Too good for our own good

Column by Michael Norton


Just even saying that we are “too good” at something is kind of like saying we are having “too much fun,” or “we have too much money.” None of these statements makes a whole lot of sense, as I can't remember a time when I actually had too much fun and I never found myself saying that there was no more room in my bank account because I simply had too much money.

However, I can look at times when I had reached a certain level of expertise or accomplishment at a specific skill or craft and can probably say that I had become “too good” at that particular skill. It's not being good, great, or extremely accomplished at something that is the problem, it's when we become complacent or even maybe careless because we start to operate on autopilot.

I have met many extremely talented and skilled individuals and teams who are wonderfully accomplished. They never cease to amaze me with their capabilities and productivity. But even some of these folks have gotten caught in the trap of complacency or carelessness, cutting corners and taking shortcuts because they have been doing their job or fulfilling their role for so many years they forget to pay attention to the details. When this happens they don't produce their best work, or they set a poor example for someone who may be looking to learn from that person as a role model or mentor.

So how do we make sure that we do not lose sight of the importance of our gifts and talents that help us fulfill our purpose, those things and skills that we have become so good at? How do we avoid the autopilot syndrome and maintain the integrity of our effort and continued pursuit of being better than good?

One way is to always be willing to learn even more. No matter how good we believe we are, regardless of how strong, fast, accomplished or experienced we believe ourselves to be, there is always someone better, smarter, stronger, faster, and more productive than we are. Always. So we need to be willing to develop an attitude of being a constant student of the game, especially when it comes to those things that we are most passionate about.

Another good idea is to imagine that we are teaching someone how to do the very same thing that we do. Even if we are alone performing a task or utilizing a skill, if we place ourselves in the role of the teacher, and remind ourselves the importance of safety, productivity, quality, and value we will certainly deliver a product or accomplish something that we can truly be proud of.

I love the quote by Jim Collins found in his book, “Good to Great”: “Good is the enemy of great.” When we settle for just being good at something we give up on our pursuit of achieving greatness or excellence. So let's not settle for just being “too good” at something, let's focus on making sure that we remain diligent and proud of all that we do on our way to being great.

Are you having too much fun? Do you have too much money? I didn't think so. But if you believe that you just might be too good for your own good at what you love to do the most, send me an email at and tell me all about it. And as we grow each and every day, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton, a resident of Highlands Ranch, is the former president of the Zig Ziglar organization and CEO and founder of

michael norton, highlands ranch, colorado, zig ziglar


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