Elbow Room: Go Where You Can Stand Out

In Blog, Personal Branding
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Elbow Room dre baldwinWhen I was going to pro basketball exposure camps every summer, I discovered camps that took place in Europe. These camps abroad became my preference, even though the money investment to attend was more than double that of a similar event held in the USA.

The main reason was because basketball camps in America are essentially meat markets. Too many players, all trying to shine, grabbing at very few available jobs. Selfishness was the name of the game, extra passes and teamwork be damned.

At the European camps, three important things happened:

1) I stood out just for the fact that I was an American amongst mostly European players. Actually being good at playing basketball was a bonus. Remember that the purpose of attending these camps are to be seen and noticed.
2) I played with people (European players) who were not so hell-bent on getting all the shots/scoring all the points. This allowed me to not have to play this selfish style myself, a style that is basically mandatory at camps in the USA because otherwise you’ll never get the ball (or get it back if you make the mistake of passing it).
3) I got to see areas of the world I otherwise may not have ever seen.

When your goal is to be exposed — to be seen by certain people and to stand out — you could bang your head into the wall and succeed. Meaning, you could dive head first into the largest crowd and manage to be the one to poke his head out first for air. That might work. It would take a lot of time and energy, but, it might work. But this strategy (if you wanna call it that) is like leading your army directly into a frontal attack against a rival army at war: you might win, but at a very high cost of bodies in the process. What works more efficiently at war, is to surprise the enemy by catching them from behind or from the side, killing a bunch of them while not losing so many of your own.

When you want to increase your probability of drawing attention, it’s smart to go where you have less of a crowd to fight through.

If you want to swim laps in a pool, will you go to the pool that’s full of kids or the empty lap pool? That’s an easy question with an easy answer. So stretch this analogy to everything else in your life that has a high volume of entrants. This is “working smart” instead of “working hard”.

Life always has it’s share of theoretical warriors, though. These are the people who read this and say, “If you’re a competitor, you want to go where the challenge is strongest!” If you’re thinking that, you’re missing my point.

This is not the same as measuring yourself against the best you can find to see/prove what you’re made of (which I am all for). This is about getting your foot in the door of the room so you can even be in position to compete. It’s not about avoiding competition. It’s about tilting the odds in your favor, saving your energy for what you’ve worked to show off.

The easiest way to be seen is to place yourself in a situation where there is no one else to see.