Since relaunching the blog last week, I’ve been asked a few times ‘Why the blazes did you call it ‘The Happy Hedgehog?’.
Let me explain.
Before I was a photographer I worked for British Telecom. I loved the job, sure it had it’s stresses and strains but overall, it was a well paid job with a good bunch of people trying their best to make things better for their customers.
Anyway, I had this rather eccentric boss. Micheal enjoyed too much wine, a bit of craic and a deep chat about just about anything. He used the ‘F’ word in most sentences. Micheal possessed a skill I don’t have – strategic thinking. My mind works at an operational level – this is the problem, here’s the solution – this is how we get there. Micheal’s mind worked at a higher level – more broad brush strokes and blue sky. It was generally my job to translate the blue sky into the grey shades of reality.
ANYWAY, Micheal introduced me to a concept called ‘The Hedgehog’ by a guy who I think was called Jim Collins. So what would you rather be – a fox or a hedgehog? Foxes are cunning creatures, a wee bit sneaky – hedgehogs are slower creatures kinda plodding along.
There is a greek parable that states:
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
According to mind tools.com:
In the parable, the fox uses a variety of strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, with a nose full of spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly: defend itself.
Philosopher Isaiah Berlin took this parable and applied it to the modern world in his 1953 essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” Berlin divided people into two groups: foxes and hedgehogs.
In his essay, he argued that foxes are sleek and shrewd animals that pursue many goals and interests at the same time. Because of this wide variety of interests and strategies, their thinking is scattered and unfocused, and they are limited in what they can achieve in the long run.
Hedgehogs, however, are slow and steady, and people often overlook them because they’re quiet and unassuming. But, unlike the fox, they are able to simplify the world and focus on one overarching vision. It’s this principle that guides everything they do, and helps them succeed against all odds.
So basically, Jim Collins reckoned that organisations and individuals were likely to succeed if they found their one big thing. The one thing they are deeply passionate about. The one thing that they are better at than anyone else. The one thing that brings enough money in to succeed.
And the sweets spot of these 3 things is called the hedgehog (the orange bit in the diagram below)
So as I applied this waffly business strategy to me, it caused me to ask a few questions. What am I good at? What am I passionate about? What do I want to be doing in 10years time? How much money do I really need to survive and be happy?
And the answer to all of these questions – the hedgehog – was photography. Thats what I was good at, thats what I was passionate about. Sure I had a decent job at BT, but was I really passionate about it? The next promotion would mean a company car and private health insurance – but did I really want the stress?
And so I left. Walked out. No package, no pay off, no ‘new start financial package’ as they called it – just out on my own.
A few months after I quit, the deepest recession we have seen in years kicked in. The news rang of stock market crashes, property depressions and bankruptcies.
And through all the times of wondering where the next pay check was coming from, dreaming of owning a studio, dreaming of winning awards, sleeplessness nights over how the tax was getting paid – well I didn’t let it stress me too much. At the end of the day…
I had found my hedgehog and nothing or no-one was going to stop me.