It’s great to be the big fish, even in a small pond.

The experience of being better at an activity or an action than our peers, is not only confidence building, it can also push us further. Knowing that people depend on us to step up, or competing with someone who pushes us to grow, challenges us. Mentally we are stimulated in ways that we don’t get if we’re middle of, or lower in the pack. Yet, we often forget this concept when deciding what categories we want to belong to, whether the groups are high-end schools, elite sports clubs, or top-tier companies to work in. When performing with people well above our level, it feels discouraging, frustrating, and may cause us to give up pursuing our goal completely. If we are great at playing baseball, and are suddenly recruited by the ‘Yankees’, would we jump at the chance? Probably yes, but if we don’t play at that advanced level, we’ll be benched most of the time, and not have a good experience. If we drop down to a team that’s more suitable to our skill level, we’ll probably make some great plays, get more time on the field, and feel like a hero. Knowing the difference between a good stretch challenge where we fit and can excel, and reaching beyond our range to an arena that will crush us, can be tricky to navigate. Take ego, emotion and social status out of the equation to make a good decision and find the best fit.

Take action: Prioritize personal fit over socially high-level opportunities. It’s exciting when we’re given new challenges, but look for the ones that will stretch your ability and help you grow. Avoid the ones that will stress you out to the point of giving up on them.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

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