Picture This: Forget About Being the Best

If you’re going to do something, then you should really do that something. You’ve likely heard some variation of this mantra many times before. You’ve got to be all-in and you’ve got to give it your all. There’s no point in giving it a half-hearted effort. Or, to borrow the words of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” But, do you really need to be the best to be successful?

Not at all. In fact, having your heart completely set on being the best might actually work to your detriment more than your benefit! Do better, sure, but don’t sweat it about being the best. This applies just as much to blogging and online business as it does to any other professional endeavor or personal goal.

Two Shots at Photography Class

I don’t recall exactly where I first heard this story, so if you recognize it, please share in the comments below! 

In a traditional photography class, the teacher decided to divide students into two groups. The first group would be graded based on the quality of the photos they shot and developed. If a student produced just one breathtaking photo all semester, they’d get an A. If the photo was good, but not great, they’d get a B, and so on. 

The second group would be graded based on the quantity of photos they submitted. If a student produced 100 halfway decent photos, they’d get an A. If a student submitted 80 photos, they’d get a B, and so on.

Now, which group of students do you think shot and developed better photos? Those who were being graded on quality or quantity?

Best Is the Enemy of the Good

The intuitive answer to that question sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Of course, the group graded on quality would produce better quality, right? Except they didn’t. The group of students being graded purely on the number of photos they submitted actually ended up taking and developing better pictures. Why?

Because they were encouraged to go out and take as many photos as they wanted, they had greater opportunities to experiment, gain experience, and learn from their mistakes. They played around with different settings and compositions, seeing what worked and what didn’t, applying what they learned to subsequent photos. 

By contrast, the group of students being graded on quality spent much more time contemplating their decisions, much more time planning their photos than they did actually taking pictures. They second-guessed many decisions before they even hit the shutter. Because they took fewer photos, they didn’t have as much opportunity to learn from experience. By focusing too much on being the best, they lost sight of taking photos that were just good.

They were waiting around for ideal conditions with perfect circumstances so they could capitalize on the best possible opportunities. In other words, they were waiting to get their ducks in a row. Instead, what they should have been doing is actually taking photos. This is just like how the best way to overcome writer’s block is to just start writing. Get started. Learn and build momentum. 

How Long Until I’m Successful?

Even though this is a very common question, it goes about the challenge in completely the wrong way. It’s not about the length of time it takes until you’re good at what you do or until you’re successful. Rather, it’s about how many times you do the thing until you’re good at what you do or you’re successful at it. 

Malcolm Gladwell famously told us about the 10,000 hours rule. He said that the key to success in any field, whether that’s as a professional basketball player or a New York Times best selling author, comes down to putting in the work. It’s about practicing your craft, over and over again, with steadfast dedication, until you’ve accumulated 10,000 hours. That’s how you achieve mastery.

And sure, we hope that you don’t have to blog for 10,000 hours in order to “make it” as a full-time blogger, but the underlying philosophy holds true. It’s not about how long, but rather about how much work you’re actually doing. And it’s about understanding that failure is not the opposite of success. Indeed, it’s a necessary component, because it is through failure that you learn, grow and improve. 

In other words, take 99 bad pictures so that you can take one amazing picture. 

Just Do It (Again)

Don’t worry about being the best. With so much competition out there, regardless of your industry or field, you’re probably not going to be numero uno. And that’s fine. What you should concern yourself with, though, is actually doing the work, even when you don’t think you’re at your best.

We have this glamorous image in our minds that the most successful people are hugely passionate about their work all the time and they’re always at their best. The reality is that the most successful people are passionate, sure, but they’re also dedicated enough to grind it out during the tough times. They’re willing to put in the work when no one else wants to. Will you?