In my past life, I found it very easy to differentiate. I was smarter than many of those around me (even if I say so myself!), I ranked high on creativity compared with my peers and I was the go-to-person for any problems among my friends and family. I was differentiated, I was successful, I was great! And then, I came to Wharton.
Every-time I introduced myself to a new person I met, there was at least one thing they had done in their past life that made them better than me. No matter how much I honed my Dzpitchdz, it was hard to beat the pitch of the person I was talking to.
In classes, despite my math and engineering background, I was no longer that kid who calculated the answers before everyone else. Suddenly, I found myself going to others to solve my life problems.
No longer differentiated, I started feeling miserable. How can I be the best at Wharton? The answer I heard was “stretch yourself.” So I tried signing up for as many leadership positions and clubs as possible. May be I win the “Most Stretched Person” competition.
But here again there were people who had already taken up numerous leadership positions across clubs and were far more successful in the roles they had taken up. Let’s not even talk about parties. The more parties I showed up to, the more tired I became, and the less good I felt about myself.
So I took a step back. Why was it important to be the best? Why did I want to differentiate? What would being the best at Wharton even mean?
I realized that I had no answers.
We’re so busy trying to be the best that we don’t even question why we want to be. Even if Wharton ranked all its students by some overall awesomeness metric, and I was the best at everything, what would I then do? Probably take a break and focus on getting to know people, have great conversations, spend time with my loved ones, do things that I enjoy and be happy.
The funny part is, I can do all these things now, even if I haven’t yet been elevated to the topmost pinnacle of differentiation. I don’t need to differentiate to be happy. I don’t need to differentiate to learn new things. In fact, if anything, I need to be around people – people who make me feel happy and good. I need to aggregate, not differentiate.
This realization has been my best achievement at Wharton. I have made peace with who I am and what I like to do. I don’t know where I fall on the curve, and I am happy not knowing. I want to learn in my classes, I want to be in clubs where I share common interests with my club-mates and I want to be a part of gatherings that make my life more enjoyable! And if I feel down and out on some days, I want to share my vulnerabilities with those around me without judging myself.
Be happy, be good – leave being the best to those who know why that matters!