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Greatness.

Greatness is everywhere if we care to look and find people to admire.

These people are not just the powerful and famous.

They can be teachers, nurses, craftspeople, social workers, and story tellers.

Observing and reading about greatness reveals a common pattern.

1. The great have been forged in a furnace of challenges and formed in a foundry of experiences.

2. Their challenge, and experiences have led many to some foundational beliefs, core fundamentals they leverage and first principles they turn to.

3. They have an ability to combine great focus with flexibility in ways that make them a force.

Forged and formed in the furnace of time and experiences.

Even if one is lucky to born with prodigious skills it takes time to hone one’s expertise where it can have a powerful impact.

Only with the feedback and continuous iteration that comes with experiences does one learn to connect dots, see patterns, and identify processes that work.

Malcolm Gladwell proposed that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to build expertise.

Many people who are seen as “overnight successes” have spent thousands of nights learning.

Time is its own unique furnace but so are moments of acute challenge.

Recently many leaders whether they be CEO’s, schoolteachers or nurses were forced into the furnace of Covid-19 and its challenges. Many rose to the occasion and in midst of this great distress their greatness was formed.

Most recently millions of Ukrainians and their leader have revealed their greatness.

Under pressure people who you thought might be coal turn into a diamond.

The pressure twists and transforms them into new shapes.

The furnace of challenges and the foundry of experiences is what sculpts and chisels greatness.

Foundational Beliefs. Fundamentals. First Principles.

Great practitioners often have a framework of some fundamental and foundational beliefs and first principals.

A way of doing or filtering, a check list, a smell test, a feeling of prescience or a sixth sense.

Some things that they have come to believe as absolutes, such as a belief reality must be faced, facts are stubborn things, and one cannot look away from the data.

There may be first principals on how to deal with and inspire people or how to problem solve or best ways to integrate different companies and cultures.

There is a “way” or “ways” that they use to frame and filter what they see.

This fundamental understanding allows them to see patterns that many others cannot just like great chess players can sense an underlying design to the game or great investigators combine what seems to be disparate dots to identify patterns.

Focus and Flexibility combining to create a Force.

If you see Monet’s water lilies or listen to Beethoven’s Late Quartets, you will find utter simplicity and focus on some key elements fused with a flexibility of craft and style that combine to have an impact and force.

The best in a field can speak and explain with simplicity by focusing on what matters and leaving out the rest while customizing (flexibility) the communication to ensure the outcome.

The best nurses or doctors know exactly what to focus on when treating a patient but they are flexible in how they apply their craft to ensure the best medical result.

It is an odd combination of The Mandalorian, Lawrence of Arabia and Yoda.

The focus is on recognizing there “is a way”, the flexibility is in understanding that when applying this to a situation “nothing is written” and by combining these two the “force is with them”

Learning from the great and unleashing our own greatness.

Look around and most people you see are great at something or the other. We all have superpowers and instead of focusing on our weaknesses we may want to hone in on our strengths and celebrate and leverage the strength of others.

First, we must realize that time, experience, and circumstances are necessary to get to a level of greatness. It cannot be hurried or willed into being. Seasoning matters.

Second, we should interrogate ourselves to better understand what fundamental skills, foundational beliefs and first principals drive us.  Better understanding these allow us to confirm their validity and if so leverage them. We should ask those that we admire what they leverage and filter to make decisions.rage them. We should ask those around us that we admire what do they leverage to make and filter decisions.

Third, we should both watch and learn from ourselves and others to hone our ability on how to keeping our eye on what matters and learn that less is often more.  

Finally, be open to new data that allows us to flex and iterate our way to remain relevant.

Next time observe those around you and yourself.

The potential for greatness is everywhere.

Find something, somebody, or some ways to admire.

Photography by Antony Spencer.

Rishad Tobaccowala is an author, speaker, educator and advisor.

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