From time to time, I like to share a little parable from a fantastic book I’ve read, written by Jim Collins called Good to Great.
I think it is a timely reminder for all of us to appreciate the mindset of those who are successful and those who are not.
In his famous 1953 essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox”, philosopher Isaiah Berlin divided the world into two distinct categories: hedgehogs and foxes.
His essay was based upon the ancient Greek parable, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
The fox is a cunning creature that is able to devise many complex strategies to sneak up on the hedgehog. Foxes build their knowledge and skills by drawing on a wide range of experiences, and they tend to know a little about a lot.
Hedgehogs, on the other hand, view the world through the lens of a single defining idea. Rather than knowing a little about many things, they know a lot about one thing.
In Jims Colllins’ book ‘Good to Great’, he references the story of the fox and the hedgehog when discussing great leaders.
“Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce,” Collins writes.
“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.
“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, lightening 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 spokes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding towards his prey, sees the hedgehog defence and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack.
“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.”
Essentially, this story illustrates the different ways in which we view and interact with our world. Foxes have a scattered, continually evolving their approach, and they become a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none.
Hedgehogs are able to simplify their complex world into a single, organising idea – in Collins’ words, they can “see what is essential, and ignore the rest”. They can learn how to do one thing and do it very well.
So which one are you: a hedgehog or a fox? And which mindset do you believe will lead to a more financially successful future?
For the record, I’m a very proud hedgehog. 😊
Have a great day.
P.S. Whether I am investing in property, businesses or trading crypto currencies, I still apply the hedgehog principles mentioned in Good to Great to all areas of my life.