Would you consider yourself a fox or a hedgehog?
What’s the difference?
Jim Collins wrote about it in his bestseller Good to Great and it’s based on the famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” written by Isaiah Berlin. In it, he divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
The fox is crafty and resourceful. When he goes hunting for the hedgehog, he tries to think of many different plans–dig into the burrow, lie in ambush and attack when the hedgehog comes out, etc. But he can’t focus on one strategy…he is scattered and chases many trails at once.
The hedgehog knows one thing and can do it well. When the fox comes to eat him, he rolls up in a tight, spiky ball. All the fox gets is a bloody nose, yet he tries again and again, hatching new unusual methods of attack. He just doesn’t learn.
The fox is the person who starts the trendy diet or exercise program, only to quit after three weeks in favor of some new, better plan or fad. In business, the fox is so busy trying to juggle all his ideas and excitement to start something new and promising that he has no time to really understand what he’s doing. In short, the fox is simply treading water.
The foxes of the world rarely succeed. The lion’s share of success and wealth belongs to the hedgehogs–the people who focused on one thing and became a true specialist. They do one thing and do it very well. It’s their Hedgehog Concept.
For example, for quite some time, my Hedgehog Concept has been writing. Between this website, my fitness books, and my other writing projects, I’ve written well over 2 million words. I’ve read dozens of books on writing, ranging from technical instruction to storytelling to copyrighting. I’ve used these skills to sell a lot of books and build this website and my career. Along the way I’ve always looked for new, creative ways to enhance and expand my Hedgehog Concept, but I never let myself get distracted by other trails.
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Hedgehog Concepts are based on three circles…all the same size and all equally important. Think of them as a classic Venn diagram: each intersect and that combined “middle” is where the magic happens.
This circle involves what you can be best at. It’s not a goal, strategy or plan, and it’s not just a “core competency.” It’s the place where you can really shine, and it’s determined by your personality, interests, and purposes.
This is the economic part of the equation. All very successful people I know were very smart with choosing endeavors that can provide a powerful cash flow.
Great success requires passion. This circle contains what ignites your passion. The idea here is not to stimulate passion but to find what really makes you passionate. You have to ask yourself if you’d still come to work if you had all the money you need…if the answer is no, it’s probably not your passion. Like Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Your Hedgehog Concept lies in the intersection of these three circles. If you can live your life in the middle of them, you’ll have it made. You’ll be doing something that you can truly excel in, you’ll be deeply passionate about your work and you’ll be making great money.
It’s no good having two…you want it all! If you’re passionate about your work but make no money, you’re going to be very frustrated. If you’re good at what you do and make lots of money but hate your job, you’ll wind up miserable. If there’s money to be made and you’re passionate about the field, but you’re no good at it, that’s not good either.
Ultimately you’re going to have to figure out what your Hedgehog Concept is, and you’ll know it once you hit it. Don’t settle for anything less because it’s where real happiness and success lies.