting a business is all about four or five different things that have nothing in common.” And to further this idea — “Pay too much attention to any one aspect of your job and other aspects suffer.”
Which brings me to the point of today’s LIFEies: We need to follow Fantastic Life Rule #8 and Play Where You Can Win. Successful people know that it isn’t about being the best in one thing, but learning to be good at many things.
Part of that lesson, as I have found out over the last few years, involves giving yourself grace. Grace to be great at some things and just ok at others. Life gets infinitely easier when you know yourself and can give yourself grace.
Rule #4 from my book The Fantastic Life: Play Where You Can Win
Playing where you can win doesn’t mean shying away from things you aren’t good at. It’s not about specializing, it’s about identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and learning how to use them to be good in multiple areas.
Malcolm Gladwell on the Single Biggest Problem Every Successful Person Faces
On Lance Armstrong’s “The Forward” podcast, Gladwell hits on a simple yet profound truth — and a universal conflict that never goes away.
By: Jeff Haden
Malcolm Gladwell has a way of putting something into words, something that you had never really thought about and definitely never articulated yourself — but once you hear it, deep inside realize you’ve always known… and instantly recognize as true.
Here’s a great example. On Lance Armstrong’s The Forward podcast (I recently wrote about Lance and what is next for him), Lance and Malcolm were talking about triathlons, and how difficult it is to perform at an extremely high level at three very different — and physically conflicting — pursuits.
Gladwell immediately made the connection between triathletes (and decathletes) and entrepreneurs:
“If you’re the CEO of a company, or an entrepreneur starting a company, you cannot optimize for any one attribute. The minute you do that, you compromise your ability to perform at a high level in another area…”
“The job of running a complex organization or starting a business is all about four or five different things that have nothing in common. So being a good manager, and optimizing the performance of any aspect of your company, is often at odds… being a good manager means saying to your employees, ‘You do it. You take responsibility,’ even though, by definition, they’re not as good at it as you are.
“My editor at the New Yorker magazine, David Remnick, is a better writer than 95% of the people who work for him. He’s constantly in this portion of having to accept articles that are not as good as the ones he would write himself. If he were to be completely honest and say, ‘I can’t accept this,’ he wouldn’t have a magazine.
“That’s the triathlon problem. At a certain point I have to say, ‘I can’t optimize for being an amazing runner because I have to worry about swimming or cycling.'”
That’s the same problem you face every day. Pay too much attention to any one aspect of your job and other aspects suffer. Work too hard on one area of your business and other areas suffer.
That’s why being an entrepreneur is so hard… and why being a successful entrepreneur is so rewarding. That’s why being incredibly successful at anything is so hard.
So take a second and congratulate yourself — because every day you manage to pull off the nearly impossible.