In life, it comes down not to the best, but to the best-fitted. I’m currently submitting short stories to various literary magazines, mostly for the status and money that shower down on published authors at such reviews. I’m new to this game, submitted to a lot of places, and was getting form-rejected left and right. As soon as I started submitting more selectively to places where my piece matched the editorial taste of the review – boom! More personal rejections. Exciting. And obvious in retrospect.
This seems to be an easily-forgotten general principle. For admission to Ph.D. programs, for instance, emphasize the fit between your research interests and your advisor’s. For admission to jobs, emphasize the fit between your qualifications and the job’s requirements. For admission to persons, emphasize the fit between who you are and what they want. It’s not about being the best suit in general. It’s about being the suit best-tailored to the torso. Though of course the fit only needs to be perceived. Though of course the most reliable way of being perceived to fit is to actually fit. So seek out the places where you actually do.