How To Be Great Instead of Good

Good doesn’t take long to achieve. Average takes less time still. What about being great? Michael Jordan, Larry bird, and Magic Johnson were great at basketball. Bill Gates is great at understanding technology. Jim Brickman is great at playing the piano. Bon Jovi is a great musician. Oprah is a great talk show host. And there are many great doctors, lawyers, software engineers, and other people in their professions.

The Challenge to Be Great

It’s hard to be great. When trying anything new, the temptation is to quit. As I’m starting a game company with my twin brother, it’s hard. We don’t quite know how to market our business. We don’t quite have the expertise to create professional quality games. But we’ve only been doing it for a few months now.

I’m starting on my second book. My first book was OK – a decent to good book. I like the story. But it’s not great. There are errors and inconsistencies. There are flaws in the story. But then again, I’ve only really been writing for a couple years now.

I work my day job as a web development software engineer. I’m coming up on 10 years now for working on Internet and technology. The interesting thing to me is that web development is very routine and well known to me. Anything new is very easy to learn and at my job, I’m rarely surprised by anything technological. Any coincidence that this is at my 10 year mark?

What have you been doing for a while now that you are comfortable with? Chances are, you are great at it. You should make a website on that topic and train others :)

The 10 Year Rule for Being Great

A study from Florida State University in 1993 (by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson) showed that it takes about 10 years to be great or world class at something. 10 years!

This is why it’s hard to be great – because it takes time. I’m a creature of instant gratification. If I don’t get results right away, I want to give up. I gave up on my Computer Games website in 2004 because after 6 months it only just started to break even then. Had I stuck with it, I’d be approaching the GREAT stage now and who knows how far it could have gone…

Star Ratings For Greatness

Many online rating and review systems use a ? out of 5 stars for rating. I researched the best selling mobile games of all time. Most of them had 4 or 5 stars. Similary, most best selling items on Amazon have 4 stars or higher on average for their rating. Greatness is approaching that 5 star rating.

However, when first creating or doing something, that effort is probably more between 1 to 3 stars. It’s mediocre at best. My book, Eglathia is an interesting book, however, it’s a 2.5 to 3 star book. That’s just reality. My twin brother and I’s first game, Math Asteroids is a 3 star game. It’s fun and a neat way to learn math. But it’s by no means a 5 star game.

The Reward for Being Great

You’ll find that most products are average products. There’s millions of them out there too. When I was researching best selling mobile games, I found that the best sellers made up a FRACTION of the total number of games – easily less than 1%. This pattern is found in other things too – like the wealth distribution in the United States, or the top salaries of professional athletes. The great ones get rewarded exponentially more than the average ones.

This tells me that being great takes a concentrated effort over a long period of time. Being great requires not giving up on something because you’re average at it. Jeff and I are average at doing a mobile game business right now. And as such, we’ll sell maybe a copy of our game every day or so. It may take us a while to be great – to our late 30’s, early 40’s even. The challenge will be to stick with it and not give up and try something else because we’re not seeing the results we want right away. This leads me to my final point.

Don’t Oscillate Between Things

Watch this video and at about 40 seconds in, the fan is switched to oscillate – going back and forth, never staying consistent in its direction. In the case of a fan, this is fine, but for us, we’ll have a hard time being great if we don’t stick to something. I shall explain.

It’s tempting to switch it up and try new things again and again. As I said earlier, I gave up on my e-commerce site selling computer games because it wasn’t creating instant results. I’ve also let other projects gather dust because they didn’t see results either, like my drjerm.com website. I never achieved greatness in either of these. Why would people come or buy in droves if I’m not great? Because someone else out there is and that is who will attract the market share.

The challenge will be sticking with our game company and continuing to write books. I may even have to pick one of these and drop the other so that I can focus solely on it. That’s a tough prospect for me, because I like doing both. But I also realize that I may just have to stick with one, whether I like it or not…

Recap

To be great, stick with something and repeat it over and over and often for 10 years. Yes, that is no easy task. It will be tempting to just quit and try something else. But this is the key, to fight through the stages of mediocrity and being average. You’ll know you are great at something when you know it so well, that it’s as second nature as walking or breathing. This is the number one thing to take away from being great – do that thing over and over for a decade and on and on…

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8 thoughts on “How To Be Great Instead of Good

  1. I like how you showed facts to back up what your own observations have been. That is really interesting about the 10-year mark. So does that mean we have a GREAT marriage now that we have surpassed 10 years? :)

    1. Heidi, absolutely our marriage is great (especially after last night). Wait, did I just say that publicly? :) :)

      With two people willing to work together, it gets better and better.

  2. I have had a very big problem with oscillating between things in my life! Most of it stems from the fact that everything interests me, more so than the fact that things are getting too hard. Otherwise I am very good with doing things with no to little outside feedback. Over the past year, I’ve learned the importance of sticking to things — that’s one reason why I wanted to do my 90 day writing challenge, but I wanted to show myself I could stick to something. Granted, 90-days isn’t very long and I’ve failed a few times, but something clicked in my mind about this point.

    I think you’re well on your way. The fact that you and your brother even try to launch a product is 10x better than what most people do. The fact that you acknowledge that your first launch isn’t the end all be all is even better. A lot of people think they’ve given their all when they haven’t even come close. What they really mean is they’ve reached the limit of their comfort zone.

    1. Hi Valerie – I know the feeling of oscillating between things. I just want to do everything and have everything and it makes it tough to buckle down and do one thing.

      I think you’ve done an awesome thing with your 90 day writing challenge. You’ve installed a good habit. And I still think you’d succeed with a niche site on cooking because you love it so much.

  3. The “10 year rule for being great” is powerful. Initially, 10 years may sound intimidating, but in reality consider some of the poor habits many of us have picked up during that span…now consider if those were good habits that were now part of our routine…I enjoyed reading Jeremy!

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