Teddy Roosevelt is famous for saying: “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.” I took the liberty of adding “… and productivity.” When we compare ourselves to others, we lose sight of what we’re busy accomplishing.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is Better Than You
Last week, a Facebook friend of mine posted:
Lin-Manuel Miranda and my alumni magazine make me feel like I’ve done nothing with my life.
I totally agreed. A few days later, I happened across this article (headline is NOT changed): Lin-Manuel Miranda even sings karaoke better than you do.* Of course he does!
Now I’m a big Hamilton fan. I’ve used lyrics from it as motivation on this very blog. And I will be the first to tell you I think he’s a genius. His ability to use musicality and rhythm and rhyme to match character, tone, and plot is remarkable… Shakespearean even. But I am not Lin-Manuel Miranda.
If I spent my life comparing what I’ve done to what he’s done, I would find myself lacking. By my age, Miranda was working on his second Broadway musical. He had performed a number of times on television and stage, and he had helped translate West Side Story into Spanish. I… started a blog.
Stop Comparing Finances
The personal finance community is a blessing and a curse. Kara talks about how finding the personal finance world literally changed her life and now she’s a female solopreneur. Kate talks about the flip side of having so many stories: there is always someone ahead of you.
You and I are different. Our finances are relative. Yes, there are plenty of 30-somethings out there that are fully retired and traveling the world. There are also plenty of 30-somethings out there that are creating amazing, world-changing things and doing life-changing work. There are probably more 30-somethings out there in debt, many of whom likely have no plan in place for getting out of it.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Imagine you’re sitting in my living room chatting with me. Penny comes up and says: “Mom, check out what I just made!” I stop chatting with you and I turn to Penny and say: “Yeah. I could have done that way better than you did.”
You would be appalled. Right?
For one thing, Penny is nine. I’m much older than her. It’s probably totally obvious that I could do whatever thing she just showed me much better than she did (though Penny is admittedly WAY better at drawing than I am). How do you think this would make Penny feel? Deflated.
If you wouldn’t do something like that to a 9-year-old, why do we do it to ourselves all the time? We start by telling ourselves: “Look what we did!” and then we immediately follow it with: “It’s not as good as _____ but it’s alright.” Deflate.
Instead, compare only against yourself: “Look what we did! A year ago, we never could have done this! Look how far we’ve come!”
We should be able to find joy in our accomplishments. When we compare our success/progress to the journey of others, we rob ourselves of the joy that follows accomplishment.
Comparison is the Thief of Productivity
Assignment: Write a rap musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton.
You’re not going to readily accept that assignment, are you? It’s already been done. And you probably couldn’t do it better.
But this seems like a silly exercise. We’re not being asked to do the exact same things other people have done better. We’re being asked to do OUR thing.
Let’s use my blog as an example. I blog about personal finance. I am one of literally thousands of bloggers doing so.** If I only blogged because I was the funniest, the smartest, the most financially savvy, the richest or had the highest blog traffic or most online revenue, I would have stopped within a few months. I am none of those things.
If we spend time comparing ourselves to people doing similar things, we will stop making progress on the things we want to do.
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Stop comparing your work to anyone else’s. You are not them!
*It takes major guts to karaoke to a Hamilton song in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Second, it’s awesome that he rolled with it!
**The Rockstar Finance Directory hasn’t yet broken 1000 blogs… but it will!