You Don’t Want to Be the Best

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I know that you say you want to be, but you don’t know what you’re saying.

If you’re the best, well, then that’s all you have to look forward to. You can only hope to maintain your status. And if your focus is your status, you can’t really expect to grow because you’re always going to be diminishing, stifling, or downright fighting the efforts of others. But you won’t last long. Self-preservation can’t compete with the hunger of those that want to get better. You only delay the inevitable.

Because there is no top. There is no ceiling. Only an expansive universe that beckons us to keep going higher. If the thought of not being the smartest one in the room, the top performer in your field, or even the coolest of all of your friends bothers you, then you are going to be the limit of your sphere, the ceiling of your universe. You shrink the world. And that’s depressing.

So you don’t really want to be the best. You want to be better. But in order to keep getting better you can’t be afraid to make others better than you. Your true value is known through how you influence positive change in those around you. The real benefit of being better than others is that it affords you the opportunity to do just that, but only if you refuse to settle for position over progress.

Because we are inspired by those better than us. We are reminded that more is possible than we originally thought. A 4-minute mile was seen as impossible until May 6, 1954, when Roger Bannister did it. Now, there have been over 4800 sub-4-minute races. There was a time when doing the splits on the balance beam was considered amazing. Now gymnasts do complex aerial maneuvers on the beam…every day. Getting better is not be about ego; it’s about evolution.

That’s why I’m not discouraged by others being better than me. I’m encouraged that better is possible. If I am afraid to make others better than me, then I am afraid of a better world. The only way to make a better world is to help others get better, and if that means “better than me,” so be it. I am thankful that there are better people, that there are people who can do things I can only dream of, because they inspire me.

Do you want a better you, a better team, a better company, a better world? Invest in expanding the world, in pushing the limits of human achievement. Expand our vision of what is possible by refusing to settle for position over progress. Making others better, making the world better, is far more powerful than being the best. It is motive force.

Best is a period. Best is terminal. But better is a story. Better is eternal. Better is better than best.

So, if you’re a leader, don’t think that only you can inspire your people, or that only you have the answer. If you can get over your need to be the best, and really give yourself to bettering your people, the greatness they can achieve will inspire their peers in a way that you may never be able to. And if you can celebrate that, rather than feel threatened by it, you can be more than the best…you can be good.

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