2 min read

Sparring above your weight class

In high school, most of my friends were smarter than me. They went on to attend Harvard, Stanford, MIT… So, yeah, graduating magna cum laude in the best university in the Philippines? It was practically a requirement for me.

Professionally, I sign up for things I do not qualify for. I get the responsibilities and the rewards that come with them.

I often say, “You are the average of the five people closest to you,” or, “Be the dumbest person in the room.”

Another way of saying that is, “Spar above your weight class.” Attempt things you are not qualified for. Surround yourself with people smarter and better than you.

When people hear this, they smile, agree, and think, “Yeah, this is me. I do this.”

But in my experience, very few people do this.

For example, you have an idea at a meeting but stop yourself from speaking up. Someone else does and everybody praises her for the idea. You say, “Hey, I thought of that too” as if that matters… You didn’t want to take the risk that your idea makes you look like an idiot. This is not sparring above your weight class.

Another example: You don’t apply for jobs you don’t feel qualified for. Someone who you feel superior to does apply and gets the job… You resent the person because you are “better.” You didn’t want to risk getting rejected. This is not sparring above your weight class.

Sparring above your weight class is nice in principle, but sucks in practice. When I wrestle with people above my weight class, I lose. I score zero points. Every day, I have to keep reminding myself that I am losing all these battles so I can win the war.

But losing still sucks.

It would feel much nicer to be the person who spars once a week and fights only within my weight class. I clobber people because of my natural strength. Sure, I don’t win any competitions, but at least I look good in class. Fine I’m not on the podium with the gold medal. I’m not even trying! But boy, if I really tried…

Most people don’t do it because it’s a huge blow to the ego.

Our culture values the talented person who doesn’t have to try much. We look down at the people who try hard. How arrogant to attempt things they are not qualified for.

Haha, look at them fall on their face.

When I watch an “idiot” on YouTube, when I listen to what seems to be the most boring speaker ever in the world, when I watch the most boring movie ever… I remind myself: That person is sparring above her weight class. For now, she’s getting her ass kicked for it.

But in five years, she’ll probably be winning in life. I’ll still be watching from the couch thinking “I could’ve done that too.” Yeah, but I didn’t.