Jim Collins is a well-known business advisor and author, whom I recently heard speak at a conference. Many of Collins’ books (Great by Choice, Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall), as well as this particular talk, focus on greatness. Most of us are good people. We are good employees. We run good businesses. How do we go from good to great?
Collins shared the story of the great race to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott in 1911. Both explorers and their teams set out from Antarctica toward the South Pole. They raced on the same soil, same weather conditions, and same race terms, but only one team won. In the case of this race, falling short of greatness meant death. Robert Scott and his team didn’t only lose the race, they all died; 11 miles shy of the final supply depot on their return from the South Pole. Jim Collins says, “The only mistakes you learn from are the ones you survive.”
Amundsen’s win and survival can be attributed to two things: steadfast discipline and meticulous preparation. Amundsen was a fanatic about training and meeting his mile goals during the race, despite the weather. He focused on a 20 mile goal every day. Not more, not less. He was steadfast. This great discipline resulted in him beating Scott’s team to the South pole by 35 days. Amundsen was also obsessively prepared. He went to live with Eskimos to learn how to prepare for the weather conditions. He also put a 10 mile target around each supply depot, rather than a flag, which is all Scott’s team used. He tripled his estimate of supply needs. No detail was overlooked—he was meticulously prepared.
“I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.” –The South Pole, Roald Amundsen.
What preparation and discipline do you need in your life to make you great? Do you or your company need to focus on a 20 mile march as the holidays approach? Do you need to go live with the Eskimos? Who can teach you, guide you, mentor you to greatness?
Most of us are good, but it takes preparation and discipline to become great.
Posted: 10/31/2011 4:23:21 PM
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