And I don’t mean the traditional “don’t go work for the enemy” non-compete. I mean: refuse to compete with other people.
Because you can’t.
You can try, but they have lived a different life than you and will continue to live a different life. What do you gain by measuring yourself against someone with wildly different experiences? People who may have had benefits you didn’t, maybe struggled in ways you haven’t?
Worry about raising your personal best. Compete against yourself—someone who has struggled in the same ways, and was given the same benefits growing up.
We’re told from a very young age that it’s worthy to compete with others, that that’s how we’ll succeed and grow. But I believe that competing against others only leads to feelings of insecurity and bitterness. If you compete against friends, it can poison the relationship with jealousy.
Competing against yourself is golden. You’re always moving forward, always aiming for a Personal Best.
I continue to struggle to make sure I’m only comparing myself against myself. It’s a worthy struggle, though. It makes me happier.
When I’m mentoring at my current job, I try to explain this to the kids that compare themselves to either myself or someone else at the table. How can a 9-year-old suffer a blow to his self-esteem when comparing himself against someone that’s 24!? If his handwriting isn’t as neat, it’s hardly a surprise–he hasn’t had the same amount of practice.
This is an obvious example, but it’s not always so obvious. You don’t know someone’s full past or inner world, so you can’t know how unfair it is to compare yourself to them. And that’s what competition is: comparing yourself and your results to someone else and their results.
So just don’t. Measure yourself against you.