I saw the Best Exotic Hotel Marigold last weekend with a friend of mine, and if you can excuse the over-used stereotypes of India, it was a funny movie and the heavy duty cast of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith etc definitely added to high expectations of delivery, and that it did. Afterwards, as one does, we went to hers for tea and conversation touched on so many different topics, as it tends to do, and I remember she mentioned something that I had been thinking about for a while – intelligence.
Yes, okay, maybe I live and breathe intelligence, seeing as my PhD is on Intelligent Leadership, but this was about something different. Can you remember when you were in Primary school and there was always that clamour for who would be the first in class, or first three (I say Primary school as that is when I became aware of educational competition, I mean, what would you compete for in Nursery school educationally? I don’t know but my memory of rankings start from primary 3).
And how even if you were always ‘first’ in class in primary school, moving onto secondary school and a different pool of people with different intelligences meant that perhaps first place was not that easily attainable anymore, or even no longer attainable at all. Fast forward into university with an even more diverse pool who have been selected nationally or internationally (depending on the university) and the results become more interesting – particularly in how those who originally came in the top ten position at primary school/secondary school had to come to the realisation that they were no longer the brainy’s in class.
Now, translate this into the working world, where ambition and the pressures of growing up have added to the burning desire to succeed and the pool of success becomes even more concentrated. Or does it?
I guess it depends on what one measures as success, and I shall not go into the different meanings of success and how that is different from happiness, or maybe it isn’t, because to be truly successful, one ought to be truly happy – but that is another conversation for another time. The point here is ranking, peer-to-peer rankings and how those change over time.
Yet what I find reassuring is that in some people, those rankings never change, they consistently outperform their peers throughout educational and career lives – yes they might have to work harder, but that burning desire to be the best that they can, is what I like.
And this is where our conversation on this topic ended – that the most important thing is not how high you rank compared to your peers/friends (although it remains human to do so), but it is how well one consistently puts in one’s best. I guess that is the true challenge – to be the best, you can be.