Don’t Be the Smartest Person in the Room

businessman-thinkstock-sml-webThere’s a commercial for Experian that caught my attention recently. It begins with, “Everything you’re pretty good at now, you were once…well….pretty bad at.”

I had an immediate emotional reaction to that message. That one sentence can transport you back to those early days in your career when you thought you knew everything, but had experienced virtually nothing. You stumbled. You fell. And then you got back up and learned from those embarrassing mistakes we like to call “learning opportunities.”  On one hand, you may feel embarrassed thinking back to those cringe-worthy learning experiences, but on the other hand, look how far you’ve come!

You learned! You got better! To be successful at anything in life takes energy, determination, practice, and coaching. Whether you’re learning to ride a bike or to lead a multi-national organization, there’s plenty to learn along the way. Even if you fail often in the beginning, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Lebron James wasn’t born a basketball phenom. There was a time growing up when he missed as many shots as he made. But he worked at it. Bill Gates’ first business wasn’t Microsoft, and that first business wasn’t a success. But he learned from it. Walt Disney wasn’t always known for his imagination and creativity. In fact, he was fired from his first job for not having enough good ideas. But he overcame his failures.

Where are you in your career right now? Can you look back and reminisce about the errors you made and how far you’ve come? That’s a great feeling. Knowing that you persevered and chose a successful path is so rewarding. But your journey isn’t over yet. There is still room for improvement. Remember- everything you’re good at now, you were once pretty bad at. Our skill level for anything exists on a continuum. Are you pretty good now or are you perfect? Until you’re perfect you still have work to do.

Look at any top athlete in his/her field and you will find a coaching staff that identifies opportunities for improvement. Top athletes recognize that even when they’re at the top of their game and are untouchable by the competition, a coach can still help them maximize their potential.

What are you doing to maximize your potential? If you’ve plateaued, will you settle for being pretty good at what you do, or will you pursue the path for greatness?

“You should always be learning. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong place.” – Erika Bearman