Have you ever been the smartest, fastest, best in any room? Think back to school. And be honest – we’ve all been there. It’s kind of fun, right? You get to have all the answers, help people, and have an easy, comfortable experience. We should, as leaders, seek out those ways to help people by being the most informed.

Should we help people by being a mentor? Absolutely. But for your own growth and development, you need to be in rooms that are filled with people who will push you to be your best. Confucius said “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” This quote has also been attributed to everyone from Lorne Michaels to Jack Welch, and regardless of who said it it’s a great way to grow, and followed by some of the most elite in their fields.


Is it all about being the smartest in every room? Certainly not. If you’d like to get better at yoga, then being at a really awesome yoga studio with an experienced teacher is the way to go. Would you like to become a more experienced networker? Then seek out people you think are amazing networkers who are growing their business in that way and become part of their network. Our clients have great success not just because they have a stellar coach, but because we have a community of high-achieving business owners that push each other to be better.


Why is choosing the right room so important? Your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is sitting in the couch in your pajamas zoning out watching television. Your comfort zone is also doing the same job you’ve done, and know inside and out, for your entire career. Are those things bad? No, but there’s no personal growth happening. And your comfort zone could also look like being the smartest person in the room. If you’re not the one being challenged, then there’s little room for failure, right?

The place where the magic happens though? Outside that comfort zone. There aren’t any big deals happening in your business when you’re sitting on the couch in your pajamas or doing the same job for your entire career. Taking a risk is SCARY. We know that. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Do you have to jump off a cliff every time you try something new? No. But improving by just 1% in whatever you’re doing can make all the difference in the world over time. Let’s use an example. Say your ultimate goal is to run a marathon. If you are 1% better every day, and you start with just ¼ mile running, it will only take you 469 days to accomplish a marathon. And your first step is to run just 15 feet further!


Our client Butch Reynolds, the Olympic Gold Medalist and world record holder, was named the fastest man in the world by smashing the 19-year-old 400m record of 43.86 seconds by running a 43.29 in Zurich in 1988, which held for 11 years. 33 years later, no one has broken 43 seconds, and he still has the third fastest time ever. Who was his training partner? His brother Jeff, who ran in the 400m in the previous heat at the World Championships (the person he hugs first at the end of this video is his brother). The best training with the best helped him to reach his goals, and then with that support go even further. Ultimately, he has Olympic gold, Olympic silver, 5 World Championship golds, 2 silvers and a bronze.

When talking to Butch though, we talked about how as a world record holder do you continue to push yourself to be better? When you’re at the top, how do you continue to keep going? That’s when you rely on your team. Your coach becomes the source of accountability. Fortune 500 CEO’s have executive coaches, and so do the best of the best in small and mid-sized businesses. The CEO’s of Pfizer, eBay, and Charles Schwab all have been quoted talking about their coach, or “trusted adviser”. Someone to hold you accountable to growth and reaching even higher than what you thought was your best is the key to staying in the elite.


Surrounding yourself with a community of elite performers is the key to growth. Learning from the best is the way to continue on a path of success. The right community can make all the difference.


Do you want to join our elite community of business owners and leaders? Are you looking for an executive coach? We can help. Schedule your free, no-obligation business and leadership analysis today.

About the author,

Director of Marketing, ActionCOACH Columbus

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