I was talking with a friend to get a personal reference for someone I had met during the course of doing business. This person I had met, we’ll call him Robert. It’s hard to find out what a person is really like until you’ve worked with him. So, came the personal reference question to my friend, “what do you know about Robert?”
My friend spilled over with how he and Robert had worked together, and how Robert was a great guy. He continued and talked about how Robert was very interested in numbers and statistics. My friend went even further and said, “Robert is obsessed with them.”
Now, when the average person talks about being obsessed, what they really mean is they see something odd. How could a person go so far, to such great lengths, work so hard, for something like … numbers?
Yes, the average person sees someone going above and beyond – working much harder than they would – and chuckles. The average person sees someone devoting hours to an idea and wonders why any other person would do that? The average person sees someone “obsessed” and thinks there’s something wrong with such intense focus in a particular area.
That’s why I don’t want to be average, and you shouldn’t either. See, the person who will run farther will… outrun you. Duh.
And, in business and the marketplace…
The person who cares more will… out-care you. The person who spends more will… outspend you. The person who pays attention to every detail will… see more than you.
The person who will obsess will… care more, spend more, go to greater lengths than you. They will work longer hours over a longer period of time to “get it right.” They’ll do it because they love what they do, and people will do nearly anything for love.
If you’re not obsessing over your idea, a competitor who is obsessing will beat you. If you’re not hiring people who will obsess over the thing that you need them to, you’ve hired second best.
The person who builds spreadsheets in her free time will probably be great building spreadsheets for your company. The person who reads books on management in her free time will probably make a great manager. The person who cares about people will care about your customers.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, and you think it’ll be great to start a company so you can be rich and free, then you should take a step back to reconsider. If you’re obsessed with your own richness and freedom, you can’t also be obsessed with your customer. Find something to obsess over. You’ll have a chance at building something better, faster, or cheaper than everyone else… You’ll have a shot at being great.