As students, we often have difficulty visualizing what kind of life we’d like to lead in the future. We know that we want to finish school and “get a good job”, but we don’t have a precise definition of what the terms “get” and “good” and “a job” entail. We expect that after we finish our secondary and post-secondary education, we will find work and continue however life takes us. But we need to know where we are headed, because if we aim for nothing, we will hit it with remarkable success, as the saying goes.


The hedgehog model, a Venn diagram originally created by the academic Jim Collins in his book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t”, is a framework that combines one’s strengths, values and financial ambitions to identify future goals and lifestyle expectations, in order to better understand how to conduct one’s life in the present.  


It is based on the concept that in nature, a Fox, uses all of its energy advancing many small ideas, doing many things simultaneously. The Hedgehog, however, only focuses its time and energy on one big idea, and so in any given race, the Hedgehog wins. 


Being the Fox is a good way to get to know yourself when you are young. At this stage in life, it is great to experience everything and seize every opportunity: volunteer everywhere, join clubs, teams and classes in your community, enter every competition, read every book, go to every event, get every experience and take advantage of every resource available. But for the long run, we should think like the Hedgehog and use our experiences to focus the spotlight on one big idea. 

 Analyze the three circles: 

  1. Think about what you’re good at, what you could be great at. Ask yourself: if I were to take a skill I am already good at or would like to be good at, and work on it for the next ten years, what would it be and how would I get there? 
  1. Look at what pays well, what kind of lifestyle you would like to live–not just a salary range. Would you like health care, a pension? Do you want to work a 9-5 job, or work from home, or maybe not work at all?  
  1. Think about what you love, what it is you really enjoy that you also see yourself doing ten years into the future. This might even overlap with what you’re good at.  


Once you’ve gone through all three steps, find where you’d be in each overlap between the circles. Are you a rich but bored accountant? A happy but poor fashion designer? A world famous photographer – but only in your dreams? Ask yourself if you’d be okay being between the overlaps (you genuinely might be, if that’s the lifestyle you want). But the sweet spot is the intersectionof all three. That’s your #win.  


I recommend you do some research to get the most out of it: try the MTBI or Enneagram test to find out more about your personality and spend some time evaluating how to harness your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. As well, research and interview people you admire to gain a broader perspective of their characteristics and motivations.  


Combine your self-exploration with the research, and use reflection to gain insight into how to create your hedgehog model. It is an effective framework to bring clarity to what you should be doing in the present to reach your future goals. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” 



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