We Live in a Culture of Small – No Greatness Allowed. I know this because of how I am corrected by those around me when I do something that exceeds them. I am put in my place. I live embarrassed of who and how I am knowing there is something wrong with me. I live small, always smaller than those around me so that they don’t feel bad. It is why I don’t talk about my world record, it embarrasses the people around me – they don’t like it and I would still like to fit in. So I change who I am.
And in so doing, in trying to build a world where no-one is embarrassed or looks bad in front of others, in building a world where how the other feels is more important them how we feel we have created a culture of smallness and mediocrity.
We don’t even know what Great looks like anymore!
This is an extract from the new book I am writing. It is supposed to be about Deeply Agile, the links between my world record and an Agile Transformation. I suspect it is about autonomy and greatness. We will see how it turns out. This may not even make the book, but it is speaking to where I am right now. So I am sharing it in the hope that it may find those people like me who are struggling to fit into a small world and who have been taught to be embarrassed by their own greatness.
I am writing this for all the people like you who are finding themselves being put back into a box by someone who can’t cope with your greatness. I am writing this so that you see what is happening and can make another choice. No-one else should be able to tell you how great you can or can not be! Who you are isn’t defined by the insecurities of someone else! It shouldn’t matter how angry and embarrassed they get because of how they compare themselves to you!
How dare they limit and define you ?
How dare you accept that limit as true ?
But to do this you need to be able to see it…..
Have you noticed how you never seem to excel much past the people who are around you ? I see this strongly in the work place, particularly when it comes to those above us. It is career suicide to be show up someone more senior than you. Then again, you aren’t exactly popular when you are seen to do this by your peers. After all, we are in this together, why would you sabotage me and make me look incompetent by showing off like that. We live in permanent fear of somehow being grander than those above us.
They make us feel bad about it! We start to hear phrases like, “Who is the lead here ? “. When you speak those people cut you off or immediately tell everyone else why what you said was wrong. It is all very subtle, nothing overt. A way of telling you to stop making me look bad. Don’t you resepct me ? If you did you wouldn’t show up in a way that makes me look small. I am after all you lead/ manager/ expert.
So I stay small so that I fit in with the people around me who all think small and so expect small.
There is nothing wrong with small ! Most of us believe and live this life. Our greatness is given to us by others, it is something we don’t take for ourselves. We have to earn it. The next promotion, the next award. Always given. Always with permission from those above us.
There is nothing wrong with small – unless! Unless it isn’t really who you are, unless what you yearn for is the freedom of exploring and trying new things! Unless who you are is grand and great. There is nothing wrong with living small unless you demand that of others! Unless you demand that no-one surpass you and when they do, you make them pay for it.
For those who have accepted small as their lot there is nothing more intimidating than someone who lives grand greatness. We live in a word where small is how it is, so we have all become really, really good at stopping anyone from trying to be great! We have become really, really good at making people believe themselves small. I live my life in fear of embarrassing the people around me because I see things in a different way or because I can do something they can’t. I know that I am not allowed to make anyone else feel ashamed.
The problem is that to stay small I have to feel constantly as if something is wrong with me. Instead of you being embarrassed I live in permanent embarrassment about who I am. I am permanently apologizing for the things I have done, for the things I see, for the things I find easy and you don’t.
I am still learning how to let go of fitting into this preformed, pre-determined of world of small and mediocre. A world where every role has its level of greatness assigned to it and you can’t live beyond that without pissing someone off. I am tired of living within this system of smallness that fosters and rewards mediocrity. Because that is really what it is, a system of mediocrity where high performance is pre-defined and depends on you living to someone else’s standard only they are small like you so their idea of high performance is just another flavor of small.
High performance when the people you are competing against are just like you and living within the same limits that cannot be broken isn’t high performance at all. Its advanced mediocrity.
High Performance is not repeating the same results. High performance is being the best you can be without limits, even if that means you outshine someone else. High performance soars in the face of convention.
So if you find yourself having to limit yourself to not annoy or embarrass or invoke the ire of the people around you, then know you are not in a high performing team. Any team that requires you to limit yourself to save someone else’s sense of self and pander to their insecurities is not the place for you. A high performing team revels in those moments and people who make everyone go, what ? Why didn’t I think of that ? Could I do that ? And then they go try for themselves.
High performing teams push each other to new limits. There are no roles to stop anyone. If you can do it and do it well then we encourage you and learn from you and try it ourselves.
So tell me, are you in a high performing team or are you in one of small mediocrity limited by one or two individuals who just can’t bear to see anyone greater than themselves ?