Not Recognizing Greatness Hurt Me

One thing I didn’t do well early in my career was recognize greatness quickly. Someone close to me had to point it out (much later, typically). People . . . opportunities . . . accomplishments—it didn’t matter. For whatever reason, I wouldn’t see it as soon as other people did. And when I did, sometimes it was too late.

During my journey building CCAW, I realized that I didn’t recognize greatness quickly. I didn’t like this about myself and decided to change it. My knowledge gap was my first issue. I tackled it by reading widely in areas I deemed important personally and professionally. This gave me a baseline. When something was superior to that baseline, I could readily identify its greatness. My personality was another obstacle. I tend to be laid back and have blind spots when it comes to people. I can’t change how I’m wired, so this was more challenging to solve. I learned to ask the opinions of colleagues or friends who deeply understand people when I encountered someone I wasn’t sure about. Their observations helped me recognize when the person was great. Not the most scientific approach, but it works for me.

Not being able to recognize greatness hindered me in a few ways. It slowed my decision making, so I missed out on some great opportunities. And I didn’t allocate the appropriate time and resources to great people and opportunities.

Times change. Today I had a conversation with a buddy about an investment I made that has done well. He asked how I knew the company would succeed before other people did. I told him that I quickly recognized its uniqueness because I’ve seen lots of companies in the space and done lots of reading about the space. This company’s performance was rare when I baselined it against what I usually see. I believed this company was great and invested in it confidently.

Some opportunities really do come along only once in a lifetime. Learning to know them when you seem them can be life changing!