Growing up, moving around, and interacting with different people, I realized how small my playing fields were, and how much greater the playing fields were elsewhere. For instance, I grew up breezing past academics and being the smartest kid in school. Then I went to university and things changed. It’s like that for everything in life. You can feel like a mighty frog in a pond until you leave and face a lake, a river, or an ocean (and that’s if you make it there).
It’s no rocket science that the better playing field you are on, the more you learn and improve. For instance, you can play pick-up basketball with the same friends as much as you’d like, but playing in professional leagues with better players, you will improve a whole lore more / faster. So fortunately, we learn and improve more playing in better fields.
But aside from naturally improving and learning more, I think your mindset completely changes from one playing field to another (in particular from a smaller field to a greater field). Our basic beliefs and motives change. In return, we gain significant advantage over others and we get much better at whatever it is that we are doing. We learn what “causes” favorable outcomes and learn to separate them from “correlations” that are misleading.
For instance, let’s take “success” as a measure of a playing field. The more successful a group of people you are with, the greater your playing field is. It is only recently that I realized the importance of time we are given. All highly successful people around me shorten their sleep hours to increase daily productivity. Less successful people don’t because they don’t understand that this is a major cause for success. What I mean to say is that there are key principles / perceptions / guidelines that seem so obvious to people in certain playing fields but they are ignored by the people in smaller playing fields. Another example would be that a group of people understands the importance of having bias for action, while others don’t. Some people know the real actions it takes to succeed while others believe going to the best college / university would guarantee success. And the list goes on and on.
Sometimes, people in smaller playing fields work as hard as people in greater fields (if not, more). But they base their actions off wrong principles / perceptions / guidelines. For example, you can be a kid looking to gain muscles. You can work as hard as ever, going to gym twice a day, every day of the week. To bodybuilders, this is foolish because what causes muscle growth is recovery, and you should never fatigue your muscles at the gym this often (let alone have no recovery day). But as a kid, you will never know this until you move to a bigger playing field where this principle becomes common sense (a rule to follow). Similarly, previously at Facebook, I learned the importance of focusing on impact when I did work, and I began basing my actions off this belief in all of my work ever since. It has allowed me to better prioritize myself and reach my goals much faster in life. But the truth is, I may have never learnt this had I not interned at Facebook.
In fact, I challenge you (if you are in university / graduates) to catch up with old high school friends. I still love my friends that never finished high school, but talking with many of them, the very core beliefs and values that are so common-sense to me are not the same for them (mainly in regards to career and success). So when they complain about why they couldn’t get from point A to point B in life, it becomes hella frustrating to me. (Only if they changed their perceptions, had certain principles and understood key facts…) Likewise, in 10 years, I may be in a greater playing field and realize how foolish I’d have sounded writing this post now. After all, I’m still a junior in university (a very tiny playing field relative to what’s out there in the world).
So now, I strive on learning and enjoying as much as I can in my current playing field, but with the goal of constantly making the jump to greater playing fields. I’ll get new advice there that will turn into daily habits and a must-have values in my life. For everyone in smaller playing fields, these new principles / perceptions / guidelines may always be ignored. And I find this scary.
So, if your goal is to “better” yourself – strive to explore and move away from your comfort zone. Get out of your playing field and see the bigger world in front of you. Our perception will change. Incredible values and advice will become native thoughts that we learn to live by.
Of course, the hardest thing would be to challenge yourself first out of the comfort zone, where you may be the king of the jungle, regardless of how small that jungle may be to the outside world.