What to do when you are out of your league

I went to a fancy lunch recently and as I was looking around the table, I realized that I probably had no place being there.  I wasn’t a major donor, I wasn’t a high-powered decision-maker and I honestly didn’t know much about the project in discussion.  I was out of my league. 


I’m sure you’ve felt like this before.  You are in a situation – a business meeting, a party, a specialty event – where you feel like you don’t belong.  The good news is you can make the most of this situation.  You can make it a valuable experience, but you have to know where to look.  Here’s what I learned that day.

Being out of your league makes you more aware of your surroundings.

Ever heard the Michael Dell quote, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room?” These words apply perfectly to a situation when you’re out of your league.  You start to realize incredible things when you become more aware of those around you and what they bring to the table.  I was sitting with years of experience, investment and knowledge.  And I wasn’t going to let this moment go to waste – what a great learning moment. When you feel out of your league, pay attention to what is going on around you and make the most of the situation you are in.

Being out of your league makes you listen more effectively.

When I’m not as confident about my knowledge on a subject, I purposefully move into listening mode.  I want to make sure I can learn from others – especially when I really need the information. Sure, I’m a confident contributor and happy to share my opinion, but I really wanted to make sure I spent time listening to the project, the plans and the people.  When you feel out of your league, focus on listening.  You will be surprised what you learn when you really listen.

Being out of your league helps you learn a strategy for next time.

I don’t need to be the hero of every situation.  Sometimes I develop others and sometimes I’m the one being developed.  But I certainly want to make sure I hold my own when I’m presented a future, similar situation.  And I know that the knowledge I gained from this experience will make me more effective as this project continues to develop.  When you feel out of your league, process the experience so you are ready for the next time to have the involvement and experience you want.

As I thought about my experience, I realized something important.  I was invited to the table.  I was supposed to be there.  As I looked around the table, I realized that I wasn’t the best, the most powerful or the most successful – but that is exactly where I needed to be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s