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How to become great...

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Do something so hard you become great in the process:

Become great by making a comment.

What makes a comment great? Some comments are born great, and some have greatness thrust on them. And then there's the Ron Swanson pyramid of greatness.

When all else fails, be excellent.

And remember: do NOT make excuses.

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene V

"Realize you are in a world of puppies giggling. Notice the baby pandas tickling each other until they sneeze." -

In other words: humor!

There's nothing better than a comment with baby pandas tickling each other, Jessie!

Surround yourself with great. It rubs off!

Don't stop surrounding yourself until you are ensconced in greatness!!

I don't get to use the word ensconced as much as I'd like.

"Greatness doesn't take two months, or even a year. It takes years of focused practice to achieve even an ounce of it."

I love rasberry enscones with with tea.

Raspberry is a great flavor, but I'm not convinced it is the flavor of greatness.

I mean, it's not even on the Swanon Pyramid of Greatness:

I don't know what an enscone is but I do love scones (pumpkin please)

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” - Aristotle

Stephan apparently that quote is from Will Durant, not Aristotle.

I also like the line from Ralph Marston, Excellence is not a skill but an attitude.

Good is the enemy of great.

"Good artists copy. Great artists steal."

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person." -- Albert Einstein

I shared this on my Facebook wall, too.

Christina sent me this Malcolm Gladwell piece on late bloomers:

"On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure."

Another study of the same subject is Joan Acocella's lovely essay collection _Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints_ . She comes to much the same conclusion as Gladwell by less scientistic means, that the ability to grind away at the same big questions and small details for years is what distinguishes many of the greatest artists.

Gladwell also constantly refers to the 10,000 hour rule which I think is also an interesting angle.

The 10,000 hour rule is definitely an interesting angle.

In a previous convo, Eric pointed out

If you spend the 10,000 hours it's theorized you need to become an expert at something, you're most likely going to be lacking in other areas -- or you're going to be really old. On the other hand, and this is relevant to your point and to the athletic analogy, some skills are transferable, like leadership.

The rest of that convo is here:

How specific does the 10,000 hour thing have to be, do you think? Like is it enough to have worked in startups for that long, or do you have to be thinking about a specific unsolved problem for that long?

I created an entire 10,000 Hours stash to answer that question.

The short answer to your question is that those hours need to be focused and deliberate but they don't have to be too specific as long as they are immersed in domain knowledge.

"You do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. (Sorry, Warren Buffett.) You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful."

I found myself wanting to pipe this individual comment to Twitter.

Here's an image!




Sorry, forgot which account I was!

No problem at all, and I concur with the desire to send this comment to my LinkedIn and Tumblr ...

Also it is going o be so cool when you can manage a dozen different personas!

Adam, I love this quote! It is similar to a conversation we had on Thursday. I was telling you that I don't know if I believe in the concept of someone being born "intelligent." Sure, someone may be born with wonderful potential, but unless they put in tremendous hard work, they will never reach their full potential to be awesomely intelligent. Persistence pays.

Agreed, though it's worth reading this Convo to understand how we can be influenced into doing things:

I'm still learning where human motivation comes from.

"I wanted to do something so hard that nobody could ever fuck with me." - Nathaniel Fick, a US Marine who left Dartmouth in his junior year and volunteered for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan

He sounds fascinating, actually.

I really liked that one! I'm of the opinion that you can think yourself to's the logical follow-up to Descarte's "I think therefore I am"

I think therefore I am... a thinker.

On second thought, I think not.

uh oh, that's a common problem with logic, it's only ever as logical as the person applying it...

How about: I drink therefore I am ... ?

I can totally get on board with that, and the video just made my Thursday :)

Can I use +1 ironically in response to you, to affirm that my making your Thursday just made my Thursday?

Of course you can! It makes sense to me :)

+1 !!! :)

I drink therefore I tinkle.

That's a great way to think of cause and effect.

Technically, you don't drink beer. You borrow it.

It's not so great that this Convo keeps getting buried. I'm going to need permalinks soon...


"It's not what you take but what you leave behind that defines greatness." ~Edward Gardner

Is this post about doing something great? Seems like it's more about getting off the couch and doing a few pushups. Going from "sucky" to "baseline" isn't exactly the same as doing something so hard you become great.

It's a Zen habit. Baseline is on the path to greatness if your life is currently "sucky"...

Good Article Panda!

Thanks Rhiannon!

This comment has been deleted by the author.

-Downloadable PDF of the original "10,000hrs" study:

-Jonah Lehrer's piece on the scientific basis for the power of perseverance, known as "grit"

-Daniel Pink says we are happiest and most motivated in our work when we have the opportunity for mastery:

-One of our happiest states is "flow", where we find the right balance between competency and challenge:

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. But what is the root of motivation? The desire for happiness?

Thank you for all of these articles, Eric.

I still find that the number one way to become great is to WANT to become great.

From there, the journey begins.

More on the importance of hard work and persistence from OUTLIERS writer Malcolm Gladwell:

Thanks Eric. The following paragraph resonated with me.

But most importantly, the young Mozart’s prowess can be chalked up to practice, practice, practice. Compelled to practice three hours a day from age three on, by age six the young Wolfgang had logged an astonishing 3,500 hours — “three times more than anybody else in his peer group. No wonder they thought he was a genius.” So Mozart’s famous precociousness as a musician was not innate musical ability but rather his ability to work hard, and circumstances (i.e., his father) that pushed him to do so.

I'm still curious where MOTIVATION to do hard work and keep practicing comes from. Is it a combination of internal and external?

For me, and others I've observed, it seems to come from the ability to see progress. Kung Fu (Wu Shu really) teachers in China don't push kids to stretch and jump and practice their forms because they want them to be great warriors or martial artists today. They want the kids to be able to realize and recognize progress toward greater mastery on their own. This turns into a positive feedback loop that carries one through the plateaus of progress that are inevitable in any difficult task. If they had never been pushed early, when progress was almost non-existant, they'd never know to push through those long stretches with little progress later.

I think that image on the FLOW Wikipedia page gives us a clue of where motivation might come from:

When we find that balance between skill and challenge we get hooked. I want to say that initial interest is key but as we see with games (and game-ification) very simple systems can produce a powerful response. Also, Cal Newport takes the attitude that we're generally not as driven by what we like as by what we're good at. Being good at something produces liking. Then you get into flow again. More here:

Being good at something produces liking, NOT the other way around. Wow.

I may need to revise my be excellent post to reflect that. Thanks Eric!

Another way to look at the path to greatness: It's not about starting something, it's about finishing it. Even if the first version is crap, you will learn so much from the final mile of development. That determination to see things through, the creativity and inventiveness to get past the biggest hurdles, applying that to the next major challenge, is what I see as the differentiation between good and great. More here:

Good article, Sandy. Ship early, ship often.

On the other hand, with great software there is no finish line.

Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter continue to evolve. They're never done.

Great advice. Where's the tweet this button?

Coming soon. We have much to build. :)

look outside yourself, someone out there needs your help :-)

Bill, I'm looking deeper.

#startuptriplet: Build something AWESOME.

And now I have a #startuptriplets stash:

this is fun!

I think so, too.

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