When I was in high school, I wasn’t very fast. I was in gym class and it was Mile Day. Mile Day is this day where they make everyone run a mile and time it. It was only once a year. I was pretty much middle of the pack speed-wise so they placed me in the slower group. I ran as fast as I could and was about to get second place. Seeing how close I was to winning, I pushed myself and ended up with the fastest time in that group.
I was still about middle of the pack time-wise. I recall a friend distastefully saying I was just a big fish in a small pond.
He was right. But as I see myself and my friends get further in our careers, I see this is the best way.
Big fishes eat all the food
One of my friends, Christine, got into every college of her choice. Meanwhile, I got into one out of three. If you were to sit us side by side and look at our homework and extra-curricular activities, we would be about equal.
We had completely different strategies during school though. I took every AP class I could. AP means advanced placement, so a college level class that you can get college credit for. There were 9 of those. I then self-studied another two for college credit. My grades took a hit. Once again I was somewhere near the middle of pack ranking wise. Something like 400 out of 790.
Christine, on the other hand, didn’t take a single AP class even though she would have fit in. She easily aced all these easier classes. She ended up going to an amazing school and getting an amazing job offer right out of college. I, meanwhile, got into an okay school and had a slow road towards making my own company because I had no offers.
You can hop to the bigger pond later
One of my friends, Young, became one of the youngest producers for a very well known television company at its headquarters in Manhattan. He has two Emmys. How did he do this? Heck, how does one even become a producer? What is a producer even??
He didn’t do this by going to the company as an intern and working his way up. No, that would have taken years. He went to his small hometown in Denver and got a high up position at the local news station. Only after a year or so did he finally make the switch over to New York.
This is why people laterally get promotions. It’s just faster.
Startups work this way too
I myself was able to build and grow ZipX by starting in small market of a small area. Expats in Hong Kong. In fact, all my sales were done this way. Our first 10 customers for Shotput were Kickstarters.
You need to focus on that small market and dominate as a big fish before moving on to tackle the big lake. Just make sure you actually have a big lake to eventually get into and a path to get there. Otherwise, you may find yourself stuck in a small one.