There are times in a person’s career when they feel stuck. It might not be an urgent problem (yet), but it’s certainly an important one. As we spend so much time at work, this malaise can bleed into all areas of life, dulling feelings of happiness and amplifying stress. It’s not a fun place. One way to get unstuck is to embark on a journey to find a hedgehog.
Jim Collins and Jerry Poras popularized the term Hedgehog. They posited that great companies have everyone working on the one thing that they are exceptionally good at. Good companies can do many things reasonably well, but great companies are best in the world at their one thing. Once a Hedgehog is revealed, great companies ensure that all of their resources are directed toward doing this one remarkable thing. A company’s Hedgehog is the centre of this Venn Diagram:
This concept can be applied to an individual as well. If you know your personal Hedgehog you can apply it to all that you do, delivering your gifts to the world in generous ways. Working within your Hedgehog is what you were built for and is found at the centre of this slightly different Venn Diagram:
Use these three questions to figure our what your personal Hedgehog is:
- What are you wired for? Not what you want to do or even what you’re good at. This is what you’re built for. It comes easily and naturally to you, but not to others. When you practice this thing (that you’re already good at) the improvement you see is greater than that of others putting in the same effort. You don’t need to be the best in the world, but ideally you’re better than others in the niche that you serve. If you’re the best plumber in your town and you get better every time you plumb, you’ve found what you’re wired for. To find what you’re wired for, write down your skills / competencies. Rank them from good to great. Ask other people who know you well what they think you’re best at. Not everything you’re good at, but what is the one thing you’re best at. These insights should get you started.
- What do you love to do? When you’re doing what you love you’re itching to do more. It doesn’t feel like work and it’s not something that needs to be scheduled because you naturally find ways to get that next dopamine hit. This is your passion / purpose in life. The lucky few “just know”. Most of us, however, need to put some serious thought into this one. As a starting point, answer this: If you were given $50 million on the condition that you had to work 30 hours a week, what would you do for work?
- What can you make money at? This question strikes at the heart of value and it’s where many people get tripped up. In a capitalist society, if people aren’t willing to pay for it, it likely isn’t valuable to them. This is a contentious statement, understandably, but the personal Hedgehog must allow you to make a living. The perception of value is raised when you’re able to articulate what problem your Hedgehog solves and find the minimum viable market of people who want that problem solved. The rise of Patreon demonstrates that people can make a living in the most unlikely of ways once they find their tribe.
Imagine if your job (for money) was doing mostly what you love to do (you can’t help it) and what you’re naturally talented at, forever improving just because you’re spending time doing it (which is fun because you love it). The world is waiting for you to figure it out!
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