• Jane Wheeler

Hedgehogs & The Art of Life


Hedgehogs can have a bad rap, they are cute to look at but prickly on the outside. Does that not remind you of a couple of people you know? Hurt or injured people can be like this, cute to look at but prickly on the outside.

I was able to spot a couple of these people back in the school library. Children are fairly easy to spot in the “hedgehog” phase; as people get older, it becomes not so cute to mimic this lifestyle. Yet if the original hurt is never dealt with, talked about or forgiven the Hedgehog pattern never goes away.

As adults we usually give these kind of people the space they have come to know, because we do not want to fight with their prickles. It is a very lonely existence just like true hedgehogs who also live a solitary life.

This behavior is one of life’s survival tactics for people who have been hurt, they make a vow: you probably will not love me anyways (or will leave me anyways), so I am not going to let you get close. The characteristic of these people is that they desperately want to be loved, they just have a strange way of going about it. They pull you in because they want love, then all of the sudden they are “prickly” and stab at you, almost pushing you away.

To spectators, we see them almost wrap themselves up into a little ball, with only the prickly spines showing, not letting the world in. It takes a lot of time and energy to get a hedgehog to trust you enough to unroll from his protective ball to greet you or let you pet him.

One of the managerial books I read years ago was a book by author Jim Collins, his book, “Good to Great”[1] it revealed a concept that transformed my way of looking at a number of things. The book describes how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how most companies fail to make the transition.

For me this book changed:

  1. My career

  2. My life

  3. My strengths

  4. My weaknesses

  5. My employees

  6. My goals

That concept was called the Hedgehog Concept.

Jim Collins explains why it is called the Hedgehog Concept but here is my take: this principle is a “positioning” principle. If they 3 circles are hedgehogs with the spines sticking out and they come together, their spines, quills will inter-mesh and be even stronger together. If we have not taken the time to look at our life, often our strengths can fight against each other within us.

Essentially, all the concept does is ask 3 questions:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?

  2. What can you be the best in the world at?

  3. What drives your resource engine?

What are you deeply passionate about? For me this was a slam dunk. I remember having a job interview and they asked me this question. My answer was: teaching the Bible. They rephrased the question and asked me to think instead of it in a business sort of way, not personal. So I answered, “Teaching the Bible.” We basically circled the question three times and my answer was always the same. Passion is the substance that makes your work/life fun. If you are passionate it is not a chore, you love doing it.

What can you be the best in the world at? This takes a lot of thought because being the best at something may not even be what I or you are currently doing. It makes sense that once you realize what you are the best in, you totally get what you are not the best in. For me, while teaching the Bible was my passion, it was not what I could be the best in the world at, there are way too many teachers better than me. So I had to pray, think and figure out what this could mean for me. I came up with my life mission statement: to grow more like Jesus every day and to teach and help others to be more like Jesus every day. If I strived to do this, I could become best in the world at it, of course not by my own power, but by Gods. My job was to get to know Jesus intimately and stay close.

What drives my resource engine? Basically this means, what pays me money, where does the money come from. I have had to work to survive so my resource engine was; my job.

If I combine these 3 circles and lay them over top of each other, so they intersect – that middle ground where all 3 meet is the sweet spot. That is how companies and/or people can go from good to great.

So for me what it meant was finding a job where I could teach others the Bible, help them grow more like Jesus every day and earn a living at it. How about a Christian writer?

Personally and as a business leader, I have had to sit down and brain storm with others these three questions to see if we were headed towards good or great. You will not excel if you settle for good, almost anyone can do “good.” Few make it to the “greats”.

This concept is like shining a magnifying glass onto your life, job or company, as the bright sunlight shines through the glass, the light intensifies into one little area and holding that glass on the same spot, you can watch it as it starts to smoke and then that spot catches on fire. Bullseye!

That is the same with the Hedgehog Concept - study to find your sweet spot and then shine the light on it and watch the smoke start to roll and pretty soon the you will catch the fire of revival and purpose.

Does it matter where you are in life to do this? Not really.

Example: Take a retired person. What are they deeply passionate about? Their grand kids. What can they be the best in the world at? Being a grandparent to those kids.

Where does the resources come from? Investments, pensions, a part time job.

When you are working for something you love, well it just does not get much better.

As Jim describes it for businesses: “To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. It requires the discipline to say, “Just because we are good at it—just because we’re making money and generating growth—doesn’t necessarily mean we can become the best at it.” The good-to-great companies understood that doing what you are good at will only make you good; focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness.”

So my friends, ask yourself these 3 little questions, ask others around you to see if they agree with your answers. Plan, plot and discover for yourself or your business – just what you can be the best in the world at.

It might just surprise you.

1 Good to Great, Jim C. Collins, 2001, William Collins

#TheHedgehogConcept #Hedgehogs #PersonalGoals #BusinessGoals

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