10 Ways to Go from Good to Great



“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” — Voltaire

I see good people go from good to great all the time.  It’s not magic.  It’s passion, purpose, and action.

They find their path, they have a purpose, and if they get knocked down, they get up again.  They keep asking better and better questions that get them closer to their goals and they continue to find the people and resources that support them on their journey.  They turn resistance into growth and they fully immerse themselves in the experience.

I’ve boiled down the pattern I see into 10 keys.

10 Ways to Go from Good to Great
These are the 10 ways I see people go from good to great:

  1. Find your compelling “why.” Find your one thing. Become a dream machine, turn your dreams loose, and envision the end in mind. Your “why” is your drive and you find your “why” by answering the question, “Why do you do what you do?”  To find your compelling, find the answer that connects with your passion and plucks at your heart strings.  That’s the power of purpose in action and it’s what crusades are made of.  Launch your own crusade.
  2. Become a force of one.  Get out of your own way and stack yourself for success by channeling your thinking, feeling, and doing.  Think the thoughts that serve you, feel the feelings that empower you, and do what you know needs to be done.  Disciplined thinking combined with disciplined action is an unstoppable force, and it’s yours for the asking.
  3. Model the best. The best do it with models.  They find the best examples of what they want to accomplish, and they learn from them.  You can find role models or success stories or case studies and work backwards from there.  Success always leaves clues and you can play detective.
  4. Give your best where you have your best to give. This is you unleashed.  The best play to their strengths.  They spend more time doing the things that make them strong, and less time doing the things that make them weak.  This builds energy and momentum and instead of getting drained, you get charged and you grow where you can grow best.
  5. Find your best arena.  Don’t be a fish out of water.  Find your element.  Going from good to great means finding where you can play your best game.  Maybe you’re a mediocre developer, but a great Program Manager.  Maybe you’re an OK doctor, but an incredible actor.  Take your skills to the job or place where they make the most impact.
  6. Execute.  Taking action is how you make things happen.  Throw massive action at whatever you need to do.  Even if it seems like you’re only taking baby steps at a time, you’ll eventually hit your stride.  When you keep taking action, you learn faster.  Each result teaches you another way how to do something, or how not to do something.  Sometimes, the only way to get past some problems is to overwhelm them with action.  To paraphrase Voltaire, I would argue no problem can withstand the assault of sustained action.
  7. Stick with it.  If you fall down six times, stand up seven.  Remember The Little Engine That Could?  Well, whenever you think you can’t, you’re working against yourself.  It starts with belief.  Think you can, then prove yourself right.   Find your eye of the tiger.
  8. Learn and respond.  The best take action, learn, and respond.  They are always failing forward.  NLP teaches us that there is no failure, only feedback.  The great ones use the feedback to improve their approach.  They stay adaptable while they are finding their way forward.  Be your won best coach, not your own best critic.
  9. Let it go.  The best let it go and move on.  They don’t carry baggage.  They focus on the objectives and they measure against effectiveness.  Either their approach is working or it’s not.  If it’s not working, they let it go, and find a new way forward.
  10. Team up.  The best of the best team up with people that amplify their impact.  They also team up with people that provide more deliberate feedback and that help them find their blind spots and get unstuck.

Putting it all together, you can stack the deck in your favor by playing to your strengths, living your values, and finding the best arena for your greatest results.

For a step-by-step guide on unleashing your best, explore my free e-book You 2.0.

Photo by Dave-F.


  1. Just Stumbled this J.D.! I hope many will get to read this and be as inspired as I am. “Playing to your strengths” speaks to me especially deeply.

    One of my favorite articles of yours ever, and yours are all top-notch.

  2. Some of these seem to be quite different to each other to my mind. For example, here are a couple of pairs that I notice as being nearly opposite:

    2 and 10 – The first seems to be about being one and is all internal while the last is about having help should one want or need it.

    7 and 9 – The first is basically saying “do” while the other is suggesting that there are times to recognize if one can’t.

    They aren’t total opposites, but they do seem to be different enough that it reminds me of Tony Robbins’ Needs we have with certainty and uncertainty being the first two.

    If knowing thyself is half of the lessons, being in the right place and the right time seems to be the other half. The right place has the best arena, good sparring partners and mentors to help people move forward. The right time comes from choosing to do things now and not tomorrow wishing it was done yesterday.

    I wonder if I told people that I was a “goat” what would they respond? I’m taking the first half of good and the last 40% of great as I’m somewhere between the two, or at least that is where I see myself in this. I’d hope it brought a grin, chuckle or snicker to someone’s day besides mine.

  3. great list, JD !

    I know this year my goal has been simplicity and one of the ways Ive achieved that is by playing to my strengths.

  4. “Disciplined thinking combined with disciplined action is an unstoppable force” I am seriously considering to put this to my quotations journal. Great post, J.D. I think I am slowly but surely moving from good to great and definitely agree with all of the points.

    P.S. why don’t you have a retweet button? I keep wanting to retweet your posts but can’t find the button.

  5. @ Jannie

    Thank you!

    I think you exemplify playing to your strengths and being true to you. You’re fum in action and you lead a musical life, making people smile.

    @ JB

    There’s definitely a dynamic relationship between 2 and 10, 7 and 9. I think the cutting question is always, “Is it serving you?”

    @ Fred

    Thank you. There is something powerful about that combo.

    @ Positively Present

    Thank you. Fighting for improvement helps defeat decline.

    @ Rocky

    Thank you.

    Playing to your strengths is a perfect way to simplify — focus on the vital few and leverage your best.

    @ Lana

    Greatness is a process and it sounds like you’re on your path.

    I’ll have to take a look at my retweetability. I’ve probably ignored Twitter for way too long 🙂

  6. “Good to Great” is a *great* concept & as usual you’ve provided excellent guidelines–not the least of which was the exquisite seque to You 2.0.

    Yes, J.D., twitter isn’t to be ignored. I twiddled with it for a bit until the SQL Community hit critical mass. It’s developed into an amazing, vibrant, robust community with dozens of daily highlights. I’m confident you’ll gain similar traction.

  7. JD
    I am knocked down on my journey right now…on the floor resting on the medicine balls – computer on chest and typing! My focus is still on track and I think I tried to take a weekend off of my focus and do for others and it really caused several systems to crash.

    …so dusting myself off and moving forward…great list and post to push me forward Thank you

    Once again your timing is excellent for me 🙂

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