The School of Greatness

"This book is the distillation of the eight master lessons on greatness that I (Lewis) have discovered on my journey, with help of my network of mentors and coaches, colleagues and teachers. By studying greatness this way, we will learn that it is a process of continuous education and self-realization."

- The School of Greatness, page xix

Throughout this book Howes shares the tips and habits he learned while interviewing guests on his popular podcast of the same name. He states that greatness is discovered and cultivated from within oneself. The masters of greatness are not successful because they are more fortunate or talented, but because they applied specific disciplines and tools in their lives.

I appreciate that throughout The School of Greatness, Lewis provides practical exercises to help the reader apply the lessons being taught. He teaches how to create and document a vision, develop hustle, and use dedication, mindfulness, joy, and love to reach personal goals. These lessons and exercises can help anyone achieve personal success and attain greatness in their life.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Bad Habits, Good Habits

"If we have poor habits, sooner or later our luck is going to run out."
- The School of Greatness, page 150

As stated by Lewis, greatness is the result of visionaries who prepare, focus, believe, and persevere. Greatness is a habit, not a birthright. In the quest for greatness, there is no substitute for developing positive habits.

One negative habit that almost everyone struggles with is getting distracted. Stop for a moment and think about how difficult it is these days for us to stay on task with all the distractions swirling around us. One possible solution to this specific negative habit is the positive habit of a no interruptions policy. This means we set aside a specific amount of time to accomplish a certain task. We stay focused on that task until the allotted time, or the task, is finished.

It’s not that important which positive habits you practice, as long as the habits are beneficial and work for you. What does matter is that you commit to them and do them regularly. When you commit to a positive-oriented routine you will move closer to greatness.

Here are some of the positive habits Entrepreneur Magazine lists from interviewing the wealthiest people in the world:

  • maintain a to do list
  • wake up three hours before starting work
  • listen to audio books during commute time
  • network at least five hours each month
  • read at least 30 minutes each day
  • exercise at least four days a week
  • watch one hour or less of TV a day
  • write down goals
  • believe bad habits have a negative impact
  • believe good habits create opportunities

In summary, choose good habits to replace bad ones and write out a personal habits manifesto.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Learn to Hustle

"The list of places outside of yourself to lay blame is virtually endless if you look hard enough."
- The School of Greatness, page 94

Hustle is not about the old clichĂ© of working smarter instead of harder. It really is about working smarter and harder. Each one of us is making up for some amount of lost time and that is the essence of hustle in the pursuit of greatness. It’s about doing whatever it takes and pursuing opportunity with great urgency, like your life depends on it, because it really does.

When you have a vision without action, or hustle, it is just a dream. Action, or hustle, without vision is a nightmare. You need both vision and hustle to achieve great things. Your vision guides you and your hustle propels you. Unfortunately, most people settle for the dream because it doesn’t cost them anything and it’s easier. Don’t be just a dreamer; be hustling in critical areas such as your physical condition, mindset, relationships, and skill development.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Who is on Your Team?

"Greatness simply cannot be achieved in a vacuum or through a solitary effort."
- The School of Greatness, page 178

Yes, achieving greatness takes a team. Cultivating strong relationships is a basic building block for greatness. You will seldom outperform your inner circle. If you want to achieve greatness, improve your inner circle. It is important to take a step back every once in a while and look at your inner circle. Are they helping you toward greatness or are they holding you back from it?

Lewis provides an example of Bill Clinton rising from a broken home to becoming the Governor of Arkansas and eventually attaining the Presidency of the United States utilizing his inner circle. Over the years, Clinton created a network of thousands of people. He kept note cards containing the names, addresses, and relationship history of anyone he could call upon when needed. This is an example of what Porter Gale meant when she wrote Your Network is Your Net Worth.

So, take inventory of your existing relationships. Do they inspire you or have a negative impact on you? Do the people in your network pursue greatness in their life or do they often choose to be a victim of their circumstances? Do they get excited when others succeed or do they complain about the lack of progress in their own life instead? Choose your team carefully.

Angel Martinez, CEO of Deckers Brands, is quoted as saying that “Greatness is just about being there for other people; living a life that is others-oriented is where you achieve greatness”. I think that is a great summary of this book. If we are to be great, we need to practice empathy and help others. Choose your avenue of service to others. Whatever inspires and speaks to you, that is exactly what you should be doing. Now it’s time to stop reading and get out in the world to do something great! What will greatness look like for you?

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Barak Strickland

ABOUT Barak Strickland

Barak Strickland is a project manager who holds certifications in program management and lifecycle logistics from the USAF. He has been planning, organizing, and completing projects professionally since 1981, when he joined the USAF...
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