Don't Be a Goose
In a Chaucer fable, a grazing goose found herself annoyed by a horse who was eating nearby. In hissing accents, the goose addressed the horse: “I am certainly a more noble and perfect creature than you, for the whole range and extent of your abilities is confined to one element. I can walk upon the ground as you do; I have besides, wings, with which I can raise myself in the air; and when I please, I can sport on ponds and lakes, and refresh myself in the cool waters. I enjoy the different powers of a bird, a fish, and a horse.”
The horse, with seasoned wisdom, replied: “It is true you inhabit three elements, but you make no very distinguishing figure in any one of them. You fly indeed; but your flight is so heavy and clumsy, that you have no right to put yourself on a level with the lark or the swallow. You can swim on the surface of the waters, but you cannot live in them as fishes do; you cannot find your food in that element, nor glide smoothly along the bottom of the waves. And when you walk, or rather waddle, upon the ground, with your broad feet and your long neck stretched out, hissing at everyone who passes by, you bring upon yourself the derision of all beholders. I confess that I am only formed to move upon the ground; but how graceful is my make! How great my strength! How astonishing my speed! I had much rather be confined to one element, and be admired in that, than be a goose in all!” (Adaptation from Fables from Boccaccio and Chaucer)
How sad that we often diminish our best gifts by struggling valiantly to develop in someone else’s area of ability. It is better to focus on your unique skills and do them with excellence than to end up performing at a mediocre level in several areas. Use this rule of thumb for organizing your work strategy:
- Work where you are the strongest 80 percent of the time.
- Work where you are learning 15 percent of the time.
- Work where you are weak 5 percent of the time.
I frequently tell people that there are twenty to twenty-five components of my business. I probably do a pretty good job at two or three of those. As for the rest, I allow people who are much more competent than I am to perform with excellence in their areas. I am a novice when it comes to Internet details, yet we use cutting-edge technology to drive the success of our e-commerce. I hate the details of accounting and financial management, so I’ve engaged an accountant to handle those areas efficiently and create simple reports I can understand.
If you focus on your strengths and become better, you can become excellent at a couple things. If you focus on your weaknesses you will likely never be more than mediocre at those.
What are two or three areas in which you excel? How could you change your current circumstances to spend more of your time focusing on those areas?