“I struggle with this question because being great is not just being better than good.” — Horace Dediu

If you own a business, or you’re thinking about starting one, you’ve no doubt imagined the possibilities of doing or building something great. You’ve probably imagined your success and what it might look like; a beautiful office or studio, friendly and capable employees, a strong network of business allies, and financial independence. These things are all excellent. But if you could achieve all of that, have you achieved greatness? If you want to build something great, what does that look like?

My first question would be, what makes something great? I fully realize that one could write an entire book on that issue. You and I have neither the time or inclination to invest that kind of effort on this question for now. But we do have about 500 words in this article, so let’s see what we can discover about greatness.

When we talk about something being great, we are usually talking about a person, place or thing. So for our short discussion, we’ll use the proverbial words “it” or “thing” when we are discussing the person, place or thing that is great. Ok? Moving on.

What Are Some Attributes of Greatness?

What are some attributes of greatness? Let me offer the following list, which is by no means complete but will start your thinking. To be great, it only needs to satisfy one of these things. But, many great things satisfy several items on this list. One last assumption I will offer is that to be great, it must be good. Some things have been called great that were a disaster for people, like the Great Depression. So, when something is truly great:

1. It performs beyond expectations.

2. It transcends its original purpose or design.

2. It serves multiple purposes.

3. It tangibly improves the lives of people.

4. It is enduring.

What are some examples of greatness? We could sit and think of things all day long. But let me start with these great things and people:

1. Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Pelè, Michael Jordan, etc.

2. The printing press.

3. The paper clip.

4. The microchip.

5. The U.S. Constitution.

You see, some are people, some are things, some are ideas. Some are simple, some are complex, all are enduring — there are many great things. But when you think about greatness in your personal life and your business, my guess is that you’ll define greatness for you in a more personal way: a loving spouse, a healthy family, stable business, loyal and trustworthy employees, and so on. But let me challenge you to think longer and harder about what greatness means to you, personally and professionally. Go beyond the standard answers. Look deeper. Think more carefully.

What Does Greatness Mean To You?

Horace Dediu, known for his analysis of Apple’s business strategy and predictions of their financials said, “I struggle with this question because being great is not just being better than good. Greatness is to goodness as wisdom is to smarts. Just like getting smarter and smarter may never make you wise, getting better and better does not mean ever becoming great.”

To me, greatness is not defined by the ultimate, the highest, and the mightiest achievements of things, or like Horace said above “getting better and better does not mean ever becoming great.” It’s more than this.

A famous scripture says anyone who wants to be great, should be the servant of all. Greatness lies in our ability to serve, to empathize with others, in our humility, and our ability to love our fellow man. Very few of us will achieve the greatness of Michael Jordan, but we ALL can show personal greatness by taking the attitude of serving those around us. If you can, then you are truly great and will do truly great things.

What do you think? Leave me your comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Also, join my blog to get future updates.


Author Wayland Coker

My goal is to help entrepreneurs learn as much as they can about themselves and their businesses, and the vital connection between the two. I don’t intend this to be a monologue, but a dialogue. Please give me your feedback in the comment sections located at the bottom of each article. I will read every comment and respond as I am able. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

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