“Good to Great” Quotes

I recently finished “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins and while it’s not directly related to being a comedian or working in the entertainment industry, I think a lot of the findings are very applicable anyway. As always, if you enjoy the quotes, please buy and read the full book.

“Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” (1)

“The Stockdale Paradox: You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” (13)

“The Hedgehog Concept: To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. Just because something is your core business – just because you’ve been doing it for years or perhaps even decades – does not necessarily mean you can be the best in the world at it. And if you cannot be the best in the world at your core business, then your core business absolutely cannot form the basis of a great company.” (13)

“No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment.” (14)\

“The best students are those who never quite believe their professors.” (16)

“I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.” – Darwin Smith, CEO of Kimberly-Clark (20)

“The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.” (42)

“IF you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” (42)

“The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake.” (56)

“The good-to-great companies made a habit of putting their best people on their best opportunities, not their biggest problems.” (59)

“Managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great.” (59)

“No matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life.” (62)

“The moment a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse.” (72)

“Expending energy trying to motivate people is largely a waste of time… if you have the right people on the bus, they will be self-motivated.” (74)

“All good-to-great companies attained a very simple concept that they used as a frame of reference for all their decisions.” (95)

“Consider what you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at).” (95)

“You can be passionate all you want, but if you can’t be the best at it or it doesn’t make economic sense, then you might have a lot of fun, but you won’t produce great results.” (97)

“You can’t manufacture passion or “motivate” people to feel passionate. You can only discover what ignites your passion and the passions of those around you.” (109)

“You might wonder about what type of person gets all jazzed up about making a bank as efficient as McDonald’s, or who considers a diaper charismatic. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that they felt passionate about what they were doing and the passion was deep and genuine.” (110)

“It took Einstein ten years of groping through the fog to get the theory of special relativity, and he was a bright guy.” (114)

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline – a problem that largely goes way if you have the right people in the first place.” (121)

“Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turns drives away the right people on the bus, which then increases the percentage of wrong people on the bus, which increase the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the right people away, and so forth.” (121)

“Good to great” lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then to seek continual improvement from there.” (128)

“Your status and authority in Nucor come from your leadership capabilities, not your position.” (138)

““Stop doing” lists are more important than “to do” lists.” (143)

“When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” (152)

“You cannot make good use of technology until you know which technologies are relevant.” (153)

“Mediocrity results first and foremost from management failure, not technological failure.” (156)

“Technology cannot turn a good enterprise into a great one, nor by itself prevent disaster.” (158)

“Those who built the good-to-great companies weren’t motivated by fear. They weren’t driven by fear of what they didn’t understand. They weren’t drive by fear of looking like a chump. They weren’t driven by fear of watching others hit it big while they didn’t. they weren’t driven by the fear of being hammered by the competition. No, those who turn good into great are motivated by a deep creative urge and a n inner compulsion for sheer unadulterated excellence for its own sake. Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity, in contrast, are motivated more by the fear of being left behind.” (160)

“Lasting transformations from good to great follow a general pattern of buildup followed by breakthrough.” (172)

“In a truly great company, profits and cash flow become like blood and water to a healthy body: They are absolutely essential for life, but they are not the very point of life.” (194)

“Core values are essential for enduring greatness, but it doesn’t seem to matter what those core values are.” (195)

“It is much easier to become great than to remain great.” (204)

“The point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.” (205)

“Those who strive to turn good into great find the process no more painful or exhausting than those who settle for just letting things wallow along in mind-numbing mediocrity. Yes, turning good into great takes energy, but the building of momentum adds more energy back into the pool than it takes out. Conversely, perpetuating mediocrity is an inherently depressing process and drains much more energy out of the pool than it puts back in.” (208)

“if you’re doing something you care that much about, and you believe in its purpose deeply enough, then it is impossible to imagine not trying to make it great. It’s just a given.” (208)

“You don’t need to have some grand existential reason for why you love what you’re doing or to care deeply about your work (although yo might). All that matters is that you do love it and that you do care.” (209)

“The real question is no, “Why greatness?” but “What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness?” If you have to ask the question, “Why should we try to make it great? Isn’t success enough?” then you’re probably engaged in the wrong line of work.” (209)

“In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. and it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” (210)

“The single biggest danger in business and life, other than outright failure, is to be successful without being resolutely clear about why you are successful in the first place.” –Robert Burgelman, Stanford Professor (213)

“Fair or not, people – especially in the United States – can forgive a lot of sins, but will never forget or forgive feeling lied to.” (215)

“It is not the content of a company’s values that correlates with performance, but the strength of conviction with which it holds those values, whatever they might be.” (215)

“Widen your definition of “right people” to focus more on the character attributes of the person and less on specialized knowledge. People can learn skills and acquire knowledge, but they cannot learn the essential character traits that make them right for your organization.” (216)

”Take advantage of difficult economic times to hire great people, even if you don’t have a specific job in mind.” (217)

As always, if you enjoy the quotes, please buy and read the full book.

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