The Power of Obsession

Bill Gates: obsessed?

Bill Gates: obsessed?

Listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio over the last few days, one of the topics of discussion was the greatness of NFL quarterbacks, specifically Peyton Manning and Joe Montana. Part of the discussion was on how while talent is important, so is application. Or, as it was framed in the show, whether or not these players were described by others as being ‘obsessed’.

Obsession is often perceived to be a negative trait. Stalkers are described as obsessed, as are terrorists. The word has strong negative connotations. But spending hours a day focusing on honing a skill, making the absolute best out of your talent, and never giving up in the push to be the best at what you do, exactly the same way that the likes of Manning, Montana or other Super Bowl champion quarterbacks.

That is obsession as well.

It isn’t limited to sports though. As Cowherd says, Steve Jobs was obsessed, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are obsessed. The focus of their obsession doesn’t have to be making money — in fact, in the case of so many successful people, money isn’t the motivation, passion is. Passion for computing, passion for design, or passion for writing.

Passion is something that isn’t often associated with big business. Making money is, but passion from a large, multi-national company? This is where small businesses have a real advantage. They are in a position to communicate their passions, because often the founders and architects of the business is only one or two steps removed from the customer, and many times deal with them face to face.

The other day I spoke with Paul and Carl from Bogota Coffee. These guys are passionate, they know what they’re talking about, and they do great coffee. Are they obsessed with coffee? Quite possibly, and they’re definitely obsessed with Columbia — neither of these things are negatives.

Then there is James Hobson, instructor at the Krav Maga Defence Academy. It look him over 180 hours worth of training in order to gain his coaching qualification (part of which involved learning the different ways in which people learn, so that the instruction can be made most effective). This is obsession, isn’t it? Passion, dedication, hard work and devotion. All of these are things we look for in businesses, organisations and teams.

I’m fine with saying people are obsessed with what they do, if they’re passionate, focused and always looking to get just that little bit better.


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