BFSPS is when a person (the fish) has accomplished everything there is to accomplish in a given space, but fail to acknowledge the global magnitude of their accomplishments (the pond).
For example, you are the #1 ranked student in your 11th grade class of 65 students, then for 12th grade you transfer to school where the graduating class is 600 and you expect to maintain your status of #1 ranked student. At your new school, you check the student rankings and you are ranked #214 out of 600 students in your graduating class. That means 213 students are outperforming you. You have instantly become a “big” fish in an even bigger pond (small fish).
For students that never think about the possibility of there being bigger ponds out there, this type of drop from #1 to #214 can be devastating. Self-doubt, depression, trauma, and sadness can all set in and cause you to perform worse than you are capable of. This happens to students, as the previous example; it happens to athletes (top high school athletes thinking they are ready to go pro, but don’t cut it at the next level…OJ Mayo); and it happens in business (“Wolf on Wall Street” – those guys selling penny stocks wouldn’t survive selling on the NY Stock Exchange where Jordan Belfort cut his teeth).
Okay, okay…that’s the doom and gloom of BFSPS. Avoid that at all cost!!!
Here are my 5 tips to avoid Big Fish in a Small Pond Syndrome:
1. Conduct outward analysis – Ask yourself, “Do I feel like I am the best at what I do in my school? How about my city? How about my state? How about the country? World?” The #1 rule here is that you have to be honest with yourself (you don’t have to admit it to anyone else, but you MUST tell yourself the truth). When you figure out where you rank on your own scale…Go to #2…
2. List your areas of improvement – Make a list of skills that you want to develop that the people above you have and that you do not. This will give you a tangible set of goals to pursue and it will make the possibility of becoming #1 realistic.
3. Find a Trainer – Find someone that is better than you at your skill and ask them to teach you. This will do two things 1) it will boost your skills faster and 2) it will boost your confidence. UNDERSTAND*** Everyone will not want to teach you because some people are competitive and see you as a potential threat to their own status. In this case, find someone else.
4. Don’t feed into the hype – There will always be a group of people around you that will tell you that you are the best thing since sliced bread, but DO NOT FALL FOR IT!!! Remember your list from #2 and be real with yourself. “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” Remember that, never forget it (BE HUMBLE-By: Kendrick Lamar).
5. Don’t stat watch – People are forever going to try to rank you, ignore them. Don’t sit in your living room worrying about somebody being better than you or getting more shine or respect than you. Keep your head down, keep grinding, and “TRUST THE PROCESS!” (Shout out to Joel Embiid!)Your time will come. Do the work, respect others, and your moment of respect will come knocking.
Dr. Gabriel Burks is dedicated to increasing higher education awareness and showing aspiring scholars the power of science.