You’d have to be on another planet to not know who Michael Phelps is, especially since he’s broken all Olympic records in just about every category: number of gold medals, number of total medals, world records. He’s been lauded and praised as the greatest athlete ever. And while he deserves all of those recognitions, something hit me as I was watching two races in which he had to depend on other people to help him win the gold.
What’s really interesting is each one of these other three guys all swam better than they ever had before. And the commentators were wondering exactly how it is that they could have done so well. Well, it’s called The Phelps Effect.
Swimming with Phelps made them better than they’d ever been. That’s a principle that applies to all of life, not just swimming, and not just to Olympics. You need to surround yourself with people who are better than you are; just plain old better people, people with more skill, people who intimidate you a little bit but who call you to a higher place, who will call out the very best in you that will never come to the surface hanging around people that are equal to or less than you are.
I heard a guy say one time, “Make sure you’re the smallest person in the room.” And by that he didn’t mean in stature or status. He meant, “Make sure you’re around giants, people who have integrity, who display it with great character; people who are hungry, excited, alive, people who are generous, people who are learning, stretching, and growing, always willing to take the right risk.
If you’re not around people who make you uncomfortable, who intimidate you, what you’re simply saying is, “I will sacrifice being my absolute best because I don’t dare get in a pool with a Michael Phelps for fear that I will fail.”
Here’s the bottom line of The Phelps Effect. You will never reach your true potential unless you put around you people who scare you, who intimidate you, and yet bring out the best. Dare to be the smallest person in your group. Run with giants and you’ll be glad – and so will we.