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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

"I want to be the best" and other nonsense that can ruin your career!


Celebration! It’s the Wise Wednesdays 1st anniversary! Yep, it’s a year since I started writing these every week. Thank you for having been part of the journey! Thank you for your support and positive feedback. Your engagement means a lot! I hope to continue to share my journey and hard-won lessons with you.

In the meantime, here is the modified Disney Strategy questionnaire to help you dream big and get unstuck in your career and life. It seems to work wonders when done properly.

Enjoy getting a cup of tea, some quiet time and turning your dreams into reality. Of course, reality is but a dream but that’s for another time…


Have you ever been told that to succeed, you need to be the best? Did you grow up thinking that the best get what they want in life and never have to worry?...

I’m guessing you’ve also seen apparently mediocre people get highly sought after jobs; and apparently average people in relationships with apparently extraordinary people…You may also know very talented people or colleagues who had very promising careers ahead of them, who seem to have fallen off the bandwagon…Perhaps they started off being “the best” and then went a different route?

So you’ll know that striving and struggling to be the best may not be your wisest strategy to getting what you want.

Perhaps you think that it’s about knowing the right people, having the best connections or being a master of networking…Of course, relationships are key to getting what you desire in life. Some would say everything you have has come as a result of a relationship of some kind…

But with the wrong attitude, all the talent, skill and connections in the world can’t help you.

Remember the hare and the tortoise?

Aesop captured our human imagination with his delightful little tale of the Hare and the Tortoise.

Would you say you are more hare or tortoise in general?

I’ve been more of a hare. Top of the class for most of my schooling, first to get a Specialist Registrar job in my cohort of friends, first Academic Clinical Fellow in my UCL department, first to get a Wellcome Trust funded PhD in public health as far as I know, leading the way for others, etc. Did it give me satisfaction? I’m not even sure. I was too busy running to notice…!

Legend in the making: Dr N is an exceptionally bright international health specialist who had just finished her PhD when we met and was striving to set up her own consulting firm while continuing her academic work; provide pro bono support to aspiring academics in Africa; and look after family and friends. The responsibilities were starting to affect her health and performance levels. We worked to clarify her vision for the next step, particularly in becoming a thought leader, reframe her priorities, and manage boundaries and urgency levels. She went on to be accepted for two prestigious international emerging leader fellowships in her field and was invited to the White House. She also won a large consulting contract with the WHO.

The key to success here was in knowing how to slow down, in order to speed up the process of success. Without creating space for self-reflection, deep contemplation and having the courage to sit in silence, the best skills in the world can lead you in the completely wrong direction if not to complete burnout and monumental frustration. It’s a tragedy to get to the top of a ladder, only to realise it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Slowing down to allow deeper insights to emerge and guide our decisions can prevent this. (N.B. I did want to be a singer and dancer when I was a child…but let’s not go there right now).

Balance and flexibility

If you practise yoga, you’ll know that it’s more about flexibility and balance than it is about brute strength. It teaches us how to take in information through our senses, observe how it impacts our body and respond (rather than react) from a deeper place within us.

Failing to pay attention in the moment can lead to injuries and bad habits. Repeating the same yoga movements without stretching beyond your limits results in a stagnant practice that may strengthen your muscles but not stretch your range of movement or broaden your experience of the body.

And so it is with life. Strong skills and exceptional talent need to be used wisely. Loosening our egoic tendencies (whether it’s wanting to be the best or the worst) allows us to respond more appropriately to situations and take steps in the right direction, carving the path out as it emerges. Usually with less struggle against our circumstances.

It may sound complicated but it’s actually quite simple.

Can you be better than you were yesterday?

If you’re living the life of a hare, you may find much insight, peace and fulfilment from incorporating the tortoise into your way of handling the world. Sometimes you run; sometimes you walk and sometimes you rest. Maybe you should do the latter more of the time.

Many spiritual and philosophical traditions call us to be the best that we can be compared to who we were yesterday or even a moment ago – competing against no one but ourselves. It might mean that you need to stop procrastinating and start working on your presentation skills by giving as many presentations as you can; or it may mean you need to slow down and prioritise more effectively. Most people I know and coach are in the latter group. Once we slow down, we can see why and where we are stuck as well as where our energy is best invested.

Aim to fail

Finally, if I have one tip for anyone who has grown up with a belief that they need to be the best especially if you’re struggling to find ease and flow in your career or work aspirations, I would say: “aim to fail”. I know it sounds counterintuitive and yet, that’s how the Gandhi’s, Earharts, Edisons and Bransons became legends. They failed thousands of times. You may have even heard of the saying: fail faster, fail better. I would simply say: “aim to fail and make it fun!”. I’ll talk about this more in another Wise Wednesdays and in the meantime:

Where are you afraid to step forward in your life e.g. is there a job move you want to make?

What outdated standard are you holding yourself to and can you let go of it?

What would be a fun and inspiring vision of this area of your life/career?

What action can you take towards this vision e.g. apply for a range of jobs in this area/connect with people who can provide opportunities?

Now, take this action 100 times and aim to fail 100 times. In fact, look forward to failing.

Make sure you allow for rest and recovery, and be flexible in modifying your approach to make it as fun and inspiring as possible.

I aspire to lead by example, so see the video below.... It's a Facebook Live celebrating Wise Wednesdays anniversary and kickstarting year 2 with a visibility challenge called Share Your Heart, Share Your Work, led by Allison Crow...I pretty much failed at following the tips and guidelines so have a look if you want to see what not to do... I think it's high time to start sharing more failures and being vulnerable on Facebook in our culture in general!

It may feel scary at first. It may hurt at the beginning and as things start shifting, you start to see the magic of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It’s what one of my coaches has got me to do and it’s been transformational, for example, in setting up a business and building a dream coaching practice!

By the end, you will have learned more this way than you ever could through books or talking; and you will be surprised at what can happen as you follow your intuition with courage. You may even develop a taste for it and try 100 times more…

Until next week,



Less than a week to the interactive event honouring needs, handling the inner-critic and taking action towards forgotten dreams at the London Coaching Group on the 23rd of May (Do organisations dream? Coaching for social progress).

If this speaks to you, you can get your ticket here:

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