It’s easy to be fooled that being “well-rounded” is the easiest way to personal success. I always did. I believed that I had to be good at everything. So I got involved in a wide variety of activities, made friends with lots of types of people, and took tons of different types of classes. In theory, this seems like a good idea; being “well-rounded” helped me find reasonable amounts of success in many pursuits. 

Here’s the caveat: I was never the best at anything. Rather, I was decently good at a variety of different things. I always thought the latter was preferable, but it was through the college admissions process that I decided being “well-rounded” might not be ideal. I had known I wanted to go to Duke my whole life, but I never thought I’d manage to get accepted. To try to raise my chances, I spent hours poring over college admissions journals, tips, and tricks. In a pool of thousands of qualified applicants, I learned that being “spiked” – deeply accomplished in one field – is much more valued than being “well-rounded.” 

Though I did end up getting accepted into Duke, I consider myself more of a “well-rounded” than a “spiked” applicant. And that’s okay – each of us has a “spike,” but it takes intentional effort to realize this aspect of our personalities and apply it to everyday life. Businesses face the same challenge. In Chapter 6 of The Adventure Begins When the Plan Falls Apart, Baker discusses his company’s struggle to cater to its strengths. Since the company often spread itself too thin, this made it difficult for it to be profitable and meet its financial goals. Ultimately, Baker comes to the realization that his company must focus on its strongest aspect, oncology research, and invest itself in its clients that support this facet of the business.  

Baker refers to a company’s “spike” as its “crown jewel,” and he underscores the importance of honing in on an organization’s strongest and most profitable services as their specialties. Like businesses, we each are challenged to define ourselves by our greatest talent, our “crown jewel.” Though it sometimes can be difficult to determine your “spike,” a first step to take is identifying your values, or the parts of your life or yourself that you believe are most important. 

Personal values serve as a means to measure what you determine is a successful and meaningful life. When you use your values as a compass, you will be able to intentionally determine the structure of your life, using your values to serve as a foundation for a variety of choices, including those related to your career, relationships, volunteer activities, and religious and political beliefs. Once you have clearly determined your values and allow them to guide your decisions, you will have a clearer sense of purpose, the ability to create a strong self- identity, and thus establish your “spike.”  Having a “spike” will allow for a productive, successful lifestyle: you are doing what you are good at and what you believe to be important. 

Though it may take time to discover your true mission, this process will undoubtedly strengthen you as you develop a stronger sense of self. Your “spike” will become apparent when your strengths begin to align with our values. As you prioritize what’s truly important, you will become more fulfilled and less stressed- recognizing your value and potential will leave you empowered.