There’s an old quote from Theodore Roosevelt that’s one of the truest statements ever uttered by a human.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I’m all for taking a look at successful people and gleaning all I can from them—that’s called studying best practices. The problem comes when we begin to compare our success to others and discover that we don’t measure up. We make false comparisons that only lead to jealousy, envy, and depression.
Jon Acuff addresses this issue in his great book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters. He teaches how the Road to Awesome is a journey, and each of us are at different mile markers along the way. You may only just now be in the Learning stage of life while someone else is further down the road in either the Editing or Mastering stages.
What good does it do to compare ourselves to someone much further down the road? Of course we don’t measure up! How could we? Unless we’ve gained unusual success in some way, we’ve got years of hard work ahead of us before we catch up to someone who’s had a head start.
When we compare ourselves against someone further down the road to success we begin to feel like the world is against us. We start to whine and act like life is unfair and tell ourselves, “the little man just can’t get ahead.”
That’s a load of tripe.
What we can’t see are the thousands of failures and setbacks that other person endured along the way. We don’t see all the extra hours of hard work they put in, or the monetary investments they made in themselves and others.
Is your road a hard one? Sure. Are you as far down the road as you’d like to be? No. But let’s stop and put things in perspective.
I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast on my walk yesterday morning and he was commenting on a news story about the world economy. He said something in passing that made me realize just how very blessed I am. I’m paraphrasing, but he said that if you have an annual household income of $34,000 or more, that places you in the top 1% of average global income.
Think about it, if you can read this, that means you’ve probably got a decent job, a place to live, and access to the internet through a computer or mobile device. You’re incredibly rich in comparison to the majority of the world’s population, not only in your financial situation, but in your health, security, technology, and education (especially literacy).
How’s that comparison working out for you now?
The world isn’t against you. The deck isn’t stacked in favor of the rich, it’s stacked in favor of those who work hard, have a desire to excel, and won’t give up. Sure, your circumstances come to bear on your situation, but look around and see just how well off you really are, and how many opportunities surround you just waiting to be grasped.
Also published on Medium.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.
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