How are you feeling
Imagine you’re sitting in that nice, long chaise so common to a therapist’s office. (In the movies, anyway.) “How are you feeling?”, asks the therapist, in this case played by myself. “About yourself? About your business?” Unless you answer “Great!”, then my follow-up question is this:
“Does the way you feel have anything to do with comparing yourself to a more successful individual? Or a more successful business?”
Comparison is the thief of joy
Really think about it and you may find that deep down, this is the case.
It seems to be in our nature as humans to compare ourselves to those more successful. Much of this has to do with the ultimate human attribute to want that which we do not, or cannot have.
We have a tendency to feel similarly about eras in time, forever longing to go back to “the good old days.”
But here’s the thing- “the good old days” had their problems too. Lest we forget, though we may occasionally stumble and fall, humanity is continually progressing. The “we” as a society today would likely have quite a bit of trouble adapting to all the conditions of an era since past. This same concept can be applied on a more personal level, whether it be “you” as an individual, or “you” as a business wishing to be like someone (or something) else.
We can’t all be the next Steve Jobs or the next Apple.
One step at a time
Now, I’m not here to stomp on everyone’s dreams or tell you what you can and cannot do, or be. But, what I can suggest is that if you find yourself comparing yourself to an individual or business (and the validity of using comparison to gauge success is questionable at best), maybe set more easily attainable goals- especially in the early stages of your career. It is imperative to remember as well, that as a rule, things do not happen all at once.
Instead, look at your career or your business in stages.
And, unfortunately, some stages may take longer than others- the longest usually being those you may wish to be the shortest.
Sometimes, to get past these harder stages, it may be worth it to look at other successful individuals’ careers for inspiration. Instead of comparing your situation to theirs, instead, it may be more worth your time to see if they ever faced a similar situation during their career, and what they did to progress or solve said situation. Instead of dealing with the pressure of trying to emulate them, you can learn from their experiences to get you or your business closer to your own personal goals.
Let’s say you want to be the next Elon Musk. That’s totally valid, and, thus far anyway, he seems like a good entrepreneurial role model. But I’m pretty sure that guy didn’t start out with the intention of being the man behind PayPal and Tesla. He (as far as we know) didn’t find Zip2 thinking “This is going to help me send dudes to Mars”. Even if he did, however, you’re doing yourself a disservice by comparing yourself, or your business, to he and/or his businesses. Your life, your experiences, your opportunities- all of those are likely very different than his were and are. Even more so, you are likely very different than him.
How, then, is it at all likely for your career to match his career’s trajectory?
Much of one’s success comes from a mixture of skill, luck, connections, and drive. But a lot also has to do with timing, opportunity, and even dumb-luck. Some of these you can work on and build up on your own. However, the intangibles are just that. Things will either fall into place, or they won’t. And, honestly, it can really suck if they don’t- but that doesn’t mean that they never will. Just as you are a unique individual, so will your career path follow its own unique course. Therein lies the biggest danger of allowing oneself to rely heavily on comparison as a means to gauge success: it is simply too easy to become dejected when one’s career takes its own unique turn- especially if seems to be a turn for the worse.
Count Your Blessings
Money is not the only measure of success. Many say it, and it sounds mildly hippie-ish, but too many people do not take that statement to heart. Take solace in the fact that finding something that you love to do, and being able to make a living doing said thing, is an accomplishment in and of itself, not comparison.