Seth Godin's blog post today is a must-read. But then, so are most of his blog posts.
What's the best college in the US?
What about the best car?
Best stereo speakers? Best pizza?
The answer is always the same: It depends.
People hate that. "It depends" puts you on the hook, requires you to have priorities and a point of view.
A forced ranking is freeing. It tells you exactly what to expect, and if things don't work out, well, blame the system. A forced ranking brings status along with it, because, apparently, if you care enough or are rich enough to have the best, then you must be the best.
High rankings do more than distort the behavior of those that seek to move up. High rankings attract the sort of people who don't want to discover their own 'best'. Who want to be around others that care about high rankings. Who will run to the next high rank the moment the world changes. And those that are attracted to the winner of a forced ranking change the very tenor of the place they chose. So now, that restaurant that used to be special is merely crowded. Now the company that only keeps its top performers is a horrible place to work.
I like how he sees rankings, especially how inane and useless they are - at best. I was just listening to one of his podcast episodes from last month in which he talked about all the strategies people employ to make sure their offspring gets accepted into Harvard, and at some point he said something like, but what if the point was to live a life where it didn't matter if you got into Harvard or not?
I was jogging around the farm with the dog when I heard that, and I scared the groundhogs with a heartfelt "YEAH" and a fist pump. I have three daughters. Sometimes they ask me what I think they should do when they grow up. I say "not a clue, honey, but whatever it is, make sure you're passionate enough about it that it makes you reach for the best version of you." Well, OK. I don't always put it quite like that, because they have a talent for asking those kinds of questions when I'm not at my most eloquent. But that's what I mean.
Be the kind of person who doesn't give a fig what the best car is, but who smiles on their way to their passion.