Finding the best in us is important, and I recently read a thought-provoking article related to it entitled Hitting High Notes by Joel Spolsky. There is a lot of wisdom in it to help us find our best place.
While the article mainly talks about the programming world, the principles in it are applicable to other fields as well. Here is what Joel wrote:
The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce.
Five Antonio Salieris won’t produce Mozart’s Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years.
The mediocre talent just never hits the high notes that the top talent hits all the time. The number of divas who can hit the f6 in Mozart’s Queen of the Night is vanishingly small, and you just can’t perform The Queen of the Night without that famous f6.
I completely agree with it, and, in my opinion, there are two key lessons we can take:
1. There are fields where you won’t achieve breakthroughs no matter how hard you try.
This could be bad news for you, especially if you had worked hard with few results for years. But realizing this now is better than spending more years doing the wrong thing.
And here is the good news:
2. There is at least one field where you can make it.
You are unique, so there must be something you can do better than anyone else. I’m sure about that.
The key is to find where you can hit the high notes.
Without finding it, you will only spend year after year in mediocrity. Perhaps you can be good, but you definitely won’t be great. Only by finding your place can you do something remarkable that will make a difference.
There is a problem though: many people are already satisfied with where they are, and they have no desire to find their place of ultimate achievement. In my opinion, there is one clear reason why that happens:
Good is the biggest enemy of best
The biggest enemy of best is not bad and worst. Bad and worst are obviously negative and people avoid them. But good doesn’t look bad. Good, of course, looks good, and that’s why so many people choose it. They forget that somewhere out there best is still waiting to be found.
All these make me look at my life and how I do things. To be honest, I choose good far too often instead of best. Thankfully, Joel’s article reminds me to find the place where I can hit the high notes.
While I can’t say that I’ve been there, there are some lessons I learn about it. Here are four essential tips I learn to find our best place and build upon it:
1. Discover your strengths
First of all, you should discover the things you can be very good at. Marcus Buckingham in the book Now, Discover Your Strengths wrote that a strength is consistent near perfect performance in an activity. By discovering your strengths, you will have a strong foundation to build upon. You can read more about it in my article 12 Essential Lessons to Maximize Your Personal Strengths.
2. Find your unique value proposition
You should find what unique value you can give to the world. Usually it means that you should find a unique combination of the things you are good at. While a strength in itself may not make you unique, combining them with your other strengths and passions could give you something unique that nobody else can offer. Discovering your unique value proposition will take time, but it’s certainly worth it. You can read more about it in my article Career Tips: How to Find Your (Potential) Unique Value Proposition.
3. Hone your value proposition
After finding the unique value you can offer, you should hone your competence in that area. You should improve your ability so that you can provide better and better value. It takes hard practice to develop your competence until you can reach the expert level. The article How to Have an Expert Mind could be helpful here.
4. Outsource the rest
Focus is essential for success. So, when you’ve found the things you can be very good at, you should outsource the other things. Let someone else who are better than you in those areas do them. This way you can devote more time and energy in what you do best.
I definitely want to find where I can hit the high notes and I hope you do too.
Photo by Lorri37