If you tell someone who is into personal improvement that you compare yourself with others, his kneejerk reaction will be to tell you not to. This advice comes with no contemplation, and is offered because it sounds so noble that no one argues with it-- except for me. I think that it's valuable to compare yourself with others, if it's done habitually and strategically.
On a daily basis I internally compare myself to people less fortunate than myself as a way of remembering how incredibly lucky I am. I'd like to think that I'm responsible for the good in my life, but at the same time I know that if I was born in Liberia when it was caught in civil war, my life would have been far worse. While some comparisons may serve to pat myself on the back, mostly I gain appreciation for the opportunities that have been presented to me, and am reminded how important it is to seize them.
This is the only way in which I compare myself to those I don't envy. I don't rest on my laurels because I feel as though I've exceeded some people's accomplishments in some areas. I filter out those comparisons, and only derive gratitude.
I also compare myself to the very best. When I evaluate my poker game, I compare myself to my friend Todd V., who plays in some of the highest limit games in Vegas and tends to be one of the best players at the table in these games. When coding or designing our startup, I don't compare us to other startups in similar positions, but rather to those who have succeeded and have much more money and labor available to them. I don't stack my diet up against what the average person considers healthy; instead I model it after the most healthy diet I can imagine.
These comparisons don't serve to make me jealous or discouraged. Like the filters in place for considering the less fortunate, I filter out everything but aspiration. I see these people as being examples of what can be done, and define success as meeting or exceeding what they've been able to do.
I don't mean to say that comparing yourself to others is always a good thing; only that it can be a good thing. It's a natural tendency, so rather than fight it, why not gently nudge in a direction that can help you feel grateful for what you have, and motivated to do more?
Reminds me of Steve Pavlina's take on Ego:
If you're gonna have an ego - inevitable from a human perspective - then just make it the best ego you can :) Why resist what's so when you can just guide it along a path that inspires you instead
Tynan, I would see you comparing yourself to a start up guy like a Zuckerman instead of a poker player.
Also: don't be afraid to jump on board a winning idea that isn't your own. I know some guys that grouped together and bought $500,000 in facebook shares a year ago. These guys are now very rich
I'm glad you made this post. I almost died of alcohol poisoning very recently, so I made a vow to myself to quit forever. While I was agonizing and wondering whether I would live or die, I was comparing myself to Steve-o who got off his drugs and reportedly is really healthy and all vegan now. Some kid has the nerve to tell me "You shouldn't do that" (compare yourself to others) while I am barely hanging on to life. It just really makes me mad when people just blurt out stupid one-liners that "sound good" but have no real thought or value attached to them.
You're going to hit where you aim. Most people just prefer to aim low. My friends are accomplished womanizers, business magnates, artists, athletes. Half the time I feel like an ant, but then I'm always working to improve ... and without realizing, I'm in a place better than 99% of the population.
One knows that modern life seems to be not cheap, however some people require money for different things and not every person gets enough cash. So to receive good loans or secured loan should be a right way out.
Tynan what cool post!....Actley i want to get back at your at last post.Bag packs are cool enough even i have one!.I used bag pack just for going places tho.(: I had to put my bag lunch in there to...Its whats good for tho!.
The nature of the mind is to compare. If is done in a certain way, like you explain, you are turning a natural occurance, that can also go horribly wrong, into a powerful experience for yourself.
I also compare myself to the best. Then I immediately turn the focus where it belongs, on me.
In this way, I am able to learn from and draw inspiration from true masters but always focus on just giving all that I can to whatever I am doing without any concern if I match or exceed anyone. The cool thing is that whenever we give all that we can... we can always give a little bit more :)
good stuff man,
I was trying to generalize your exact thought one day. I've ended up with: "take any kneejerk reaction that says 'you should never do X." There's always a better version which says "you should not do X 90% of the time." Here your X is "compare yourself with others."
The reason this idea is even around is that when we compare ourselves to others, 90% of the time it is for bad reasons: to be envious or to be complacent. But like you pointed out the other 10% offers a lot of value if we recognize that 10%. As a poker player, I'm sure you know that usually the answer to a question is always "it depends."
Tynan, great post! Anyone who says they don't compare themselves with others is not being honest with themselves. We always make comparisons with others. It's part of the way human beings learn.
When I was a child, I learned so much from my father and mother by watching what they did. The good things I tried to emulate. The things that didn't work well, I discarded. As an adult, I have done similar things most of my life. It's served me well.
If you pay attention, and learn the "art" of listening, it's amazing what you can learn about life from other people. So many people are so busy trying to show how smart they are, that they don't actually try to understand anothers point of view. They simply want to debate it. If you listen to truly understand someone's perspective, you can make an informed opinion of it.
Again, good post.
I guess it's a question of where you derive your value from. If it's from the idea that you have more than others then that's not a great basis.
On the other hand, recognizing one's blessings (pretty much most people in the US) I think actually gives you a perspective out of your own narrow ego thoughts. I feel responsible to use my freedom and privileges knowing others would do anything for them.
Likewise, reading the stories of other people who've accomplished great things inspires me and gives me hope that I can do the same like living in a RV for example.
I occasionally mention my diet, which has spawned some questions in a recent thread as well as in my survey results.
So this week I'm going to explain my diet in detail, focusing on what I eat, why I eat it, and the facts behind the food.
The ideas aren't mine originally, and I'm certainly not the only person to eat this way, but I call it the MaxDiet because there is no formal name for it, and from the research I've done it appears to be the best possible diet.
One habit that I have found very disheartening is that of comparing myself to other people. I have a tendency to try to think of myself as being in the most favorable reference class* that makes any sense, and so then when I compare myself to other people, I naturally pick people from that reference class. Since I picked the nicest reference class in the first place, these comparisons usually don't work out well for me. I end up feeling depressed about my position in life, and it's very unproductive and unhelpful.
I have two strategies that I use to counteract this. The first is to try to think purely of myself in relation to myself, and not in relation to other people. Comparing myself to my past self is almost always a favorable one, and more helpful than favorable comparisons against other people, because it doesn't breed a superiority complex, and it demonstrates to myself that I can improve. So that's a better tactic.The other one that has helped me a great deal is thinking about myself in terms of trajectory instead of position. Focusing on position isn't actionable. It tells you that you're better than other people or positions you could be in, so you can rest on your laurels. It tells you that you're worse than different people, or alternate versions of yourself, but suggests no methods of improvement.
Thinking about your trajectory, on the other hand, changes all of that. If you're thinking about trajectory, you're not thinking about where you are currently, you're thinking about how your position is changing. So it doesn't matter if you're in a really bad situation, what matters is if your situation is improving or getting worse. And this lets you go meta, which is always a good thing: the second derivative, how how your situation is changing is changing.
This is really useful because, while the thing you actually care about is your position in life, you can't choose your position at any given moment. But you can, more or less, choose your trajectory. And your trajectory now determines your position later.
For instance, a few months ago I was in a really good position, but just sort of treading water. Not really improving or getting worse. Now I'm in a really similar position (that's what happens when you don't have a positive or negative trajectory, you're still in the same position later!), but I've started a new project (this blog), have two more projects that will be starting soon (National Novel Writing Month and a youtube channel), have made significant progress on two new games for my business, and am moving to Brooklyn in three weeks. My present situation hasn't changed much, but I'm setting myself up to have a lot more success in the future.