If you want to become great at something the obvious answer is to pick something and work really hard at it. But the fact is that lots of people, lots of companies work really hard at what they do, but only a few actually make the leap to becoming great.
One way to become great is to obsess. Here are a few examples.
I think the folks over at Dunkin Donuts work really hard at making good coffee. But that’s it…it’s good. I’ve never heard anyone refer to the Dunkin product or brand as great. Starbucks, both the product and brand, on the other hand are considered by many to be great.
Starbucks is ridiculously obsessive over the quality of the coffee beans that go into their coffee products. They only pick the coffee cherries, and they have to be red, and ripe. After that, they sort them over and over based on size, color, and density. They maintain a zero tolerance for imperfection in beans.
Mike Tyson, former heavy weight champ of the world, obsessed over perfect punches and winning in a dramatic way. Every punch thrown with bad intentions. Every punch thrown to kill, maim, and destroy. Sounds violent because it is. But he was a gladiator. He did not think of himself was a boxer….a gladiator.
Mike also understood showman ship, and the importance to flash. His brand had to be exciting to watch. So he threw punches in bunches (three punches thrown so fast, so close together they sound like one punch). When he knocked someone out you feared he’d killed them…but you wanted to see it again.
From the time he was 12 until he became the youngest heavy weight champion in history at 20 (his record still stands) he did nothing but eat, train, sleep, and train in that order. According to Mike he train until he could not walk. Every hour of every day he told himself “I’m the best fighter in the world…I can’t be beat”. At first it was a lie, but then it came true. Here’s the funny thing, then other people started saying it. Commentators, fans, and other boxers.
Who was a better fighter Holyfieild or Tyson is a debate that still rages but no one ever refers to Mike Tyson as simply a good boxer. More than two decades after winning the heavy weight championship Mike Tyson is still relevant. A true sign of a great personal brand.
I think Steve’s picture should be next to the word obsess in the dictionary. Steve was so obsessive that those who loved him the most, felt he was a complete ass hole. Read his autobiography and you’ll walk away thinking two things. First you’ll realize he was a true genius. Then you’ll realize there was something really wrong with this guy.
Steve had a particular obsession over the quality of things unseen. His commitment to perfect craftsmanship caused him to reject logic boards that were not perfectly straight. Few consumers would ever see the logic boards in their computers, and it’s safe to say none would likely check to ensure the edges were perfectly straight. But Steve would know they weren’t and he absolutely could not live with that.
His obsession with things both seen and unseen are what made Apple a great company. A sign of Steve’s greatness is that since his death Apple has begun to slip a little. Most consumers might not notice it but the true Apple fans see it. The personality of the company has changed. The OS is starting to get so bad that people are thinking I might as well own a PC if I’m going to have these type of problems.
I hope Apple comes around but I doubt they can.