You Don’t Have to Be the Best, But I Gotta Have Your Best

I listened to a successful founder share his story. Part of his journey was a painful realization that he wasn’t the best. He connected with a peer group of type A personalities and quickly realized he wasn’t the most intelligent person in the group. He was smart, but others were smarter. This was tough to swallow because he’d always performed well in school and ranked at the top of his class. In this group of overachievers, he was, as he put it, “average . . . at best.”

As he came to grips with his ranking in this peer group, he noticed something else. Some of the others didn’t give their all because they didn’t have to. Their intelligence allowed them to give less and still get by. They weren’t consistent because they didn’t have to be.

This person went on to found a start-up and later exit it. He’s the only one in his peer group to have done this. When he was asked about his success compared to his peers’, he said something interesting. He wasn’t the brightest person in his group, but he made a point of giving his best effort every day. His work ethic was consistent, and he believes that this (along with luck and other factors) is what allowed him to excel.

His watchword now, when working with others, is “you don’t need to be the best, but I gotta have your best.”

This founder was brutally honest with himself but didn’t let it discourage him. Instead, he found something he could control that would give him an edge. I really like his approach because he focused on playing the hand he was dealt as well as he could—not dwelling on the hand he’d have liked to have had.