“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” ― Confucius
In poker or in business, it’s a given that you want to be at a table with weak players you can easily beat. Right?
While being the strongest player at the table is a good way to win, it’s not a good way to improve your game. To get better at poker, or anything else, you need to surround yourself with more skillful players. You’ll learn more losing to good players than winning against bad ones. In fact, when you ﬁrst sit down at a poker table or a conference table, you’re often better off watching and getting an idea of who the better players are and learning from their strategies.
To be the best, learn from the best.
Have you ever known someone who surrounds themselves with the not-so-bright so they feel more secure and intelligent? Those people think being the smartest person in the room maximizes their chances for success, but they’re wrong. They have no avenue for learning crucial skills and strategies. Yes, it’s great to excel and surpass your colleagues, but if there’s nothing you can learn from those around you then you remain stuck right where you are; stronger than your circle but weaker than the people you’re avoiding.
If you find yourself in a situation where everyone plays better than you do, you may be tempted to get up and leave. But stay. If you want to get really good at anything and be a better leader or negotiator, the best thing to do is stay and learn, even if that means investing some time and money and a little ego .
Here are some things to consider if you want to learn the most from your colleagues or fellow players at the poker table or conference table:
- Work with people who have the knowledge you need.
- It can be tough to shine when surrounded by more experienced co-workers but taking the time to stay humble and ask good questions will only benefit you in the long run. Forego the short-term employee of the month mentality in lieu of gaining valuable knowledge about the company and how it works. Shine when you have the opportunity, but if someone else has a better approach, learn from it.
- Keep an eye on weaker people to learn what you should NOT do.
- Good poker players learn important lessons from lesser players … on what not to do. In business, watch how the weakest and least professional colleagues act. A co-worker who spoke in a very soft, passive voice and never made eye contact taught me a lot about the importance of speaking up and being confident.
- Find a mentor.
- You can learn a lot by watching talented co-workers, but if you want to reach your full potential, find a high-level mentor. Don’t assume you can figure everything out yourself; seek out a more experienced business colleague who is willing to help. Perhaps there’s something you can offer that person as well, such as information on how to use new technology or a generational perspective that they might not have. Don’t underestimate the value that you can bring to a mentorship.
- Mentally replay and analyze your past performance.
- Professional poker players learn a lot by recording and watching the televised tournaments they’ve been a part of. In hindsight, they can see why a particular hand was the wrong one to play, or when they should have raised instead of folded. And while there may be no one filming your daily life (unless you are a Kardashian), a quick mental replay of a key moment is useful for analyzing what you could have done better or shouldn’t have done at all. It also gives you a chance to take note of when you did everything just right; the more you learn, the more that will happen.