There’s a lot going on in this short post. It reminded me of a saying of Steve Jobs: “A players attract A players. B players attract C players.”

Now there’s something in that, in terms of the mentality that people bring to working hard and playing hard. But this post is talking about the way that people treat other people.

I’ve definitely noticed in my life, from my own studies to my kids sports teams, the tyranny of the “not quite top-level” mindset. It’s almost like you have to get over yourself to get to the “top”. What that is and whether it’s worth pursuing is another question entirely.

I noticed that when I swam next to the B lane swimmers, they were not nearly as kind and friendly as the C lane swimmers had been when they were my next-lane neighbours. The A lane swimmers were extremely nice, and were generous with encouragement, praise and tips. This wasn’t a hard and fast rule, but I started to notice a pattern: A, C, and D lane swimmers tended to be nice, friendly, and helpful to pretty much everyone; B lane swimmers tended to be nice to A lane and other B lane swimmers but not so much to C and D.

When I stopped doing tris and moved back to field sports, I started to notice the same thing. The very top athletes were nice to everyone and so were the middle and bottom of the pack. The not quite top players, though, were less friendly. They played more political games, and acted out their threatened feelings of being not quite good enough by being snobbish to those below them. (In retrospect, I worry I did some of this, too, especially when I was playing on a top team but was not a top player. I definitely felt a need to prove myself.)

I have since noted the same phenomenon in nearly every domain, including academia. The truly great researchers are generous and friendly; so are many of the middle of the roaders. Those who have something to prove, though, and who feel like they aren’t quite managing to do it, show definite aspects of being B lane swimmers.

Source: The B Lane Swimmer | Holly Witteman

Image: Quino AI