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(Expert Feature) The Key To Success: Choose One Chair

Luciano Pavarotti - Choose One Chair

I came across a story that Luciano Pavarotti told that reveals the secret to his success and, in fact, all success.

Pavarotti  said, “When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song. He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college.

“On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ ‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ I chose one.

“It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book–whatever we choose–we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

What if the secret to taking your business to the level of success that you want it to be isn’t the way you thought it was?

Our Common Bad Habit

People have a habit of taking simple things and making them complex.

Do you know how many pages were in the 1891 basketball rule book? Just 2 pages.
Do you know how many pages are in a current basketball rule book? There are 114 pages!

Now, of course, the sport has changed a lot since then, so changes and additional rules were added that were needed.

But do you really think every one of those 112 pages that they’ve added has actually made the sport any better? I don’t think so.

Making something complicated doesn’t always make it better!  

Most business owners who want to succeed begin simply, but they begin to complicate things the longer they are in business. 

Are You A Fox Or A Hedgehog?

Jim Collins is a best-selling author who wrote a business book called “Good To Great”

This book reveals why some companies go from good to great and why others don’t.

In the book, he talks about something called “The Hedgehog Concept”.  This concept is all about how success is found in simplifying things.

This is what he says…

“In his famous essay The Hedgehog and the FoxIsaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.'”

You might be thinking, “Yeah, and what does that mean?”

Well, Collins goes on to explain it powerfully.

He says, “The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog.  Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.

“Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty—the fox looks like the sure winner.

“The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.”


It does sound like the fox is the superior animal, doesn’t it? 

Well get ready to be surprised.

Collins says, “The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox.

“’Aha, I’ve got you now!’ thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast. The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, ‘Here we go again. Will he ever learn?’

“Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions.  The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defense and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack.”


Collins goes on to say that this isn’t just a one time event.

He says, “Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins. Berlin extrapolated from this little parable to divide people into two basic groups: foxes and hedgehogs.”

Collins says foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see through a complex viewpoint.

He says that Berlin described them as “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels.”

They never integrate all of their thinking into what Collins calls “one overall concept or unifying vision.”

How are hedgehogs different?

Hedgehogs do the opposite. Instead of complicating things, they “simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything.”


Jim Collins was so intrigued by this concept that he continued to pursue it by talking to other experts to see if they agreed with it.

Collins reveals something powerful that one professor taught him about the Hedgehog concept.

Collins says, “Princeton professor Marvin Bressler pointed out the power of the hedgehog during one of our long conversations: ‘You want to know what separates those who make the biggest impact from all the others who are just as smart? They’re hedgehogs.’

“‘Freud and the unconscious, Darwin and natural selection, Marx and class struggle, Einstein and relativity, Adam Smith and division of labor—they were all hedgehogs.'”


Do you see how they all took a Hedgehog approach to success? 

They took a complex world and simplified it.

Jim Collins ends with this important clarification, “To be clear, hedgehogs are not stupid. Quite the contrary. They understand that the essence of profound insight is simplicity. What could be more simple than e = mc2? 

“What could be simpler than the idea of the unconscious, organized into an id, ego, and superego? What could be more elegant than Adam Smith’s pin factory and ‘invisible hand’?

“No, the hedgehogs aren’t simpletons; they have a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.”

The Hedgehog’s One Chair?

Do you see that Collins’ advice is the same as Pavarotti’s?

What I want you to understand is that you need to stop juggling everything.

You need to stop trying to be the best at everything.

Focus on your “one thing”.

This is true both personally and for your business.


  • What is your “one thing”?
  • What are you the best at?
  • What gives you energy and is something you do with ease (and joy) that other people can’t do as well?

Delegate anything and everything else.

Do this so you can focus on your one chair – on what is essential for only you to do.


  • What is the one thing your business can be the best at?
  • What do customers already rave about that you do?
  • What is your business uniquely gifted and positioned to do better than your competitors?

Get rid of all of the things you can’t do best as a business.

Get rid of any distractions, policies, or goals that hinder you from approaching your business like a hedgehog.

You must do this if you want to outwit the foxes in your life like the hedgehog.

It’s your one way to earn the spotlight like Pavarotti.

Begin to take steps to put this concept into action today.

Do you know what your one chair is or what your one single organizing approach should be?

Share it in the comments.


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About Scott Aughtmon (1872 Articles)
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave. I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999. ===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.