The Myth of The Top Ten List
There are at least 15 colleges that deserve a place in the top 10 best colleges in the country. There are 20 restaurants that can credibly argue that they are one of the 5 best restaurants in your city. And if you and I were so inclined, we could absolutely name 25 guitarists who could reasonably stake a claim to being among the 10 best guitarists ever.
And no matter how long we debated it, no matter how structured and rigorous we make the selection process, we wouldn’t be able to change that reality.
Because there are no such thing as absolutes when it comes to “best” or “top”. There is no universal, truly objective standard for most fields of endeavor.
We can put together thoughtful criteria, we can weight them appropriately. But there is simply your (well-informed) opinion against my (well-informed) opinion. Sure, you might have a little more experience than I do, or I may he better credentialed in that specific field than you are, but almost always, we’ll be arguing at the margins.
Because, again, there is no such thing as an absolute, other than in a few quantitative spheres of life: income levels, production capacity, how big your boat is compared to mine, etc.
But once you expand outside of these hard quantitatively-based measures, there are no absolutes. I cannot credibly tell you that the number 18 school (or the number 11) is materially worse than the number 10 school.
Yet we find it difficult to accept. We pore over the published data and rankings, we agonize about whether this company is the one to join because it has a better reputation, one that will make our careers. We argue if we should go to this school, which feels like an excellent fit for us, even though this other school, the one that’s lauded in all the press but has a culture we feel less comfortable with, offered us a place as well.
Because we all want the badge. We all want the reputation. We all want the respect. And we think there’s a way to fix the game to help us get to where we want to go. And if we don’t get these socially defined badges, we consider ourselves to have fallen short - or worse, we wear the insecurity that this breeds like a badge of our own, only it’s one that weighs us down, and stops us from getting to where we want.
The reality is that the game is there for us to define.Sure, it can help to have some of these credentials, to be in the Top 10. But we don’t always need them to get there. We just need to be clear about who we are, about what we want and, about what we need to do to get there.
Worrying about which of the five number 1 colleges we got accepted into, or whether we’re the 5th best restaurant or the 9th best, is simply a waste of time.