From the book: Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Fanatic discipline

20 mile march: hitting specific performance markers with great consistency over a long period of time…delivering high performance in difficult times; holding back in good times.

  1. Clear performance markers
  2. Self-imposed constraints
  3. Appropriate to the specific enterprise
  4. Largely within the company’s control to achieve
  5. A timeframe long enough to manage, but short enough to have teeth
  6. Imposed by the company on itself
  7. Achieved with high consistency
Empirical creativity

Fire bullets, then cannonballs: a bullet is a low-cost, low-risk, and low-distraction test or experiment. Based on empirical validation, then concentrate resources to fire a cannonball, enabling large returns.

Productive paranoia
  1. Build cash reserves and buffers
  2. Bound risk and manage time-based risk
  3. Zoom out then in to sense changing conditions and respond effectively

Prepare obsessively ahead of time, all the time for what you can’t predict. Build buffers and shock absorbers far beyond the norm.


Specific, methodical, and consistent. A set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula. Clear and concrete, enabling the entire enterprise to unify and organize its efforts, giving clear guidance regarding what to do and what not to do. Amend only exercising empirical activity and productive paranoia.

Return on luck

Who is your luck? The right mentor, partner, teammate, friend, leader.


The factors that determine whether or not a company becomes truly great, even in a chaotic and uncertain world, lie largely within the hands of its people. It is not mainly a matter of what happens to them but a matter of what they create, what they do, and how well they do it.

When the moment comes when we’re afraid, exhausted, or tempted, what choice do we make? Do we abandon our values? Do we give in? Do we accept average performance because that’s what most everyone else accepts? Do we capitulate to the pressure of the moment? Do we give up on our dreams when we’ve been slammed by brutal facts? The greatest leaders we’ve studied throughout all our research cared as much about values as victory, as much about purpose as profit, as much about being useful as successful. Their drive and standards are ultimately internal, rising from somewhere deep inside.

We are not imprisoned by our circumstances. We are not imprisoned by the luck we get or the inherent unfairness of life. We are not imprisoned by crushing setbacks, self-inflicted mistakes, or our past success. We are not imprisoned by the times in which we live, by the number of hours in a day or even the number of hours we’re granted in our very short lives. In the end, we can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice