Today I had a conversation with a friend. He’s questioning himself even though he’s successful. Are my peers passing me up? Should I be striving for more? Why don’t I have the life others have? He’s comparing himself to people who appear to be more successful.
When I was building CCAW, there was a time in 2011–2012 when I compared myself to other founders and kept score. Am I growing as fast as my peers? Who will reach $1 million in annual revenue first? Why didn’t I think to do X? Why haven’t we implemented Y? This period was short-lived. I thought through things and realized the following:
- Industry – CCAW operated in an industry that resisted change. And I bootstrapped the company, so we had to be capital efficient. Leaning on partners to warehouse products and fulfill our orders was a capital-efficient model. We were attached to their hips for better or worse. We had lots of great ideas but couldn’t execute them without partner buy-in. Our growth was heavily affected by our partners’ willingness to embrace change. They often did so only slowly, after years of conversations.
- Gaps – My peers all had different backgrounds. Some came from entrepreneurial families. Some had worked in startups before. Others were starting their second or third company. I was from a family of folks who worked for other people, I’d worked in the corporate world, and I was building my first company. They had entrepreneurial knowledge gaps—I had chasms. It took time to learn what I didn’t know, so my path to success was longer.
- Outside looking in – You never know someone’s full story. Their life may look great, but they could be in debt up to their eyeballs or miserable in myriad other ways. Lots of people fake it till they make it (or don’t make it). It’s foolish to make yourself unhappy by comparing your life, which you know well, to someone else’s facade.
I learned early in the CCAW journey to focus on what was right for my company and me. I acknowledged that my background and circumstances were different than those of my peers. Some things I would never do, or I’d do them at a slower pace. And that was OK. I supported and congratulated my peers on their accomplishments. I tried to focus on our successes instead of dwell on the things we hadn’t accomplished. Life is better when you see the glass as half full.
Comparisons are bad for your mental health. Unfortunately, many people compare themselves to others at some point. If you find yourself falling into that trap, give yourself credit for your accomplishments and recall Teddy Roosevelt’s wisdom: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”