Transformations From Good to Great | Jim Collins on Below the Line with James Beshara

Check out the Below the Line podcast page

Key Takeaways

  • Discover what you think – enter every creative journey with an open/curious mind, let the experience formulate your lens
  • Greatness can be found in studying the actions of founders before they knew the outcomes of their actions
  • “Never let your ambition and ego cloud what you’re really made for” – Jim Collins
    • Personal Hedgehog = Passion + Economic Engine + Encoding (Self-Actualization)
  • Don’t fall into the curse of the competence doom loop
    • Competence and compensation are often illusions of life/work satisfaction
    • “The four-word prison: what will people think. The difference between a palace and a prison is who owns the key” – James Beshara
  • The most successful companies are not statistically luckier
    • It’s not about luck, it’s about return on luck. It’s what you do with your luck opportunity.
    • Time in life is unequal, your performance in a massively unequal opportunity is the differentiating variable to success
  • “What’s changing in your life?” > “How are you?”
    • This is an invitation to an open conversation – cut out the questions that don’t extend a conversation

Intro

Writing & Creative Advice

  • “If you do your best, it’s going to hurt” – Jim Collins
    • Writing is a lot like running, it doesn’t get easier the further you go
  • Whenever you think you have an idea for a book, refuse to do it
    • If you only have 5 years to live, would you still create the book if it was going to take up 85% of your time? When you answer yes, you know you have a book.
    • Don’t write the book you want to write, write the book you can’t not write
  • The journey of writing always starts with a question
    • Writing a book is usually only the last year of a 5-10 year research journey of answering a question
      • You must maintain a curious mind – if you already know what you want to write, why bother going on the exploratory journey
      • You discover what you think
  • Not all questions are worthy of a book – the most important questions are the ones that stand the test of time with evergreen and durable answers
    • The success of writer is not book sales but how the ideas are perceived and applied in society
    • Wrap your ideas so that people have to unwrap them and own them themselves

Built To Last

  • Jim taught a course at Stanford on entrepreneurship and small business
    • Course Syllabus: How to turn a venture idea into a long lasting business
      • Changes the world that it touches
      • Have troubles envisioning the world without it
      • Create a life’s work
    • Jim didn’t know anything about this, but this is what he wanted for his students
      • Great entrepreneurship is more accurately classified as a philosophy course as opposed to a business course
  • Foundations for research and how to build a great company:
    • Look at history how did founders think about things before they knew the outcome
    • Look at companies with similar product offerings that floated to the top above their competition
  • What is the difference between a visionary company and a successful company?
    • A visionary company produces innovation as its main product, a perpetual innovation machine that creates repeatable success
      • 3M and William McKnight is one of the first true examples of this
    • The difference is in being a time-teller vs a clock builder
  • Having a singular charismatic founder is actually negatively correlated with building a long enduring visionary company
    • “If your company can’t be great without you, it is not a great visionary company. It is merely a company with a visionary leader.” – Jim Collins
  • For more, check out Built to Last by Jim Collins

Personal Excellence: Jim’s Next Big Question

  • Jim has spent the last 30 years answering the question of “what makes great companies tick?”
  • Jim’s next big question: “How are individuals able to remain self-renewed across their entire lives?”
    • Self-Renewal by John Gardner inspired Jim to explore this topic
    • One of the greatest costs to the individual and to society is the failure to self-renew

Personal Hedgehogs and Competence Doom Loops

  • Everyone needs to find their own personal hedgehog
    • Personal Hedgehog = Passion + Economic Engine + Encoding
      • Greatness is hard to define because internal outcomes are much harder to quantify than external outcomes
      • Self-Actualization – Discover what you are encoded for (what you’r are born to do), and go for it
        • If everyone only wanted to be a surgeon if they were the best surgeon, we would only have one surgeon
    • “Never let your ambition and ego cloud what you’re really made for” – Jim Collins
      • What would the world look like if everyone found and trusted their personal hedgehog?
  • Don’t fall into the curse of the competence doom loop
    • We often take a job on a whim and eventually get increasingly good at something we were never meant for in the first place
      • The world tells you that you’re competent and paid well so you must be happy. We often suppress our passions to maintain these statuses.
    • “The four-word prison: what will people think. The difference between a palace and a prison is who owns the key” – James Beshara

How To Ask Great Questions

  • “There is humility in genuine curiosity” – Jim Collins
    • Trying to impress a person with a question is the wrong motive
    • Child-like curiosity should not be embarrassing, never be ashamed of not knowing something
    • It’s ok to let go of the questions you have written down – always let good listening and curiosity take the wheel
  • Cut out the questions that don’t extend a conversation
    • “What’s changing in your life?” > “How are you?”
    • It’s an invitation to be open
  • In a small talk conversation or introduction, ask where someone is from over what they do
    • What someone does is a hierarchical question – are you gauging their worthiness of the conversation?
    • Asking ‘where someone is from’ is an invitation – everyone is from somewhere

The Flywheel Effect

  • Founders that run successful companies rarely can point to one monumental moment that dictated their success
    • The Flywheel Effect – exponential success is the result of many good compounding decisions
    • Have a business architecture built for momentum
      • “The energy that is well-placed is the energy that generates more energy” – James Beshara
      • True flywheels lead towards an inevitable result, not just a list of ideas in a circle
  • For more info on the flywheel effect, check out the Podcast Notes from Jim Collins’ appearance on The Knowledge Project

Luck

  • The three tests of a ‘luck event’:
    • You didn’t cause it
    • Potentially significant consequence, good or bad
    • Came as a surprise
  • The most successful companies are not luckier
    • It’s not about luck, it’s about return on luck. It’s what you do with your luck opportunity.
    • Time in life is unequal, your performance in a massively unequal opportunity is the differentiating variable to success
  • The key variable is bad luck, not good luck
    • Good luck is not a cause of greatness but bad luck can be a cause of getting knocked out of the game
    • Stay far above the ‘death line’ because bad luck events are inevitable

Jim’s Productivity & Creative Hacks

  • Jim’s most creative time is in the morning so he often creates multiple mornings for himself
    • He often will work from 3 am-7 am and go back to bed for a couple of hours, only to wake up again and treat it like it’s the first time he’s waking up
    • Maximize the opportunity to spend time in your optimum creative environment
  • Sleep is like a bank – It’s not about how much sleep you get in a night, rather how much you get over a 10-day span (according to Jim’s research)
    • You deposit and withdraw time as needed to optimize your schedule for creativity
    • Jim is a strong proponent of slipping in naps – this creates the simulated experience of the morning again for him as mentioned
  • Before ending a day of creative work, he always leaves his last sentence incomplete. That way, he will always know the exact place to start the next day.
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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