What is the meaning of life? I guess that is very deep for a blog article huh? However, that is a question many of us ask very often. We try to find motivation and inspiration to do anything from tiny tasks to big life-changing decisions. Having said that, I am not going to try and tell you that I have the answer to this, or even how to find the answer. However, we can try our best, but unfortunately, we probably won’t be more unique than a few hundreds of other people in the same generation.
Nonetheless, I am here to provide hope. Hope that even though we won’t ever be unique, we can still embark on a journey that is full of fulfillment. That is, working towards becoming a better version of ourselves. You might ask, why do so? Why go to the effort of improving myself if, in the end, it won’t really affect the final outcome? Well, it might not affect the final result, but it will make the journey a whole lot better.
As human beings, we have a tendency of looking at the reward in everything we do. This is probably due to dopamine releases when we finish tasks. If I finish this, I take a break or if I eat well for a week I’ll have a cheat day. As an entrepreneur trying different projects often, I have learned that most of the time, the real exciting part is not the result but the process. Wouldn’t life be much better if we enjoyed the journeys rather than the outcomes?
Honestly, this path of improving myself is what lead me to my best opportunities and experiences. This constant improvement is what makes me feel smarter every day than the day before and also what pushes me out of my comfort zone. And let me tell you, it is when we get out of our comfort zones when the wheels start turning and good things start happening. Furthermore, it also helps me become a better person, I learn from mistakes I make, I try not to do them again and I work on fixing my flaws.
This path, this improvement, I reasoned, is what will help me gather knowledge and eventually give my contribution to society. Big or small, at the end of the journey, I can sit down and tell my grandchildren about oh how many things there are to learn, explore and experience.
What does creating better versions involve
In software, when we refactor code we take the junk out, restructure functions, remove extra responsibilities and substitute other things in. How do we do the same to ourselves?
The basic ways to improve are:
- Reading non-stop
- Trying things out manually - it is good to read on how to do something, but take a risk and do it, it is the only way you can concretize what you’ve learned.
- Learn from every experience you’re presented with. If it is something at work, a chat with a friend, or an argument with your partner. Reflect and learn.
- Spend some time per week on an activity that gets your creativeness flowing such as playing an instrument or painting.
- And the obvious ones which are eat well and do some sort of exercise throughout the week.
In this article, I won’t go much deeper into the points above. There are many different blog points on how we can improve ourselves. What I will go into is how to take this put it in a system that enables you to keep moving forward in one direction. Thus, gathering momentum, staying motivated, and keep getting better. This system is inspired by Jim Collins' Good to Great where he goes into the Hedgehog Concept and the Flywheel Effect. Jim and his team discuss how these concepts, when followed religiously, can enable a business or an organization achieve great results in whatever industry they are in. My proposal is to follow such concepts even in our daily lives.
The Hedgehog Concept
Jim Collins and his team discuss how the companies that made a leap from good to great all were in some way or another, hedgehogs. The hedgehog is a synonym meaning how these companies pick a direction and move slowly but effectively towards that direction rather than changing direction frantically like a fox. Essentially, this concept is made up of three circles as shown below, each of the circles answering a very vital question as shown in the diagram below:
Hedgehog Concept - Jim Colins: https://www.jimcollins.com/concepts/the-hedgehog-concept.html
The idea is that a company (or in my case a person) is a hedgehog if they understand these questions well and operate with these in mind. It takes guts to say that you cannot be the best at something, it takes guts to show your weaker side. However, that is where true strength lies, the point where you understand what you can or cannot be.
Personally, we have to take a similar approach. We have to understand what we are deeply passionate about, what we can be the best in the world at, and what drives cash flow or whatever other driver we classify as an economic engine.
In my case:
- I am deeply passionate about startups. I love building products that I believe will make a positive impact in building lives. Furthermore, I enjoy being involved in the process from end to end.
- I do believe I can be the best at tech strategy. How to develop the product, what new features we can add that leverage machine learning, and how to put it out there.
- My economic engine is related to how much I improve peoples' lives. Therefore, the main driver for the economic engine is the number of positively affected people per idea generated.
If you notice the concepts chosen above are general and can be applied both in a company I work in and projects I start to work on. Obviously, the Hedgehog Concept is personal and every person would have their own. Putting the three points together results in the following diagram:
The Flywheel Effect
The second tool presented by Jim Collins which I applied to my journey is the Flywheel Effect. Here, it is explained how if we have a large flywheel, at first it is heavy to turn, but as we gather momentum, it gets easier and easier for the flywheel to go ever faster. Jim Collins and his team explain how if you have a properly set up flywheel, the slow-starting progress will compound and eventually help your organization increase the likelihood of transforming mediocre results into great results. Essentially this flywheel is a group of four to six tasks that are aligned to the Hedgehog Concept. Many well-known companies use the flywheel. For example, both Amazon and Intel have their own flywheel which was developed to help executives and employees direct their attention and efforts alike.
In the personal case, we also need to build this up based on the Hedgehog Concept. In my case I built it around building knowledge, and generating and attempting ideas. This enables me to learn, get out of my comfort zone and drive value to people. A diagram of this is shown below.
Obviously, keep in mind that this flywheel is not something static. As we improve as people, and as we develop this flywheel can adapt to that. However, keep in mind that to maintain momentum, the changes applied to the flywheel cannot mean a complete metamorphosis into something else. The changes still need to be somewhat related to the previous flywheel. A complete change of the flywheel tasks would mean we’d need to halt progress to change direction.
In this article, I discuss how I believe that improving ourselves is not only important to be fulfilled as a person but to also give our contribution to society. I have presented my way of continuously and acting in a particular direction so as to make steady and effective progress. I hope this has been insightful and I am excited to hearing positive stories from you people.
 Good to Great by Jim Colins
 Turning the Flywheel by Jim Colins