My Highest Tentpole

It’s rare that I read something, form an opinion, read it again, and then think something completely different. And yet I was driven to opposing opinions by a featured article on LinkedIn this morning. In Greg McKeown’s “The #1 Mistake Capable People Make”, he states that capable people spread themselves too far. In trying to be capable in a great many areas, they make it difficult to distinguish themselves in just one. Confused? I was too. The analogy of high school grades helped me to understand it. For example think if you were looking for a recruit for a biology scholarship. Would you take the student who had straight A’s? Would you take the student who was competent in other classes but got all A’s in biology? Which would you prefer?

The point McKeown was trying to make was that if you want to stand out in one area, stand out there. A tent can only be raised higher if one tentpole stands above all others. But you can’t stand out in everything. To borrow a phrase I use when trying to prioritize my own life, “If everything’s important, nothing’s important.” The tent would get pitched, but what’s going to take it higher?

At first, I disagreed. “Why shouldn’t I excel at all that I do? Shouldn’t I want to be competent in all areas?” But the second time I read the article it gave me what I now believe is the point McKeown was trying to share. Maybe it’s not a matter of just appearing competent. Maybe it’s a matter of the highest tentpole being a combination of what you’re good at, and what you love. For me, I would like for my two highest tentpoles to be assessment and recognition. I see them as “Creating Excellence”. Assessment helps to create excellence because it allows you to see how you’re doing, what you can improve, and what you should keep doing. And recognition goes along with that because excellent work rewarded begets excellent work. As I move up in the Student Affairs world, I want to be known for creating a culture of excellence, primarily through those two areas.
What about you? What are your highest tentpoles? Where do your talent and your love intersect?

Amma Marfo

Student Affairs - the First Years

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