Jeremy Côté


The Spotlight

Is always on the winner, on the best person or idea or organization. The person in the spotlight is the person who we think is the best.

However, what we often miss is the person just outside of the spotlight, the one who didn’t make it. The spotlight is narrow, covering only the best of the best, and nothing else. But others are still present, and have done things that are almost as good as the one with the spotlight, yet they are in the dark.

At first glance, the system seems fair. The best thing gets highlighted, and that’s that. But what we fail to see is how close a lot of these others are, and they don’t get the spotlight. By all accounts, these things are really good, yet they are all outshone by the one. A waste, really.

Of course, it’s fair that many will see this as the critique of someone who has come in second place and who is a sore loser. I can understand that. However, I think we need to be honest with ourselves when we lift one thing into the air above the rest, forgetting the others surrounding it.

One particularly salient application of this is in looking at people who are rewarded for being the “best”. This can be on academic grounds, or for any other reason. The result is the same: plenty of other hardworking people are left in the periphery, barely noticed or not even seen because of the spotlight on the best person.

What I’ve learned from this is that you cannot attach who you are to the kinds of results you get, particularly when they are compared to other people. That is a surefire recipe towards being discouraged for not being noticed.

Instead, I need to find meaning in the work I do, regardless of what kind of external circumstance given. Just like a race, I can control my effort, but I cannot control the environment and the weather. Similarly, I can do my absolute best to get the greatest results possible, but I can’t guarantee that this will make me the “best”. Therefore, comparing to others doesn’t matter (or, I’m trying to make it matter less and less to me).

The external variables aren’t controllable for us, so we need to let them go. By focusing on the work we do instead of if external variables align with our goal, we can make more progress. Furthermore, we can enjoy our own results more, instead of looking at the spotlight and being disappointed that it isn’t on us.

The spotlight is a very narrow instrument. It’s not made to highlight more than one person, idea, or organization. Therefore, it misses so much, which means attaching importance to only the spotlight is a misleading thing. Better instead to appreciate one’s own efforts, without looking at the spotlight to be that judge.

There always is a single “best”, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is unimportant. Just because one person wins a race, it doesn’t mean that the other runners did not have a good race themselves.

The spotlight will always be there, but you can choose the meaning you want to assign yourself, independent of the spotlight.