Good is the enemy of great.”
That's how Jim Collins begins his classic business best seller, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Collins argues the veracity of that sentence because people settle for good and stop pursuing better leaving us with good, but not great outcomes.
I don't agree with Mr. Collins. Rather, I don't know how you can possibly achieve greatness without first being good. Let me tell you why I don't think good is the enemy of great!
The Value Of The Process On The Mountain
Mikaela Shiffrin, 2012
Mikaela Shiffrin is an 18-year-old World Cup Champion slalom skier. She was the subject of this month's 60 Minutes Sports on Showtime.
Born in Vail, Colorado to parents who are both accomplished skiers, Ms. Shiffrin attended the Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. Skiing conditions in Vermont more closely resemble those of the European ski circuit giving students experience and training that has produced 30 Olympians since it's inception in the early 1970's.
The Shiffrins sent their daughter to Vermont for training, not because they're living vicariously through their talented daughter, but because she's driven and committed to become world-class. She clearly has championship stuff as evidenced by her recent World Cup championship runs. Mikaela is the youngest slalom World Champion in U.S. history.
Jeff Shiffrin told 60 Minutes Sports that he and wife Eileen were not trying to produce a professional athlete. They simply wanted her to learn "the process." Mr. Shiffrin talked candidly about the dance with the mountain. When you ski a good run that has five good turns in it, you immediately say, "That was fun. I want to do that again." Mikaela's parents concentrated on that dance while insuring she had fun learning the process.
The international skiing community marvels at Mikaela's focus, especially given her young age. However, when you understand how her parents and her coaches have helped her, it's apparent that they understood the value of repeating good habits. She wanted to be great so her supporters did everything possible to give her a process that would deliver consistently good results. That's why they recommended she delay her competition.
On December 14, 2010 Mikaela won her first race. She was 15 and it was only her 8th International Ski Federation race ever! While other skiers were busy competing, she was busy training. Her coaches at Burke knew that a full day of competition would result in 2 ski runs while a full day of training would result in 15. Fifteen good ski runs a day over a prolonged period of time gave Mikaela the foundation to become a great world-class competitor.
Burke Mountain Academy has an old-style ski lift where skiers straddle a single seat, remain on their skis and a cable pulls them back up to the top of the mountain. Those riding the cable back to the top are mere feet away from the course watching other skiers navigate the gates. During a full day of training the skiers are never off their skis, even when being pulled back to the top. Skiers sit in quiet, solitary reflection on the ride back up to the top. No cell phones, no conversation with friends. Each student is alone with their thoughts as they watch other students ski down the course. The coaches credit the process for providing students with good focus training.
Mikaela is a training junkie who is known to spend up to 5 hours a day in the gym, when she's not on the mountain.
When I was a J5 I did a lot of free skiing and I actually didn't like free skiing. I just thought it was a waste of time and I would've rather been training or directed free skiing. I always wanted to be thinking of something, whether it was arms forward or my parents had a saying 'knees to skis and hands in front’ – it's been drilled into my head and every time I get on snow that's what I start thinking. I did free ski a lot. I did do a lot of drills. It was probably 1/3 free skiing,