He used to tell me, “If you want to be smart, hang out with dumb people. If you want to be tall, hang out with short people. If you want to be thin, hang out with fat people. If you want to feel rich, hang out with poor people.”
Oh yes, I wanted to be smart. I also wanted to excel and make a difference. But it made no sense that to achieve these things, I would have to take advantage of the perceived shortcomings of others.
So instead, I surrounded myself—and continue to surround myself— with those who were and are smarter/excellent/contributory etc. My idols became people who not just wanted to grow themselves but understood that excellence meant caring about the growth of those around them.
Take Richard Branson, for instance: Do you think he spent even one day playing beneath his abilities? Do you think he avoided challenge and risk-taking or took advantage of others for his own gain? My beautiful mother is another example. She pushed for excellence and taught us that the sky was not just the limit but that there was room for everyone who wanted to go there. And what about Nelson Mandela? Against all odds, he reached for stars and took everyone with him.
This is how you make an impact. This is how you change a life. This is how you leave your mark on the world.
Shaq has it right. ‘Tho there is probably no one taller, he continues to aspire. Dr. O’Neal knows the secret: raise your game, no matter what game you play, and you get better. Everyone around you gets better.
To all you entrepreneurs: every day, every interaction is an opportunity to raise it up. Partner with exceptional people. Contribute. Be accountable. Share your knowledge. Never stop being a student. Most of all, be grateful.
Playing down does nothing for anyone: There’s no growth for you and the condescension with which you are seeing others will prevent theirs.
That’s not good business, nor is it good for humanity.