When I watch football I often chuckle to myself when an announcer says, “they’re the most underrated player in football.” The sentiment of the comment is nice; they are congratulating a player who does not often get attention-even if announcers say this three times every game.
There is something about our culture that appreciates a good David and Goliath story. Against all odds someone perseveres and overcomes. Look at Tom Brady, 199th overall in the draft-chubby, slow, nothing too notable in his performance and he somehow became the greatest player in his position of all time. You may not love Tom Brady, but you might like the idea of him. Can you tell I’ve watched football recently?
And in business we have plenty of those people, like Mark Zuckerberg, just a college kid with a dream. We like this kind of idea because it inspires us. The value in being underestimated is this: no one expects much of us and we have only to go up from here. The sky's the limit because we are so close to the floor that if we fall it’s just a step down.
This is the phenomenon of the underdog. In sports, teams play other teams that, if the game was played on paper using statistics, they would never win (and consequently no game would ever need be played). But sometimes a David meets a Goliath and summons within themselves a strength, an ability, and a will to do something great. That’s why sports is so fascinating-because anything can happen-and that is why life is incredible-because despite the immense odds of becoming something we can achieve anything.
As a college student heading into my last year, I know the value in being underestimated. I just have to look at all the jobs out there that require X amount of experiences and all of the certifications and qualifications needed for just about any entry level position. How many times have we heard of hiring managers and recruiters saying we just don’t have the right experience, skills, or stamina for a job?
I may not have the perfect work experience, but what do I have? Well I started delivering papers when I was six. This wasn’t the thirty paper route on my bike at 7am. This was hundreds of papers at 1am every single day of the year. I worked until I was 11, stopped for a year and a half and then began working as a janitor for another five and a half years.
I got a job right outside of high school at a warehouse, worked it for two years, saved up enough for college, will finish college with two degrees and two minors next May in just three short years, and will go on to do...something.
And while in college I worked full time as a Certified Nurse Aid in two hospitals, got married, bought my first house, and have a baby on the way (could be any minute now!).
Conventional knowledge says to wait to get married, that you can’t buy a house at 22 on that salary, that having a baby young would ruin career opportunities, and that you won’t finish college. But while they underestimate me, I know that I can have my cake and eat it too.
Being underestimated can do so much for you. Our popular and historic icons tell us that when our backs are up against the wall, when the statistics are not in our favor, and when hope is all we have to hold onto, we can find within ourselves an incredible ability to dig deep, plant our feet, and wage on.
Unlike in a game, there is no winning it all. In real life, there is merely holding on, sticking it out, and finding your personal dream at the end of the hard work we put in every day. Let people underestimate you-but they don’t know you.
People defy conventional wisdom daily and the only thing they have to lose is losing itself because there is an infinite amount to be gained from simply staying on the hard path to personal success.
Go out there and do something awesome! You can do it!