30 July 2019

Lawrence Jones MBE in the workplace“If you are the smartest person in the room, you need to change rooms.”

Luckily for me, as a young man, there weren’t many people who would class me as smart. I wasn’t academically gifted; great at sports but not at traditional education.

In fact, I left college with an extraordinary set of A-Level results: four ‘U’s! I literally didn’t make the grade.

However, that meant that I had to be better at other things. I was a trier, able to give anything a go because I wasn’t afraid of failing. With that I was tenacious, never giving up on what I wanted to achieve. I am still all of these things – I thank the challenging time that I had in the classroom for that.

My experience at school also taught me to seek out those who were smarter than me, to learn from them.

So that leads me to this question: Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?

We’ve all heard the analogy and for me the answer is simple. I would always choose to be the small fish in a big pond.

Why? There is always something that you can learn from those around you. When you place yourself within a group of people who are at the same point in their journey as you, you are all learning as you go. If you’re a little ahead, the others are learning from you but are you growing just as quickly as the others?

On the other hand, when you place yourself in a group of people who are further on in their journey, who are more successful than you, you inevitably accelerate your own growth.

Learning every day

It’s not as easy as it sounds though. We are almost naturally predisposed as humans to hate feeling stupid. Feeling like you’re not as clever as those around you can feel embarrassing and awkward – but I am not saying you should surround yourself with Harvard professors and rocket scientists. Instead, seek out the best in your field, the people who’ve been doing it longer than you have; those who are at the top of their game. These are the relevant people who you can learn from.

My journey of seeking out these individuals has sent me all over the world. Looking everywhere I go for the ‘smartest person’. Now it has led me to interview some extraordinary characters for the Mind Your Own Business podcast. Despite being in business for more than 30 years, I continue to learn something new every single day.

In nature, you’re either growing or you’re dying. The same applies to humans. We’re either growing and developing – our brains, our bodies – or we’re stagnating and dying. If you’re the smartest person in your room, it might feel good for your ego, but it won’t for very long. In no time at all, the people around you, learning from your experience and knowledge, will surpass you. The choice is yours.


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