The “2nd best” theory – Finding balance

You might want to read part one first.

If you’ve played a role playing game before, then the following picture will look familiar. Skip forward a couple of paragraphs if you have no idea what I’m talking about…RPG statistics

What it means is your game character has high strength and vitality, but low reflexes and intelligence (you know the type right?) You can train the character to even greater strength to deal more damage.

The question is, how much more? How much more do you get if the strength is maxed out?

Now suppose you train a complementary skill, say the character’s reflexes. With faster reaction times, the character will be harder to catch and be able to strike more times. Hitting the opponent for tons of damage means nothing if the character gets pounded too. Being quicker on the feet makes the character much more dangerous.

I agree that the world needs exceptional people. If you’ve found what you’re great at, and you’re doing it now, congratulations! If not, but you’re pretty good at lots of stuff, then the 2nd best theory states that you are exceptional too! Because you are exceptional at balancing many things, and the world needs people like you too.

This works particularly in a team. For example, I am great at computer programming. I can write programs that are easy to understand (by the users and my fellow colleagues). But I suck at understanding the business logic driving these programs. There’s too many of them, with tons of documentation. My team leader on the other hand, can tell you how and why this system works with that system, but will have difficulty writing out program code. Together with my colleagues’ complimentary skills, the team can handle any software project.

Or look at any team sports. You may find star players, but you still need other players with different or balanced skills to complement them. This is what makes teams strong; people complement each other with their varied talents.

Carrying out this balancing act to the extreme will make you miserable though. Do your 2nd best for all your complementary skills. Focusing on improving your weak spot is useless, unless that weak spot is critical. Marcus Buckingham, who wrote “First, break all the rules”, says we should focus on our strengths. I’d like to add that we consider our skills that complement our strengths too, which usually make our strengths, uh, stronger.