The Biggest Fish in a Small Pond
Are you the smartest person in the room? If yes, you are asking for boredom. Are you are expanding and re-creating who you are? If not, you are probably stagnating. Are you creating new products? If not, you are becoming uninspired. Are you developing new streams of income? If not, you are soon going to be losing money. Are you worried about one particular client? If so, you are not diversified and have a small pipeline. Are you the biggest fish in a small pond? If so, you are becoming lazy.
I’ll define a big fish in a small pond as a person who is important only within their limited circle of influence. It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond.
Some of my best decisions in life have been to leave the familiar confines of where I was comfortable and leave for bigger, newer surroundings. I grew up in Lake Charles, a small town in southwest Louisiana. It was a big move to leave that place for me. Years later I was living in La Jolla, California. The San Diego area is a much bigger pond than Lake Charles, but after 12 years living there I found myself stagnant, so I made the move to LA.
I don’t mean to imply that you must move to a bigger city, but you need to go beyond your current pond to grow. Most people live within a couple of miles of where they grew up. For me, the biggest mistake I made in my career was not having bigger think from the beginning. I remember making the decision to cater to a small audience and take better care of them. What happened was I became too dependent upon that small audience.
Companies that stay small lose talent to companies committed to expansion.Getting big creates opportunity. For too many years I was dependent on just one industry—it was too narrow. I had to go deep, but I also needed to go wide. To expand means to spread out, increase in size, become larger, and enlarge. I think expanding is like having kids—you will never be fully ready for them until you have them and when you do you still won’t be ready, but you get it done.
Nobody ever told me to get huge, instead they said, “smaller is better and more controllable.” I believe that any business that refuses to expand will cease to exist. Expansion allows you to get a broader customer base that makes you less dependent upon customers that don’t truly appreciate you and won’t pay you a fair margin. You only get a better quality customer when you start going horizontal.
Many people don’t pursue the bigger pond. Malcolm Gladwell believes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond. He believes starting your career at a large successful company or attending an elite university is damaging to your dreams. The big pond, according to Gladwell, will take bright people and demoralize them. The thought is when you’re in the big waters, there is greater risk of being eaten—which is true only if you stay small.
The truth is that bigger, more challenging ponds allow you to exercise in ways small ponds never allow. Big ponds don’t allow you to “just be average”, but if you choose to be a big fish in a small pond the competition lessens and you loose your edge, living with a fake sense of superiority. There’s no room for growth in a small pond.
It’s much easier to be the most successful business man in a small town than it is to be the most successful business man in the world. You need to shoot for the highest stars you can. You need to go out there in the ocean where there is opportunity. Go big from the get go. Have giant think, huge ideas, big spend, and make big boy plays. It takes the same amount of energy and effort to go small as it does big, but the difference is that going small is always going to eventually be a failing formula.
Don’t limit yourself. Don’t be small. Get obsessed with going massive.
Get on my Playbook so that you can go big much faster.