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Vision: Finding Your Sweet Spot

If you could create your perfect career or company, where would you begin? If you had to choose, would you pick something that makes a lot of money over something you care about? How about something that you excel at?

Why choose? In fact, Jim Collins argued in Good to Great that the great companies don’t choose. They insist on having it all.

Regular readers know I am a big fan of Jim Collins. However, I have never been completely comfortable with the language he uses when discussing his Hedgehog Concept and the “sweet spot” where excellent companies take germinate and grow.

Here is how I explain it to clients. I’m not arguing with Collins in any significant way, just using different words.


Vision is where you want to go, what you want to achieve, your ultimate goal. This is your sweet spot, because when you think about your Vision and work on actualizing it, you have everything going for you. A powerful Vision is the intersection of three elements: what is meaningful to you, what you excel at doing, and what people will pay you to do. Collins goes a bit further, saying that greatness requires not only excelling but being the best in the world; pursue that if you choose, but I certainly respect those who simply want to be economically comfortable and joyful in their work.

What Matters Most is also defined by three elements: your Mission, your Values, and your Interests. Mission and Values are discussed extensively in Leadership writings, but I believe they are insufficient. Interest is what personalizes this area. Your Mission may be, as an example, to help create a more conscious world by empowering others to be excellent coaches. You may have refined your list of Values to the most salient half dozen. Not enough. You might have no interest in standing in front of a classroom, but have a great interest in horses. This Interest, coupled with the others, might lead you to explore business models for teaching coaching lessons by training others in mastering horses. And yes, that’s a real example. The woman has a thriving business.

Where You Excel is defined by your skills and talents. Skill involves proficiency and dexterity; they can be learned and cultivated. Talent is more inherent, a natural endowment; it’s how we’re wired. If you’re grinding away at something you are not particularly good at and never will be, it’s unlikely you will find fulfillment.

What Makes Money is, sadly, where too many businesspeople start and end. They develop a business model that works. They build strategies that win in the marketplace. These are necessary for a successful Vision, but woefully insufficient.

When these three elements intersect, you can construct your Vision. It’s not linear. It’s not as simple as adding these three together to reach a tidy, inevitable sum. But by understanding these three, you can set the boundaries within which you can begin your vision quest. It lives in there somewhere.

What do you think? Is your Vision well-defined and driving your business and career? Where can you increase clarity?

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2 Responses to “Vision: Finding Your Sweet Spot”

  1. Greg Lemmon says:

    Hey Mark Great post as usual.

    There are times when your skills- what you have developed and become good even very good at are on a whole new page separate from your talents. They threaten to pull you in two different directions because your skills came as a result of your job (not career or vocation) but out of necessity while your talents are as you put it that which you were born/endowed with.

    Your passions have fused both skills and talents while your reality only allows you to pursue one avenue at any given time. I am aware that you are speaking about companies, but companies are made up of people – and the question becomes for the individual how do we reconcile skills, talents and passions?

    • mpfriedman says:

      Greg – terrific comment and question! You are right: life may lead one down a path where he/she develops skills not aligned with talents or passions. In fact, I suspect most of us are not fully aligned. That underscores the challenge we face in pursuit of a truly satisfying personal career strategy.

      What can you do if you find yourself out of alignment? It’s a personal choice. You can make peace with the status quo, complain about it, or make changes. In other times and in many traditional cultures, change was almost impossible; one followed a particular path until death. Today, at least in America, career change is common. It is never easy and almost always involves some sacrifice, but if the prize is greater satisfaction, isn’t it worth it?

      Personally, I left one career in my early 30s, went to business school, and came back with a far better alignment of skills, talents, and passions. I support those who are willing to take risks in search of a better outcome.

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