Always the best man in the room? You need to find a different room.

Michael P. Mar 30
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Several years ago, I felt stuck. Both in business and personally, it felt I like I was spinning my wheels but getting nowhere fast. The business I was running at the time wasn’t doing very well, and I was second-guessing myself as a leader….overall, the world of business just felt like a very hostile and hard place, that maybe I wasn’t cut out for.

It was most frustrating because I was motivated, talented, and had experienced a lot of success and gratification in the past, but wasn’t experiencing that right then, and had no idea how to fix it.

While I was wrestling with this problem, someone older, wiser, and more successful gave some advice that profoundly impacted me:

“If you are constantly the best man in the room, you need to find a different room. You need to *spend money*, if that’s what it takes, to deliberately get around people who are better than you.”

This person wasn’t trying to sell something. It was just pure counsel from experience. As soon as I heard it, the advice really resonated with me and I realized that was a major thing that was missing. It resonated because I had previously been around very acclaimed and successful individuals CONSTANTLY; either in person or by reading their books. But right then, I hadn’t been doing that, and found myself always feeling like I was the “best man in the room” (the pride and arrogance behind that feeling is a completely different issue…)

I also realized right then that I was observing a complimentary principle at work. This principle was discussed by John Maxwell, in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (audiobook | print), in the context of leadership as the “Law of the Lid” — where the “Lid” represents the limit of our leadership abilities.

The basic summary is this:  if you want your business, organization, or even family to grow, you must be growing and learning yourself - by reading and hanging around better people than you.

To illustrate this, on a scale of 1 to 10 if your leadership ability is a 4, the group you are leading will not be any more proficient at leadership than a 4. If you hire a 7, they will eventually become frustrated and move on. And it is practically impossible for you to train up someone to be any more proficient than your own proficiency level of 4. If you’re not growing, and someone you’re leading has the potential and drive to grow beyond your 4, they are likely to bypass you completely and learn from others.

It also means that if your followers aren’t growing, quite likely you aren’t growing.

After hearing that advice and starting to get back in the disciplines of meeting, talking with, and reading books by people who had accomplished more and different things in life, my horizons were quickly expanded about what was possible, and how to go about doing so. The world in general became a much brighter, more exciting, hopeful and dynamic place, and brand new doors of opportunity have continually opened ever since. I don’t mean it has always been easy since then, but at least I haven’t felt stuck, or felt like I was the only one experiencing difficulty.

Punctuating this topic, I’ll conclude with his oh-so-appropriate and most-quoted saying, in memory of world-renowned speaker, author, and my friend, the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones:

“You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet, and the books you read.”

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