Signing a Non-Compete… With Yourself

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?

Khatzumoto of AJATT has written about this several times.

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.

Old Family Videos & An Argument Against Clean Slates

So I started this blog… how long ago? By the date on my one and only post: back in September. But if you go back to when I first got my brother (M) to help me set it up… well, it’s been a lot longer than that! Years, I think. (So long I’ve forgotten, which is telling.)

I’ve always, always been the type that’s preferred to wipe the slate clean rather than have people see my mistakes or false starts. And when it comes to blogging, especially ‘professional blogging’… there’s been a lot of false starts. For a long time, I thought that was the best way to go. It’s still something I struggle with.

In fact, I was sorely tempted to delete that one and only post so no one would know how long it’d been between posts!

But I’ve been rereading a bit of AJATT, a blog by the awesome Khatzumoto, and some parts have finally started coming home for me. Like giving up on a clean slate.

Easter, 1992

I find a chocolate marshmallow treat in my basket, do a small dance, and bring it over to my mother. She’s sitting on the couch, still in her pyjamas, and smiling at my antics. I hold out the treat, still in its package, and make an ear-piercing shriek to indicate that I demand assistance in opening it. This is my main form of communication as a 2-year-old. My other forms, as shown in the following videos include: “Da!” for my father, “Pee!” for pizza, and a combination of “uh-oh” and indicating something soiled (usually myself) that I want cleaned.

It’s not exactly eloquent, but my mother obliges me and opens the treat, and I wander the house, treat in hand, followed by father and his new video camera.

Watching this video for the first time this past weekend brought home Khatz’s message.

Now, as an adult, if I can’t open something, I have a multitude of ways of asking for assistance. I can literally just ask someone. I can try by myself while someone watches, then turn to them with a pitiful look. Back then, I had very limited experience, but from the experience I did have, I knew that screaming worked.

Starting with a clean slate isn’t possible. Whether I want my first attempt at communicating to be screaming or not, that’s exactly how it went down. And is someone going to judge me for that?

Well, Super Nanny might. But she wasn’t my nanny, and I didn’t scream forever, or even all the time, so… Super Nanny can go find a real trouble maker to judge!

Right Now, 2015

Luckily, my lack of experience in blogging or finishing manuscripts hasn’t led me to start screaming (not a lot, anyway…!!), but it can still be frustrating.

Sure, I’ve had a lot more opportunities to gain that experience in the past 24 years, but the fact is: whatever experience I’ve gained up until this point, that’s it, that’s all I have until I practice and gain more.

Feeling bad about not having more experience? Waste of time.
Sitting around, waiting to gain that experience through some miracle? Bigger waste of time.
Wiping the slate clean to cover up the fact that I’m learning? Misguided, and, yes! a waste of time.

Everyone is constantly learning and improving. Not being a fantastic blogger when I start off isn’t anything against me, it simply shows that I’m… new to blogging! I’m a baby, screaming and key smashing in the hopes that something will work.

But I’m sure that, as long as I keep screaming and key smashing, I’ll eventually learn to talk and type. The screaming might be uncomfortable for all involved, sure, but that’s no reason to be embarrassed by it.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. ;)