It’s OK to be great

Feb 7th, 2017 | By | Category: Commentary

Jeff Hough

By Jeff Hough

Recently I received an angry email from a millennial who reads my column. The reader had taken issue with some of my comments about millennials in the workplace. The closing statement, “There will always be the bad eggs of every generation that make us look bad. Please don’t judge us because we question, explore, and need to understand the world in new ways,” got me thinking.

I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Throughout the history of our country, there has been a cultural shift every 20 years. We are in the middle of one of those shifts. What saddens me about this shift is the willingness to accept mediocrity. The thought “you can’t be great because it will make someone feel bad” baffles me.

Mediocrity does not equate to equality. To research the topic of greatness, I did a Google search for “its okay to be great.” The results shocked me. Of the ten results that popped up on the first page, there was only one addressing being great. Five headlines talked about being average, failing or being weird.

During a recent seminar, the presenter shared a personal story about greatness. He talked about teaching his daughter about being great. From an early age, he would tell her it was okay to be great. Every time they worked towards her goal, he would remind her and push her towards greatness.

She has been moving towards her goals and surpassing her older classmates. As expected, she experiences pushback from those not as committed to the process. She has also had to battle older classmates and their entitlement mentality. They feel they deserve “it” because they are older, even though they haven’t worked for it.

Part of being great is respecting the process of becoming great. Therein lies the problem for many people, especially of the younger generation. Parents, finances, and technology have made many of the things we do easier. Increased opportunity and technological advances have removed many barriers to greatness.

Still, the path to greatness is a grind. Like climbing a mountain, you have to do it one step at a time. Sometimes the path isn’t clear, but you must always be heading up, placing one foot in front of the other. The importance of greatness doesn’t lie in what it does for you. It is what is does to you and for those around you.

UConn women’s basketball team is an excellent example of greatness. Their 96-game winning streak is a record surpassing the great UCLA teams of the early 70s. Some have argued that it is bad for basketball to have one team dominate so much. UConn’s head coach responds to such criticism with the simple reply, “Get better and come get us.”

They have earned their success with hard work, dedication, and commitment. The great ones are always willing to share what they have learned and to help those around them. Greatness breeds greatness. But you have to be willing to give in to the process rather than cast stones and wait for a handout.

In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth talks about the traits of passion and perseverance and their correlation to success. Resilience, courage, and optimism are traits of those with grit. Grit is about grinding it out day after day towards long term goals. I see those traits in the rising generation, but they need development.

To my angry millennial reader: I challenge you to be great. I challenge everyone reading this to be great and not to accept mediocrity. Demand more of yourself and those around you. The greatness lies within. You have to grind it out, one step at a time, day after day.

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.

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