Don't compare yourself to others

Written by Paul on July 14th, 2008

This is the ninth in a series of posts about the lessons I wish I’d learned earlier in life.

The grass always seems greener on the other side, doesn’t it? You see others who have achieved some level of success and instantly wonder how you might be able to do the same. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t get you very far – what worked for them may not always work for you.

Apples & Oranges - They Don\'t Compare

So what do you do?

I’ve been running a masonry construction business on the side for years now. Every Spring, I run in to a number of contractors, both returning from last year and new guys entering the business – they all think the same thing: “I’m going to grow my business overnight. All I have to do is lower my prices and get more customers!” The really funny part of this that many other contractors will then jump on the bandwagon and say something like, “No way. I’m going to lower my prices to make sure that doesn’t happen!” This is when I fall over laughing.

The point of this is that there just isn’t any benefit to comparing yourself to others:

  1. What worked for them isn’t always going to work for you.
  2. You probably don’t see the full picture – the other guy is probably dealing with the same problems as you.

In fact, comparing yourself to others may be suffocating your success:

The problem is that most people will tell you the “how it works” of their success, but leave out the all important “why it works.” The “how” of the story will get you some results. But trying to copy the how without the why is about as effective as building a radio out of coconuts and expecting treasures to fall from the sky.

The key is to understand what you’re great at, create the opportunity and then take advantage of it. It’s really that simple.

In our case, we simply don’t lower prices anymore. In fact, we raise them year over year and find ways to add more value at little or no cost to us. (Think white papers, brochures and other information products that don’t cost us much. Tie that in with great customer service and we’re damn near unbeatable.) Sure, we could probably gain more volume with lower prices but it just isn’t worth it. I’d much rather have the new guys fight over the cheap customers and save the good stuff for myself.

So, quit worrying about what the other guy is doing and focus on exploiting what you’re already good at. It’s really that simple.

Image Credit: thebusybrain

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5 Responses to “Don't compare yourself to others”

  • That is very true, and I believe what starts happening is that you end up just visioning the end product, completely ignoring the fact that hard work, dedication, and a few screw ups were also put in.

    Now if it is used as a source of inspiration, that is a different case.

    — 07/15/08 at 8:08 am

  • I just came across a quote and thought I would share:

    The Pursuit of Happiness (Harper, 1993), David Myers.

    “Happiness is relative not only to our past experience but also to our comparisons with others. We are always comparing ourselves with others. And whether we feel good or bad depends on who those others are. We are slow-witted or clumsy only when others are smart or agile.”

    — 09/23/08 at 5:58 am

  • It almost feels natural to compare ourselves to others, however there is little good that can come from it.

    If we just remember that we are all unique individuals, with unique approaches to our business and our lives… then comparing becomes useless. Despite a common problem two businesses attempt to solve, different approaches based on different strengths will inevitably prevail.

    Thanks Paul!

    — 07/11/10 at 6:13 pm

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