“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” – Russian Proverb
Playing the galactically obvious “card” and intentionally being “that guy,” if one endeavors to chase three or four rabbits, instead of two, the results will be equally dismal. Makes total sense, does it not? A first grader fundamentally understands the futility of such an endeavor, but we continually disregard the logic in our professional and personal endeavors and then wonder why we cannot reach any reasonable aspirations beyond average. If the proverb’s intent is unclear, rabbits do not like to be caught, and they certainly will not be if one refuses to make a decision and decide on the one they will pursue. Achievement and accomplishment are rarely any different. Achievement and accomplishment get all the attention because we associate worth with a reasonable level of it, but when you really think about it, anything that diverts your attention, forces you or your organization to ultimately shrink and tempers focus and energy.
In the book, “4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals” authors Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling offer a straightforward table that is worth a thousand words (and two-million dollars). The visual correlates the “number of goals” (in addition to all the other things that have to be done in a day) with “Goals Achieved with Excellence” – In short, two to three goals provides two to three goals achieved with excellence. Four to ten goals, one or two goals achieved with excellence. And finally, eleven to twenty goals, ZERO goals achieved with excellence.
Consider this principle at play when the measuring stick is “world-class” or being in the top 1%. If you chase two rabbits, two dreams, two jobs, two hobbies, you cannot expect to be world-class in either. It is very likely why the exhortation from Orison Swett Marden was so incredibly poignant, “Every great man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel.”
We all know Marden’s assertion is intuitively true, but we also know the consequences of focusing on one thing inevitably requires risk. And so as it is with every Olympian, Nobel Prize Winner, CEO, record holder, Heisman winner, or entrepreneur; fully realized potential requires one principal macro-decision. And that decision is how great, or average or sub-par one chooses to be. World-class performance, company profitability, and winning is nothing more than series of consistent choices directed at achieving that end. But again, so is failure. For anyone to blame anything else, such as chance, luck, or natural “this or that,” will comprehensively disqualify them from ever stepping into the ring. If anything else is relied upon, turn in the keys, cash in the chips, the game is over before it even begins.
Luciano Pavarotti, the once in a century tenor that went on to become one of the greatest tenors in history, if not, ever; is a superb example of this concept at play. Most individuals will say Pavarotti was born with world class ability, he was born with it, end of story. Think again, in reflecting on his childhood he writes, “When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song,” tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. “He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teacher’s college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ “‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ “I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book–whatever we choose–we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.” (Guidepost)