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Counter-intuitive advice: don’t compare yourself to others

March 11, 2014
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Save yourself some stress

How many times have you scoped out your competitors, tracked their moves, compared your numbers with theirs, or fretted over your performance versus other peoples’ or companies’? Sure you have, you’re human, you’re a professional, and that’s not only normal, but required. It all makes sense.

But is it all a bad idea? Maybe.

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Let’s say you’re a jewelry designer and you’ve graduated from Etsy to a retail store in Nashville. You’re doing well and getting quite a bit of press. You’re growing, you just hired three more people, and you’re about to launch a new line that people are already clamoring for.

But you just read that a seasoned jewelry designer up the street had four pieces worn by celebrities at the Oscars, is opening a tenth store, and doubled profits last year. You become discouraged because no celeb clamored for your product and profits only rose 12 percent.



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Comparing yourself to competitors who are not your equal is the scenario in which you should not compare yourself to others. A brand new blog cannot compete with CNN, and a budding jewelry designer may not yet be at eye-level with a famous designer who has been around for four decades.

A quote that sticks with me (and apparently belongs to the internet, as I cannot find the original source) is, “emdon’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 20.”

What chapter are you on?

Consider what chapter you are on in your business and compare yourself accordingly. This very concept is why so many Millennials struggle with entitlement – our generation grew up around reality tv stars who did nothing to become famous and were somehow propelled into their chapter 20 overnight (so why the hell am I still on chapter one? so many ask).

It may sound counter-intuitive, but comparing yourself to others isn’t always a good idea, unless you do so with a competitor who is on the same chapter as you are. Strive to outdo the competitors that are further along, better funded, heavily staffed, and so forth, but be reasonable when setting your sights on a true competitor. Before you know it, you’ll be on chapter five while they’re still on chapter one, and you’ll have new competitors to legitimately compare yourself to.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a pension for the irreverent.

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