When I was in middle school I remember a coach asking a much older friend of mine, “Well, do you want to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?” At the time the coach was asking the question to help the young ball player choose which college he should choose to play baseball at. What is better, after all, being a big shot on a smaller time school or be a nobody at a big time school?
When I heard the question, I didn’t know the right answer (and neither did my buddy). To this day I can’t tell you what’s better, necessarily, but I can tell you there’s some benefit to being the little fish. In fact, I’d argue that whether you’re ever a big fish in a little pond that it’s critical that we all, at least once, experience being the smallest, weakest fish in the water. Others agree, as well.
I can tell you that being the strongest person in the gym isn’t helpful for getting stronger. Earlier this year I had a chance to train at the strongest gym on the planet, Westside Barbell. Where I met world record holder, Dave Hoff, who owns a shirt that says, “your squat is my bench.” He benches a world-record 1000 pounds, which means the punch line only works if you can squat 1000. One day I will squat half that.
That’s little fish perspective.
Recently I’ve taken up jujitsu, where I’m regularly choked into submission by master black belts half my size and twice my age. Everyday I learn at hyper speed while I exert maximal effort to earn the result equivalent to being killed by another man. As a little fish, I’ll tell you that without these big ponds I’d be a stunted, ego-maniac with no concept of reality.
This isn’t just my opinion, either. Contrary to our original assumptions, current research has proven that adults develop cognitively well beyond adolescence. In fact, being a “small fish,” per se, is a rich environment for evolving ourselves as more and more complex beings. Tim Ferriss would phrase is as his effort to find opportunities to be the weakest in the room.
Not only is this good for adult development, it’s critical for gaining perspective. Perspective is a cure for a runaway ego, as well. The benefits keep coming, don’t they?
Of course, being the big fish pays and I’m here to tell you that you should be a big fish in some of life ponds, but you should consider the potent power of being the weakest person in the room at times to develop yourself to your highest potential.
Every 5 minutes for 30 minutes, complete the following for time:
8 Chest-to-Bar Pull Ups
10 DB Front Squats (50/30)
10 DB Shoulder-to-Overhead
8 Alternating Pistols
**Athletes receive six scores