Win Today with Christopher Cook

Get Unstuck. Reclaim Your Purpose. Win Today.

How You Can Successfully Be #1 at Being #2

I’m sure that at some point in life, you’ve felt overlooked, under-appreciated, and passed-over after having been relegated to some pretty tedious, monotonous tasks yet again when you have a desire to contribute on a much grander scale. And while simmering in that unrelenting stew of self-pity, disappointment, comparison, and confusion, I’m certain you’ve been tempted to toss your daily routine into autopilot and robot your way through your job or team commitment, begging the question, “why am I here and not there?”

I know I have. Not because of entitlement, but because of passion—passion to make a difference with a full breadth of personal resources. Too often, I’ve turned to my own campaign speech for comfort and validation; the one that celebrates my competencies: being organized, creative, strategic, and driven by excellence.

So what gives? Those qualities should count for something, right? Shouldn’t the pile of paperwork, spreadsheets, and schedules become an avenue by which I finally march out of the monotony into my destiny? What. About. Me?! Well, that’s part of the problem right there. In moments like that, it’s easy to believe I’m the only one who faces those internal challenges.

Rain on My Parade

Admittedly, I’ve allowed my frustration of feeling trapped by circumstances outside my control to get the best of me. Not for a month. Not even for a week, but certainly for a day. And you know what? It ruined my day; a day I can never get back. Though the feelings were painful and honest, it was my responsibility to take stock in my thought life and reign in my emotions.

Then one day, the light came on and I got it.

Recently, a valued leader in my life said, “one I thing I know is that every ‘number one’ needs a great ‘number two.'” Hearing those eight words truly set me free to be the best version of “me” possible and embrace the gift God had placed upon my life. I really appreciated his words (and him even more) because it validated me personally. And if it validated me, I’m sure it validates a lot of you.

“Number One” at being “Number Two”

Now, hear me out. I’m not saying that by being “number two” (or “number fifty-two”) you’re second-rate, second-class, or second best (I certainly don’t believe I am). That’s what shame does; shame puts a prickly spin on the phrase “number two.” My admonition to you—though easier said than done—is no matter your position, stay committed to be the best “you” and trust God for the rest.

On the subject, I believe the apostle Paul said it best: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].” (1 Corinthians 15:58 AMP)

To that end, the best “you” (and the best “me”) will be steadfast and immovable when we realize that none of our work is useless. Isn’t that often the conundrum, though—the feeling of our daily grind just hitting the fan? To be really candid, I swallowed hard writing that last sentence. I want to see action and results, but I’ve come to learn that oftentimes, the most significant results are internal.

The Best Version of You

Though everyone can’t sit at the head of the table so-to-speak, everyone on the team can add tremendous value when they’re committed to being the best version of themselves. And this is true for teams and organizations of every size.

Moses needed Aaron. Paul needed Barnabas. Steve Jobs needed Steve Wozniak. Bono needed The Edge. Michael Jackson needed Quincy Jones. Larry Page needed Sergey Brin. And the leader you serve needs you; the best you; the uncluttered, uncomplicated YOU.

“But There’s More to Me Than This!”

I know there is. Most of us desire the fulfillment that comes with living a life of significance. More than doers and order-takers, we’re eager to be contributors to a vision and purpose that is long lasting. More than “yes people,” we desire to have a voice and be heard, not for the sake of our individual voice alone but because we do have something valuable to add.

I see you nodding your head in affirmation…

And far more than playing the exhausting game of being in a highly political environment (be it a team, office, or even a friendship), we desire cohesive relationships in which personal validation, respect, and open-mindedness is esteemed.

So where does the frustration arise? Here’s one example out of the many possible scenarios where people might feel stuck in the middle:

Blurred Lines

Enter the administrators, operations executives, talent developers, change agents, and strategists; we who are detail-driven, who possess laser-like focus, a knack for strategic planning, and who possess an innate administrative gifting. In this case, frustration often sets in when those with highly developed administrative skills get relegated to clerical work instead of strategic work. And that couldn’t be further from the true sense of administration. Personally speaking, though I’ve benefited from being highly administrative, I have resented my valuable skill at times because of a perceived stigma and fear of only being known as the “organization guy;” that is until recently.

When I discovered the true value for administration, it uncorked a new sense of calling, purpose, and passion within me; passion to help the visionaries around me steer the ship of possibility into reality. Embracing my God-given gift, I have been working diligently to articulate four indispensable qualities of people who are committed to being the best version of themselves no matter what they do or where they sit on the organizational ladder; four qualities you can embrace in your own life as an employee, team member, co-director, or middle manager:

  1. They Think Broader. They’re honest about the past, consider the present, and prepare diligently for the future. They never accept “it can’t be done” as an answer, and they uncover every stone. They think outside the box and seek to be innovative even within well-established systems and protocols.
  2. They Think Farther. They consider long-term returns. They invest in the future so that when tomorrow becomes “today,” they are well equipped for the task at-hand. They are big picture thinkers who operate from a broad perspective instead of a narrow, shortsighted, off-the-cuff viewpoint.
  3. They Think Deeper. They push aside distractions and delve into concentrated thought development. They consider options not apparent on the surface, and they ask the question behind the question.
  4. They Think Faster. Thinking faster isn’t about thinking haphazardly. Those who think faster are well studied which enables quicker access to a broader scope of options (and knowledge about those options) when faced with a choice.

No matter if you’re “number two” or “number fifty-two,” your hierarchal position pales in comparison to your ability to influence and add value to those on all levels of your team. The first step to doing so is believing you can influence those around you. The second step is acting upon that belief using the four qualities I just described.

I’m not suggesting you settle where you are and accept it as your lot (that would be shortsighted), but I encourage you to know who you are and what you bring to the table as you continue to be the best “you” every single day.