For the last 5 years, I have been running the 15K hot chocolate run with a friend. We have been late to start the race for the last two years so ended up running with folks that are much slower than our speed. As soon as I crossed the start line, I started passing people left and right. At first, it was a great feeling, but then I started getting blocked to run any faster as there were simply too many walkers.
I wondered to myself – “Is it better to be the fastest in a slow group or a slow one in a fast group?” I am actually not just talking about the race but also about work. Being in the slow group of the race and getting blocked by slow walkers immediately reminded me of work. I have been at one company for 10 years. Deep down, I know I am one of the “fastest” in the company and am frustrated often by some of the “incompetence” I need to deal with that slows down my work. I always wondered whether I should go to a smaller company where the pace is faster and the talent is hopefully higher.
The answer to this question is not as clear as I originally thought. There seems to be pros and cons for each situation.
Situation 1: Being one of the fastest in a slow group.
- Feeling accomplished and good for the ego as I am passing many people on the race
- Lower stress as very few people are passing me
- No self-doubt as I am clearly more advanced than this group I am running with
- Run with nice people
- Blocked unintentionally by slower walker/runners
- Very few people to model after or learn from or draft off of
Situation 2: Being one of the slowest in a fast group
- Challenged every day by seeing brilliance in others
- Learn new things by watching others and drafting off of that
- No one blocking me
- Plenty of self-doubt of whether I can keep up and excel
- Higher levels of stress trying to keep up
- Working with more self-centered (axxhole) people
There is no clear answer actually. For the race, I ended up running my fastest time ever – 15K in under 90 min. My fastest time used to be 99 min. I actually was really surprised. I thought starting with the slow group would keep me slower. I think the fact I was running faster than most of the people around me gave me motivation to both pace myself and keep running faster. I also had no pressure actually to beat my time. I just ran for the fun of running.
My lessons learned from this question was surprising to me. I learned that I can best excel if I just don’t put too much pressure on myself. There is no perfect situation in a race or at work. It’s what we make it and focus on. I rather focus on the enormous impact I can make at work. There is always people slower than us as well as axxholes at work. When we believe in ourselves and relax, we as over-achievers will end up doing better as sometimes it’s the internal pressure that negatively affects us and not the outside situation.
What I learned is wherever I am, I can either choose to get in my own way (with self doubt or imagined pressure or focus on the slowness) or be the best I can be. I have the choice to enjoy my work and do my best, so why not just do that and not over-think it?
Your comments: Do you have a strong opinion of which situation you want to be in and why? What do you think of my conclusion? Do you agree?
Like this article? Then help me share it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, via email etc..
New to my site? Start here – Soft Skills – How to Succeed like an Executive