Clarifying and Pursuing Greatness

This snippet was prompted by a great article from This Is Going to be Big… called The Nature of Greatness.

The reason I’m so drawn to working with organizations is because there’s a huge opportunity to help people figure out their definition of greatness and then show them the tools and practices that will help them along that path. Making work great is a lot like making your health great — as much as we wish we could do it overnight or with one intense retreat it only ever works with consistent effort over time.

There aren’t many truly great athletes and there are even fewer truly great organizations. But every professional athlete, every professional sports team, and every organization should be on the path toward greatness. If you’re not — why are you even in the game (please note I’m not defining greatness for you)? Every decision, from mundane to monumental, is an opportunity to take a step on the path toward greatness or an opportunity to wander astray.

Good leaders, managers, and self-organizing groups setup guardrails, prompts and cues to encourage continued progress down the path of greatness. Bad ones either actively dissuade their employees from making the best decision or complicate matters to the point that the path toward greatness is diffused and impossible to detect.

What does greatness look like for your organization? For you? For your team? What’s one thing it seems like nobody else is doing that would set you on a path to be truly great?

Weekend Reading #6

Please excuse the slight lateness on this edition of Weekend Reading. Fridays are either super chill or super insane for me when it comes to work. I try to get as much work "out the door" and into other people's hands before I wrap up the work week so in the last two hours I've sent out two projects that have represented several hundred hours of work over the past few months.

ANYWAY, you're not here to listen to me ramble about my work. You want links to the best things I read/watched this week. Here ya go!

Thirty years of projects - Seth's Blog

Somehow, I always thought of my career as a series of projects, not jobs. Projects... things to be invented, funded and shipped. Sometimes they take on a life of their own and last, other times, they flare and fade. But projects, one after the other, mark my career. Lucky for me, the world cooperated and our entire culture shifted from one based on long-term affiliations (you know, 'jobs') to projects.

This is almost exactly how I conceptualize my own career. The world is moving away from titles/professions while turning toward the actual verbs of work. "What are you doing?" rather than "What are you?" I love this change in how we think about work.

Aloha from the Hala Kahiki - The Distance

I love this side project from Basecamp. If you aren't familiar with The Distance, the idea is to share stories about businesses and the people behind them who have been around for a long time. In a world where the start-up is glorified it can be easy to look past the less glamorous examples of good business. This issue is about a tiki bar in the suburbs of Chicago that has been open since 1966. The other issues (this is the 3rd) are worth checking out, too.

Divide and Conquer: How the Essence of Mindfulness Parallels the Nuts and Bolts of Science - Google Tech Talks


This is a pretty old talk but it's one of the best I've heard in terms of giving a very clear and simple description of why meditation is such a powerful force for people who practice it. I've read quite a few meditation books and have a fledgling meditation practice of my own, but this talk helped me understand why it's so worth doing this incredibly difficult activity.

As always, I want to know what you've read or watched recently that has had an impact on you. Shoot me a link at @samspurlin on Twitter or email me at I also recommend signing up for the Monthly Newsletter in which I share more ideas like you see here on The Workologist and in which you receive a free copy of my e-book, Work Better.

Photo by Neil Conway