Monday 20 July 2015

Know When to Leave the Room

Have you ever heard the phrase coined by Michael Dell, ‘never be the smartest person in the room’? All of us should aspire to be a better parent, role model, leader, employer on a continual basis, no matter what success we achieve. But if you’re looking around that room and thinking “how am I benefitting from being in this environment?” Then you cannot hope to be a better person tomorrow. In short, get out. The environments in which you choose to live your life must be filled with people that challenge you, push you out of your comfort zone, that actually scare you a little in a way that forces you to be better, whether that new challenge requires patience, team work, communication skills, creativity, or any skill that you improve as a result.

The ‘room’ can refer to any element of your life in which other people have an influence, whether it is in the workplace or on a sports field, or within your friendship group. The whole concept is to continue to improve by surrounding yourself with the right people. One of the keys to self-improvement is knowing when you have outgrown a role or become stifled by negative people, in your professional or private life. (This does not mean that you should march into your boss’ office and demand a promotion, nor does it mean you are therefore entitled to one.) But gaining the realisation that you are ready for a new challenge is a positive step that should not be ignored. It is not about competition with the people in the room, it is about competition with your former self, so that day by day you improve and continue to experience success thanks to your exposure to new experiences.

Making that transition, though, can be a daunting prospect to face. The thought of going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in an ocean of very smart fish, can be enough to turn anyone against the idea. It is important to realise that instead of feeling scared, intimidated and a little stupid, all you need to do is change your attitude towards the task. When you instead focus on positives, there are two key considerations to make; firstly the knowledge and experience gap that there may be between you will diminish rapidly as you learn from those who are better than you. Secondly, simply by standing in that room, you are already passively associated with these people, you are part of the same brand and therefore the perception is that you are on the same level as them.

Putting yourself into rooms full of people smarter than you, wiser than you, better than you in some form, will force you to be smarter, wiser and better than you were yesterday. Know when to leave one room, and walk into a scarier one.